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The New Yorker launches AR app that voices the secret thoughts of inanimate objects

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Liana Finck and The New Yorker: Animate Objects

The New Yorker has launched a new AR feature in its New Yorker Today app, which brings to life everyday objects illustrated by the magazine’s Liana Finck. Featuring a pretentious bottle of wine, a plug that can’t decide whether to be on or off, and a cutesy coffee cup, the app allows users to see and hear the secret thoughts of more than 30 objects that they’ll find in their homes and offices simply by pointing their device’s camera at them. Although the magazine has experimented with AR before, it’s the first time that it has used cartoons in an augmented-reality space.

Monica Racic, The New Yorker’s director of production and multimedia, said in a statement about the app: “This project builds on our previous AR work, but this time we’re using object detection to bring the world around you to life in a delightful way. Your environment is integral to the experience and there’s a scavenger-hunt quality to it. It’s designed so that, as you go about your day and encounter new objects, you’ll return to the app to unlock additional surprises.”

Built using Using Apple’s ARKit, Animate Objects uses object detection to recognise objects in an individual’s own environment, before revealing the item’s thoughts, which were written and illustrated by Liana.

Emma Allen, The New Yorker’s cartoon editor, says: “Liana’s socially observant, emotionally sensitive, psychologically rich, and occasionally neurotic cartoon sensibility makes her the perfect fit for a project in which the (not so) humble banana finally gets his say. If you’ve ever wanted a cartoonist to draw all over your environs without making a mess, this is the app for you.”

Bagels, basketballs, bookcases, strawberries, street signs and sunglasses have each been voiced by comedians including Erik Bergstrom, Karen Chee, Ziwe Fumudoh, Rachel Pegram, Gary Richardson, Blythe Roberson, Colin Stokes, and Zach Zimmerman. The app also allows users to take photos of objects in their own space and encourages them to share using the hashtag #AnimateObjects. To coincide with the launch, The New Yorker has also created an explainer video to show how the app works, featuring comedians Jo Firestone and Aparna Nancherla, which you can watch here.