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Three VR journalism reports you should be reading right now

Three years of experiences in VR journalism. Three years of countless experiments by journalists who are not afraid of trying out something new. Where does VR journalism stand in terms of technology, storytelling techniques and user expectations? Three reports, published in 2015, 2016 and 2017, tell the story of an exciting medium and its road ahead.

If you are interested in VR, maybe coming from an editorial angle or maybe you have an engineering background, you should know this: Journalism will be one of the key sectors that determine the (near?) future of Virtual Reality. Some journalists are excited about the endless ways of telling an immersive story, some want to put audiences into their protagonists’ shoes, others want to take them to places they have never been to. There is a lot of enthusiasm with regards to VR. However, there are also a lot of shortcomings: high production costs, little experience in storytelling techniques and almost no market penetration because, honestly: Who wants to wear these huuuge VR goggles?

If you want to understand more about the state of VR in media right now, look no further. Here, you can find three recent studies published about VR journalism.

2015: Virtual Reality Journalism (by the Tow Center)

This study, written by Raney Aronson-Rath, James Milward, Taylor Owen and Fergus Pitt, is going into detail about the production process by looking at a specific use case. From project design to distribution, you will find helpful information about the process!

2016: Viewing the Future? Virtual Reality in Journalism (by the Knight Foundation)

The report offers key trends in the business, including major technology players.

2017: VR For News: The New Reality? (by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism)

This most recent study, written by Zillah Watson, is an in-depth look into newsrooms that have picked up this topic. Watson describes how media organizations are currently tackling VR, from production to setting up teams and in how far they have been able to generate revenue streams (spoiler alert: still much work ahead in that area).

Conclusions

Revisiting these three reports, they all cover different matters, so it certainly makes sense to go through all of them. In general, it seems a bit as if we are stuck. VR journalists are in the experimentation phase – still. This is an all too familiar early stage of innovative topic in media. It takes more time to elaborate, more time for media organizations to experiment (and please not only the big ones — where is local VR journalism?), more people to pick up goggles and more businesses to invest in VR.

My bet is that it’s worth diving into VR.

Fader: An easy to use VR tool

Fader allows you to create VR stories easily and fast. All you have to do is upload your content, arrange your immersive 360 files into various scenes, click publish, and you are done.

Fader allows you to create and publish VR stories. Add multiple layers of information to your 360 spheres, design scenes and tell your story. Easy, fast and web-based!

These are exciting times for us. We’ve been working on Fader for a few months now. So what do we aim for with Fader? Fader allows users with little or no VR journalism experience to create 360 experiences easily and fast.

With Fader, we want to specifically cater to tech-savvy users who can use their already existing content (anything from 360° videos/photos, but also text, audio, documents and content they find on social media) and arrange the content according to their needs, and then publish their VR story quickly.

This is how you create a VR story with Fader:

  1. Go to fader.vragments.com and sign up/ sign in.
  2. Open up a new VR story.
  3. Add a title to your VR story (top left corner) and get started within your first scene.
  4. On the left hand side, pick a media type you’d like to upload to your scene.
  5. Open up a new scene.
  6. Pick another media type you’d like to include into your new scene.
  7. Repeat until you finish your VR story.
  8. You can always preview your story by clicking the play button at the top. Use that preview URL on your mobile device as well. (Android only so far).
  9. Publish your story and share with your friends.

With the help of the second round of funding from Google’s Digital News Initiative, we will extend Fader into a VR tool that can be used by journalists within their newsroom settings. We will be able to cater to different journalistic needs by working together with two organizations: Deutsche Welle and Euronews.

We are looking forward to kicking off this second part of our project. If you have any questions regarding the project or if you’d like to be part of this somehow, let us know.

Vragments project: A100 VR

In this VR experience, you can fly over Berlin, along the planned construction of the A100 and you can zoom into immersive points of interest where you’ll learn more about the pros and cons of the construction.

Public 3D Berlin Model

Vragments’ Stephan and Linda have been involved in A100 VR, a project funded by MIZ and initiated by Lorenz Matzat, the founder of the Berlin-based company Lokaler. In a few years, the Autobahn A100 in Berlin will be extended and we show in how far this might change the affected areas close to the Autobahn. By combining 3D models of the A100 based on public data already available and 360 images of various points of interest (taken with drones, e.g.), users can get a better picture of how the constructions of the A100 will directly affect them.

360 Photo taken with a drone at Elsenbruecke

This experience was launched in collaboration with local public broadcaster rbb and the Berlin based company Lokaler Infosystems.

You can find more information here:

Vragments project: Metro station in VR

In this VR experience, you can walk through a virtual metro station in the heart of the city of Berlin and completing different missions while you are at it.

Stadtmitte in VR

With “Stadtmitte in VR“, we show users how digital data can enhance daily activities: easily finding your way through the concrete jungle, knowing where to buy metro tickets quickly, meeting your friends at the right metro exit… innovative technologies like beacon technology can guide you through the city and this project shows in how far VR can be utilized for that. We included a few gamification aspects and you can pick three different scenarios which will lead to different challenges at Stadtmitte.

As part of the Long Night of the Sciences (#LNdW16) on June, 11th 2016, we worked on this VR project in cooperation with Technologiestiftung Berlin and BVG. Based on data we received from BVG, we were able to build the metro station for VR.

You can find more information here:

VR Conference in Berlin