Last year The Economist launched its first virtual-reality experience, “RecoVR Mosul: A collective reconstruction”. It is a digital recreation of the Mosul Museum, and some of the artefacts inside it, which were destroyed by Islamic State militants in 2015. “RecoVR Mosul”, created in partnership with Rekrei, a non-profit heritage group, went on to win a string of awards. We then updated our VR app with the addition of two more virtual-reality pieces: an offbeat tour of the Japanese city of Osaka, and an animated explainer that examines the problem of overfishing on the high seas. Now we have added another: “Ocean: The mystery corals” transports you to the coral reefs of Palau, which are thriving in unusually warm and acidic water, and might thus cast light on how to help corals elsewhere cope with climate change.
VR and underwater topics are a natural fit, given the immersive nature of the medium. “OceansVR: Net positive” brings to life the debate around overfishing on the high seas. In effect it’s a VR version of a leader we published on the topic in July. But where a leader consists of words on a page (or a screen), a VR experience can take you inside the argument, in this case examining the issues from the perspective of a diner, a fish, a fisherman and a policymaker. It was first shown at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, Australia and was also an official selection of the 54th New York Film Festival’s Convergence track.
“Passport: Osaka” is a 360-degree documentary that acts as a companion piece to the Osaka episode of “Passport”, our series of travel films highlighting hidden gems in city destinations around the world. Previous episodes of the film series have visited Miami, Colombo and Buenos Aires. Now you can visit the fish market, a tattoo studio and a sento bathhouse, and walk the city centre at night, in this virtual tour for the culturally curious.
All these VR pieces, like “RecoVR Mosul” before them, are experiments in a new storytelling medium, and were created by Economist journalists working with the Economist Media Lab, part of our product-development unit based in New York, and VR startups Visualise, Object Normal and Parable. All four VR experiences can be accessed through the newly updated VR app, which is now available for Apple iPhones and Android-based smartphones (Cardboard or similar adapter recommended), and for the Samsung Gear VR. We hope you will immerse yourself in them—and enjoy them.