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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.

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

Baukasten zu einer Theorie der Medien

Was ich interessant finde: Enzensberger schreibt 1970 (!) in seinem “Baukasten zu einer Theorie der Medien”, dass Orwells “Schreckbild einer monolithischen Bewußtseins-Industrie” obsolet sei.

“Die Überwachung aller Telefongespräche setzt zum Beispiel einen Apparat voraus, der um eine Größenordnung umfangreicher und komplizierter sein müßte als der des vorhandenen Fernmeldewesens. Eine Zensurinstanz, die ihre Arbeit extensiv betriebe, geriete notwendig zum größten Industriezweig der Gesellschaft.”

Es ist Zeit, an einem neuen Baukasten zu einer Theorie der Medien zu arbeiten.