Assignment 3: Virtual Reality in Journalism

This is an easy one since the first professional application of virtual reality in journalism has already occurred.

In Iowa, The Des Moines Register already created a virtual reality experience. It was meant to be explored using the Oculus Rift, but the website also has a web version that is navigable by mouse and arrow keys. The entire package is called Harvest of Change. The virtual reality experience is a 3D model of the century old Dammann farm.

Harvest of Change scene

If you look carefully, you’ll see birds flying overhead and exhaust from the tractor.

The level of detail, the sheer size of the farm, and the video game-like interactivity all add up to an immersive experience.

Harvest of Change token

When the user passes through the token, the user can click for information.

As I navigated through the farm there were coin-like tokens which, when I passed through them, enabled me to click to see extra detail. I do not own the Oculus Rift so I had to rely on the web app, but it was enough to show the possibilities.

And, the possibilities will only increase as the price of technology goes down, which will encourage more organizations to mess around with it.

Harvest of Change info box

Information and sometimes photos pop up when you click after the token.

This technology is going to be long term game changer. I think TV and the mobile Internet will remain dominant for a while. Sometimes even when technology is disruptive and groundbreaking, it takes time to unseat bigger and more entrenched competitors.

But as the cost of the technology goes down, more and more journalistic organizations and consumers will adopt this mode of storytelling.

Consumers will crave this content and journalistic organizations are in a position to provide the content. That content could be a 3D tour of a farm populated by story and detail bubbles or some kind of 3D video of an event. Whatever the story might be, virtual reality will be another tool, like 2D video, audio or text-based stories, that can be considered.

Afterthought: Apps are going to be huge too. It might even be better to start making virtual reality experiences as apps first because mobile and mobile apps will remain dominant for a while since wearables just aren’t quite mass market ready or as ubiquitous as cell phones. At least, that’s my take.

– Jake Cappuccino

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