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Sept. 12, 2018, noon
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Christine Schmidt   |   September 12, 2018

Virtual reality and augmented reality were pushed as new frontiers for journalism — and then the roadblocks came. Maybe the next round of new ideas could help freshen up the space.

The New York Times made a flourishing push into AR for the PyeongChang Olympics earlier this year and has followed up with immersive storytelling from Iceland to Antarctica to a fashion show runway to your own home. NBC News built out a 12-person experimental video unit last summer to experiment with VR and mixed reality. But one 2017 report also pointed out that news organizations are hesitant to invest in the technology and struggle finding compelling content to use it on.

The Journalism 360 Challenge, a joint quest from the Google News Initiative, the Knight Foundation, and the Online News Association, is trying to move past those preconceptions with funding for new immersive storytelling ideas and the technology behind them. In its first year, the challenge funded ideas for improving VR from the ocean floor to the border wall.

For Year 2, the challenge is including ideas from Alaska to Kenya, funding both topical projects like privacy and surveillance, race issues, and domestic violence and the tools and technology to improve immersive storytelling more broadly. The 11 victors of the second annual challenge will split a pot of $195,000 to build out their early-stage ideas, with individual amounts between $4,600 and $20,000.

The program received more than 400 applications this year, compared to 800 in its inaugural run. The total pool of funding is a little less than last year, though it exceeded expectations then — it was originally budgeted for $250,000 and awarded $285,000 in 2017.

“We heard from creators around the world who are expanding the boundaries of immersive storytelling and experimenting with more varied tools, with some building on inspiration from the 2017 challenge winners,” Laura Hertzfeld, the director of Journalism 360, said. “We’re also excited to see journalists pitching innovative ways to help people in their communities use immersive technology to tell their own stories.”

Here are the winning creators:

Alone: No Badge, No Backup, Anchorage Daily News ($4,600)
Project lead: Kyle Hopkins | Anchorage, Alaska | @adndotcom
This project will create a 360-video and audio package covering life in an Alaska village without police, where help is a plane ride away.

AR for Field Production Journalists, PBS NewsHour ($20,000)
Project lead: Travis Daub | Shirlington, Virginia | @newshour
Through this project, PBS NewsHour will train their traditional field production journalists to collect and create 3D assets and other media to support and enhance their reporting through augmented reality.

Changing Same: The Untitled Racial Justice Project, Changing Same Collaborative LLC ($20,000)
Project lead: Michèle Stephenson | New York City | @radafilmgroup, @scatterco
Through this project, participants will travel through time and space to witness the connected historical experiences of racial terror in America in a room-scale, virtual reality experience.

Home With Our Stories, Lauren McCarthy ($20,000)
Project lead: Lauren McCarthy | Los Angeles | @laurenleemack
The project explores the potential of using a system of smart home devices as a remote reporting tool, offering an alternative, immersive relationship between journalist and interviewee based on intimacy and care, while questioning the implications of bringing monitoring and automation technologies into the home.

Interdimensional Audio Editor, Datavized Technologies ($20,000)
Project lead: Hugh McGrory | New York City | @datavized
The Interdimensional Audio Editor is an intuitive tool that allows journalists to quickly and easily assemble and share sound to export as stereo (2D) for traditional use, such as in video storytelling, or as spatialized (3D) for virtual, augmented and mixed reality.

Immersive Visualizations: A User’s Point of View, Nathan Griffiths ($20,000)
Project lead: Nathan Griffiths | Vancouver, Canada | @njgriffiths
This project aims to study the effectiveness of immersive visualizations that target the general public and use formats more commonly found in newsrooms by conducting user tests on completed visualizations.

The Next Louisville: Youth Voices, Louisville Public Media ($10,000)
Project lead: Erica Peterson | Louisville, Kentucky | @WFPLNews
Using VR, audio diaries and immersive storytelling for radio and the web, this project will give a voice to youth in the community — unearthing the myriad of challenges they’ve inherited and their own solutions for the future.

Site-Specific Immersive Audio Stories, Future Projects Media ($20,000)
Project lead: Josephine Holtzman | New York City
The project will develop immersive, site-specific audio stories using binaural recording, a 3D sound technique that provides audiences with the feeling of being in a space andand prompts deeper listener engagement.

Spot the Surveillance, Electronic Frontier Foundation ($20,000)
Project lead: Laura Schatzkin | San Francisco | @EFF
The project provides an immersive virtual reality experience that gives participants unique insight into the privacy-invasive technologies creeping into public spaces around the world.

Visualizing Health and Science News with Augmented Reality, NYC Media Lab and The Associated Press ($20,000)
Project leads: Erica Matsumoto and Darrell Allen | New York City | @nycmedialab, @APHealthScience
The project will explore the visualization of health and science news in augmented reality by creating and testing prototypes with users; it will convene a team of graduate student designers and AR developers from across NYC Media Lab’s university consortium to develop prototypes on topics such as space and the cosmos, climate change and medicine.

Volum: A Volumetric Video Field Kit, Gisa ($20,000)
Project lead: Trevor Snapp | Nairobi, Kenya | @_Volum_
Volum is a modular tool kit designed to make volumetric video accessible and affordable for creators and technologists around the world. This project will develop an open source kit of best practices by building and deploying a prototype in collaboration with immersive storytellers in East Africa.

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