In 2014, a virtual reality headset called the Oculus Rift was announced, boasting the next step in the way we absorb entertainment and information. Since then, companies have been developing products compete with them, such as the HTC Vive, and sites like Youtube have developed an entire virtual reality section of their website. While it hasn’t taken the world by storm quite yet, it’s clear that there is a future in this medium, and Journalists all over have recognized its potential.
Publications like USA Today and the New York times have embraced the technology, creating fully immersive 360 videos through their website, bringing the view right into the action. It can put you right in the battlefield in Fallujah, right in the pilot seat with the Blue Angels, and so many more things that were just always out of reach before.
According to Wikipedia, there are over 230 companies creating VR-related products by 2016. The use of 3D audio affects such as binaural audio have been more increasingly implemented, to fully immerse a view in the experience.
Binaural audio is limited, however, as it requires the user to have a high quality pair of headphones, if they are not using a large bulky VR headset like the Oculus Rift, which also comes with a price tag of nearly $400. Smaller, less pricey headsets that require the use of a cell phone will have a smaller price tag, but a much less immersive experience.
A potential issue does come about for journalists in the actual acquiring of a means of creating 360 video, but it seems like the technology is catching up. Onmidirectional, or 360 degree cameras are becoming very small, with a variety of options available at the consumer level, with very satisfactory results, and a price tag of under $1000, which for technology that would have seemed impossible only a few years ago, isn’t too costly.
Even without the fully three dimensional audio, there are ways 360 journalism could revolutionize reporting for journalists. Concert reporting with the addition of a 360 video of a couple songs, house tours with 360 images of each room, video coverage of rallies with a full scope of the audience, and anything else that a creative and motivated enough journalist could come up with. This technology could bring a new meaning to the idea of “show, don’t tell.”
Even with the audio limitations of the technology, 360 videos is a new angle that journalists can and should take to get their viewers and readers more engaged in what’s going on in the world today. If the technology continues to improve, the investment in a 360 degree camera may make or break a news organization in terms of dedicated readers.