The majority of the 9/11 remembrance exhibit in the New York Times’ lobby appropriately focuses on the tragedy of 10 years ago, but one digital gallery looks forward rather than back at the site of the World Trade Center.

Three iPads loaded with an augmented reality app sit on a table next to the atrium, in a section set apart from the moving collection of historic Times coverage that makes up the rest of the gallery. The app provides an accurate digital model of the future World Trade Center site and Memorial Pools by pointing the camera at a photo of the World Trade Center construction site. Few people intuitively picked up the iPads to try out the app, but those who did seemed pleasantly surprised by the information.

“This is a wider side of the exhibit,” explains Brandon Melchior, the Times‘ creative director of marketing who designed the gallery. “It’s set aside from the heavier part.”

Graphics editor Graham Roberts worked with an architect to design the digital model, which is based on physical models and architectural plans for the office buildings, arts center, PATH/Subway hub and museum that are planned for the site. The memorial pools, which will be constructed to resemble the footprints of the twin towers, are integrated into the model.

It’s one of the first times the R&D team has worked with Augmented Reality. In the future, similar features could become a part of its storytelling platform. The iPad app might one day, for instance, have the capability to expand a photo on paper or the Times website into a 3D model telling a deeper story.

“9/11 Remembered: A Gallery of Reflection” will be on display through Monday, Sept. 12 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

More About: Augmented Reality, new york times, september 11

Ongo, the Cupertino-based startup backed by the parent companies of The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today, launched its ad-free, subscription-based news service to the public Tuesday morning.

The service offers users a clean, app-like interface in which to read and discuss news published on the web. A single front page displays the most important daily news from a variety of sources, along with stories surfaced by Ongo’s staff of human editors. Readers can explore further by publication, search and topics, a customized news “playlist” that can be arranged by title, section (such as technology or business) and keyword.

Unlike most aggregators, users can view full articles (in columned format, no less) without leaving the dashboard, offering a consistent, streamlined reading experience not unlike the reading experiences rendered by Flipboard and Pulse, two news reading apps for the iPad. Articles can be saved for later access at any time.

Subscriptions start at $6.99 per month and include complete access to The Guardian, Associated Press, The Washington Post (print edition), USA Today, Detroit Free Press, Miami Herald, Slate, and select content from the Financial Times and The New York Times. Subscribers can add one additional title from a list of newspapers and magazines at no extra cost; additional titles can be added starting at $0.99 per month.

Users can also feed RSS subscriptions into the dashboard; if it’s a full-text RSS feed (like Mashable‘s), users can also read the full articles without having to leave the Ongo dashboard.

In addition to the features cited above, Ongo’s creators have also introduced an interesting social feature in lieu of commenting, dubbed Clubs. Subscribers can create and join clubs to discuss certain articles or topics with fellow Ongo readers, and they can invite non-subscribers to access and discuss the same content.

Founding CEO and former PayPal executive Alex Kazim says Ongo wants to provide readers with a better conversation tool than commenting (“which eventually degrades into insults and then degrades the experience of reading the content,” he says) and sharing on Facebook (a group that can be too broad for many users, he believes). “We want [subscribers] to control who they are having the conversation with,” he explains.

There’s also an incentive for sharing: If a subscriber shares an article with a non-subscriber who then signs up for Ongo, the original subscriber will receive a free month of the service.

At launch, Ongo is offering a free 30-day trial to everyone who sets up a subscription. Users can also obtain a free “day pass” to access Ongo without having to furnish a credit card number. An app for the iPad is currently awaiting review by Apple; further applications for mobile and tablet devices are in the works, although in tests Ongo rendered cleanly in the iPad’s native browser.

While attaching a price tag to news that’s already available for free on the web is a tough proposition to begin with, it’s even more difficult given the relatively slim number of publications (mostly local and regional newspapers) the service is offering at launch. Such a service would, we think, appeal to avid news readers if Ongo did allow them to access all of the news they wanted in a single, ad-free dashboard, but at present most would-be subscribers will only be able to get a fraction of their daily content from Ongo, leaving them to wander the web for further information as they did previously.

Thumbnail courtesy of iStockphoto, ProfessorVasilich

More About: media, new york times, ongo

Details are leaking out ahead of the launch of The New York Times‘s content paywall, which is expected to go live sometime next month.

Those who read only a few articles on per month (about 85% of The New York Times‘s current online readership) will be mainly unaffected by the changes, as the Times plans to allow visitors to continue to read an as-yet unannounced number of articles free each month. In addition, those who come across a article through a Google search can view the first page, even if they’ve exceeded their monthly allotment.

Heavier readers, however, will need to chose between three different subscription options to continue getting their daily dose of The New York Times online, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal:

  1. A website-only subscription for unlimited access to the site (more than $20/month).
  2. A digital package that includes access to both the site and the Times‘s iPad app (more than $10/month).
  3. A print subscription that bundles free web access with a print subscription ($11.70+/month).

These prices are by no means final, the WSJ‘s source insists. Bloomberg reported last week that website access alone would cost closer to $20 per month.

An extra $10 per month for access to The New York Times‘s iPad app seems suspiciously pricey to us. Perhaps the “digital package” will include full access via Kindle (currently $20 per month) and smartphone apps as well, or, as Felix Salmon suggests, the Times might be “doing everything it can to drive its iPad-owning readers away from the app and towards the built-in browser.”

After all, if Apple decides to insist on a 30% share of iPad subscription fees, encouraging users to read the web version on their iPads might be a sound idea.

It’s a tough proposition: potentially lucrative revenue from in-app advertising, minus app development costs and Apple’s cut, versus complete control of subscriber data and revenue via a simple, easy-to-update, mobile web version compatible across multiple tablet devices.

An extra $10 per month for iPad access may just be the magic formula then — and if few enough subscribers sign on, may be enough cause to stop the Times from sinking further resources into an iPad-specific offering.

More About: ipad app, media, new york times