By Alok Verma

The year 2016 will probably see more and more initiatives coming from bigger media houses for VR (virtual realty) journalism, especially as the technology becomes more affordable. Virtual reality journalism is still so new that it’s not yet clear what would works and what wouldn’t on a broad scale. The medium is still in its infancy so main driving force behind VR journalism initiatives will remain a lot of hype and its likely potential impact on audiences.

For journalists, the combination of immersive video capture and dissemination via mobile VR players is particularly exciting.
We all saw Google CEO Sunder Pichai, while in Delhi, talking about virtual reality (VR) platform Google Cardboard. In fact, all journos covering him got also ‘Google Cardboard’ to experience the VR.

VR journalism promises to bring audiences closer to a story than any previous platform.  ABC’s ‘Inside Syria’ is one of the recent virtual reality journalism experiment in which viewers are transported to Damascus to see how “archaeologists are racing against time to protect historical antiquities menaced by war.” Another project, “Ebola Outbreak,” released by Frontline recently put viewers in the middle of several West African countries to document the spread of the deadly virus. And as virtual reality journalism gets cheaper, it will begin making its way into more and more newsrooms.

Readers, or viewers, can download apps on their smartphones and use a Google cardboard type viewer – that are priced between $20 – $30 – and experience stories as if they were actually there. Meanwhile, building VR experiences – sometimes referred to as ‘immersive’ or ‘experiential’ storytelling – is getting easier too (more on that later). Virtual reality in news can be a lot of things – video or cinematic experiences, 3D Modelling, interactive graphics and something VR works with best – gaming environments and simulated computer-generated imagery (CGI).

One of the big players in this space, Gannett, created several VR projects over the past year – most of which include 360-degree video. Since then, virtual-reality stories have been created at various Gannett properties. In addition, the organization also has VR Stories mobile app for Android and iOS devices. 

Today one of the great challenges that the VR has is its inability to work across multiple platforms. Right now, most of these video-driven spatial narratives require users to download an app on mobile to get to a VR experience.  

Let us see which Indian Media House becomes the pioneer in introducing VR journalism.

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