Virtual Reality and Journalism

Last week I posted about 360 videos, their place in the YouTube world and the value they add to multimedia. While I said that, overall, I was not a fan of 360 videos, I wrote that I did like how they attempted to immerse the viewer in the action of the video. I think anything that tries to bring the audience into the content beyond just the standard screen is a positive, and is definitely moving in the direction of the future.

As shown when Facebook acquired virtual reality company Oculus Rift for $2 billion in 2014, virtual reality (VR) is the technology of the future, or maybe even tomorrow. Many companies, including Google, are developing VR technologies and platforms that are going to be released to the public very soon. A lot of VR companies are developing their devices and software for the gaming and entertainment sector. Although many mass-produced VR devices can reach into the hundreds and thousands, there are several simplified VR devices that you can get for about 15 to 20 bucks, including Google Cardboard, a plain cardboard device that just needs a smart phone and some apps to give the user a satisfying taste of VR.

While many of these VR apparatuses are aimed at the gaming world, there are tons of other applications for VR technology. VR has been proven an effective method of therapy for many types of phobias, including those afraid of flying in airplanes. With specialized VR technology, a patient can be fully immersed in a simulated airplane cabin.

The application of VR to the realm of journalism and media opens the door to an endless supply of ideas. Several film and documentary companies have turned to creating VR content, such as Vrse. The New York Times just recently announced that is has teamed up with Google and will be sending all of its print subscribers a Google Cardboard device to use with the New York Times VR app.

VR in journalism has already given viewers an unparalleled look at a Syrian refugee camp and Ebola survivors. With VR, it appears that storytelling is taken to a whole new level, and can be beneficial to journalists that want to help give the public a more meaningful and comprehensive look at their stories. I have yet to test VR for myself, but I am hoping to purchase a Google Cardboard-compatible device sometime soon and try it out.