As the Virtual Reality hype machine continues to produce content on a daily basis, a new area of potential has emerged. Following the previously reported areas of gaming and entertainment, the the latest introduction to the field is that of journalism.
Virtual Reality news has the potential to place the user in the very thick of the events, creating a much more immersive and personal experience. In a recent TED Talk, Nonny de la Peña speaks to a Canadian audience about her work in this area, which she has focused on for over half a decade.
“My whole life as a journalist, I’ve really been compelled to try to make stories that can make a difference and maybe inspire people to care,” says de la Peña, “but it really wasn’t until I got involved with virtual reality that I started seeing these really intense, authentic reactions from people that really blew my mind.”
Several examples are given of how the technology can be used. It begins with a piece which was originally recorded at a food bank, at which a diabetic man fell into a coma because he did not get a meal in time. Users of the Virtual Reality headsets can be seen leaning down to try and assist him although, as this is not a video game, their sense of anxiety and helplessness at the situation was hugely increased.
Likewise at a market in Syria, where an explosion breaks the serenity of a singing child, or at a high-profile media case, such as that of Trayvon Martin (who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in one of America’s most controversial recent legal cases) , the results of the Virtual Reality news format are astonishing. For the viewers, they are not only witnessing an event, they become a part of it.
It is definitely a manner in which an audience could be made aware of a crisis, incident or event with greater impact but, as with all journalism, it greatly depends on what the motive is behind the story. With care an diligence, this could make the world a more empathetic, beautiful place. In the wrong hands, it could do terrifying things.
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