Virtual reality offers new frontier in journalism

Global Business

Virtual reality offers new frontier in journalism

“Project Syria” is a film commissioned by the World Economic Forum and produced by Emblematic Group. The piece recreates a real explosion in Aleppo, Syria-using footage and sound from the actual event and surrounding area.

CCTV America’s Karina Huber explains.

Virtual reality offers new frontier in journalism

Virtual reality offers new frontier in journalism

It may be in its infancy now, but with so much current interest and investment in technology, virtual reality journalism could become a widespread reality. CCTV America's Karina Huber explains.

Through digital manipulation, warfare is transformed into virtual reality enabling viewers to experience the actual explosion.

Jamie Pallot, co-founder of Emblematic Group said the idea was to drive home the emotional impact of what happened.

“So yes, the graphics don’t look realistic. You can tell that they’re sort of computer avatars and yet the feeling of it is incredibly real and very emotionally powerful,” said Pallot.

But is it journalism? Executive Producer Jamie Pallot insists it is.

“There are some people who draw the line at recreations, per se, because it’s not what actually happened,” said Pallot. “We think there’s absolutely a place, and a need for this, because it’s a way of telling certain stories that couldn’t otherwise be told.”

Virtual reality as journalism seems to have the approval of reputable outlets like The New York Times and The Guardian. Both are experimenting with it.

Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism is also getting in on virtual reality. Its center for Digital Journalism teamed up with public broadcaster PBS and an interactive digital agency to produce the broadcaster’s first virtual reality documentary called Ebola Outbreak.

The film, also released on Facebook, uses 360-degree cameras to show where the recent Ebola outbreak likely began and why it spread so quickly. The way it’s shot allows the viewer to watch the scene from different angles making it more immersive.

Columbia Research Director Claire Wardle said Columbia is exploring virtual reality journalism because of the potential impact of being placed in the scene.

“Certainly, the power is how does it feel to be in a solitary confinement cell? How does it feel to be in a refugee camp in Jordan?” Wardle said. “So it plays that role, which is very different, I think, from a very passive consumption of news.”

At the moment it’s an investment in an uncertain future. Right now, the cost of production is high and audiences are small.

It may be in its infancy now, but with so much current interest and investment in technology, virtual reality journalism could become a widespread reality.