Journalism’s First Trek into Virtual Reality
October 2, 2014 Leave a comment
The Des Moines Register has become one of the first newspapers to move into the realm of virtual reality, recreating a desolate farm to accompany a series of newspaper articles.
Gannett, the publisher of USA Today and other regional publications, has released a report made specifically for viewing with the Oculus virtual reality headset. The project, called Harvest of Change, involves an interactive view of a farm in Iowa; the virtual reality program is an asset meant to accompany a series of newspaper articles published by the Register.
Users can interact with the landscape just as an avatar in a video game would: As you walk around, you can interact with certain objects, which will open archival photographs, short passages, and even 360-degree videos about farming in modern-day America. The simulation serves as a way to navigate through and interact with multimedia content related to the farm’s history and story.
The team assembled by the Register and Gannett, including a former Electronics Arts designer, was tasked with creating a faithful representation of the Dammanns’ family farm. This was accomplished by using family photos at the farm as well as multimedia content collected on-location, including audio files and panoramic pictures. After all of the assets were collected, the simulation was created using the Unity 3D game engine.
The goal of projects like this is to bridge the gap between conventional journalism and a video game atmosphere to create a visceral experience for users. Virtual reality’s greatest power is that it provides its users the feeling of being transported somewhere else. While that feeling might not be very exciting in the form of a farm in Iowa, the potential impact on the entire journalism industry is very exciting.
What do you think about virtual reality in journalism? Would you pay more attention to virtual reality news stories?