The last several months have been quite an education. As a jaded, cynical member of the television media, I have come to accept the crazy new world of not only social media as a news source but the newfangled technologies that are allowing social to be a news source. I attribute this acceptance to the graduate school program I am closing out (hallelujah) and the latest course in emerging technologies.
One of the many new technologies that are disrupting news gathering is 360 video and virtual reality. Both provide a more immersive experience to news stories and current events. 360 video in particular will have a bigger impact, as it is easily accessible to anyone with a smart phone and Facebook account. This “surround” video allows the viewer to move around in a real 2D environment that can feel three-dimensional. Add some surround sound and you’ve got quite the presentation of an event. Imagine 360 coverage of a political rally with the accompanying sound. It would be real-time documentation without any bias other than what the viewer brings to the story.
Virtual reality (VR) on the other hand is not just from video gamers anymore and is already becoming the hot new way to cover certain news worthy events. Unlike 360 video, VR requires software to construct the virtual environment on top of the extra skill in capturing the real-life subject matter. This would be an easy adaptation for large and long-established news organizations like The New York Times but would not be practical for smaller news outlets. Additionally, VR is a medium by which careful consideration should be made regarding which news events are made in virtual reality. Considerations such as the effects of war or crime events on a viewers mental capacity or physical health. Instead, VR would have a wholly different effect when used for educational purposes. Whether to help in the treatment of phobias like a fear of heights or to bring historical characters or events to life as the Smithsonian is working toward.
For the future, 360 video is much better suited to news gathering and VR to a more controlled educational or game environment. After all, even with video games there is the understanding that the viewer or gamer is entering a false environment.