Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

“Storytelling using VR will be easier to achieve, and more members of the audience will be prepared to welcome it.”

Storytelling is where it’s at in 2017. Of course, for those of us who are veterans in journalism, it’s always been about storytelling, from our first byline. However, what we’ll see much more, across a variety of genres, in 2017 is the growth of new ways of telling stories, ways that go beyond a headline, summary, and text. Robust storytelling aimed at mobile devices is already a reality for some, but there’s much more experimentation to come, at publications ranging from local daily and weekly regional newspapers to monthly magazines and beyond.

mario-garciaOne form of storytelling that will gain momentum: virtual reality. It’s no coincidence: Editors and publishers are looking for ways to tell stories on mobile device, and the future of virtual reality is also on mobile. For many newsrooms, VR is going to be the one big area for experimentation in 2017. The Google News Lab, Knight Foundation, and the Online News Association have joined their forces to help newsrooms experiment with immersive storytelling. Journalism 360 will use a fund of $500,000 to give award grants ranging from $5,000 to $35,000 for innovative projects.

Just to give you an idea of what is pushing VR to the top of the project list:

  • The New York Times is already launching 360-degree video stories from around the world on a daily basis, one of the first attempts of daily 360-degree immersive reporting from a major publication.
  • USA Today has launched a weekly virtual reality news show called VRtually There.
  • The L.A. Times experimented with VR in “Discovering Gale Crater,” an immersive look at the Mars Gale crater. In a two-minute tour, audiences can explore the surface of the crater of Mars.
  • The Huffington Post acquired L.A.-based virtual reality studio RYOT. The Associated Press built a team of VR producers inside the newsroom.
  • The Guardian’s first virtual reality experience is 6×9, which places viewers inside a U.S. solitary confinement prison cell and tells the story of the psychological damage that can ensue from isolation.
  • HTC Vive is teaming up with Condé Nast China to build an augmented/VR enhanced reading experience called Vivepaper, a fusion of AR and VR technology that will allow readers to immerse themselves in interactive print content.
  • “I’ve already started seeing media companies posting job offers for 360-degree video producers or VR designers,” says Deniz Ergurel, CEO and founder of Haptical, a firm devoted to virtual reality with emphasis on its news applications.

    We hear about Apple’s new plans on launching a new iPhone with augmented reality technology in 2017. We hear that Tim Cook might announce a clear glass iPhone that pops up into a head display which will allow consumers to move, walk, shoot, and play in six degrees of freedom. Apple was awarded with new patents for a wireless VR headset this fall. These things will come to fruition in 2017. Storytelling using VR will be easier to achieve, and more members of the audience will be prepared to welcome it.

    Mario Garcia is CEO and founder of Garcia Media.

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