How AR & VR Will Change The News

How AR & VR Will Change The News
May 18, 2017

People might actually like the news again, and it’s about time.


I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Newseum in Washington D.C. For those of you who haven’t seen this elaborate and amazing museum, it’s dedicated to news — newspapers, media, poignant stories, etc.

The Newseum as seen from the top floor.


First, a side story which nearly gained me an award my family calls “Moron of the Day.” Alas, my flub was not quite worthy of this honored title.


When visiting my sister and brother-in-law in the D.C. area, we did as most people do — we toured museum after museum. My sister stated she hadn’t yet seen the Newseum, but she’d heard it was fantastic. I immediately got on board and we hiked on over to its location. It wasn’t until after tickets were purchased that I finally realized this museum was not dedicated to the “new,” and was instead all about the news. A slight disappointment ensued until I made a bathroom run and found the staff were happy to incorporate humor by way of unfortunate headlines printed on bathroom tiles.

Well, that’s a bummer.
Who knew?


From the outside, the museum is massive, but inside things appear less congested than many standard museums. I figured we’d make it through the entirety of exhibits in an hour or two, but I was sorely wrong. After more than three hours, we were politely ushered from the building by way of loudspeaker announcements. We figured we’d maybe seen half the spaces offered up, and we didn’t come close to reading every exhibit we passed. If I recall, their tickets are good for two days, and now I knew why.


All-in-all, it was a great place to visit, and I learned an awful lot.


But, onto the good stuff.


At times, I feel as though I have a divining rod (or perhaps, divining cellular device) leading me to anything AR/VR-related. I couldn’t have been inside the Newseum for more than three minutes before spotting the display 4-D film experience. Sadly, we were too late for a showing, but soon after I found more virtual reality.

The headsets were all reserved for the day, but they offered me a booth to watch the month’s best 360 videos.
360 video booths!


In a maze-like hall, an exhibit dedicated to milestones in the news’ evolution educated the hordes on everything from printing presses to video cameras. With every new invention, the news — how it was created, how it was presented, and how it was consumed — changed. And, there at the very end of the timeline, was virtual reality.

This got me thinking and wondering, as others have clearly done, about how virtual reality will change the news.


Why will it change the news?


Perhaps this question has an obvious answer: because new formats and platforms will always change the fields they’re encroaching upon.


The harder part of this question, for many, may be related to the general public’s view of VR: useful only in gaming and entertainment. Sure, a great many organizations are jumping on this swelling bandwagon of current and future technology, but my experiences show me the vast majority of people are still surprised to find the technology offers practical purposes in everyday life.


Eventually, even if “it” didn’t want to, the news would be forced into the AR/VR arena. Similar to how news outlets were forced into social media channels to deliver content to a crowd more likely to pick up a cell phone than a newspaper, the news will be pushed toward the “new realities” as they become more consumer-friendly.


When will it change the news?


I think we can easily say it’s changing the news now.


National Geographic, a frontrunner in most social media channels, has already begun to dominate the VR space. Their content comes quickly, is found easily, and with a quality not yet seen in most of the newer VR-ers.


While their content is a bit more cultivated than we should expect from a news station, NatGeo is setting the tone. They’ve already begun to experiment with what does and doesn’t work, what people will and won’t watch, and this will help those in the news start their own journeys with more user data.

At some point during every major change in the news, someone would have said “it’ll never work.” If we’re at that stage with AR/VR right now, then at least it appears as if we’re moving through this phase quickly.


How will it change the news?


The obvious answer is: we’ll get to see the news in 360 degrees.


OK, now that we have that out of the way…


The very structure of a newscast or story will need to be reinvented.


Currently, we sit with a flat screen in front of us. In that screen, there is roughly 30 degrees viewable of the 360 available. This makes standard jokes about how newscasters don’t wear pants behind the desk easy and cheap. Additionally, we get to believe the one, two or three faces speaking to us through the pixels on a screen are responsible for the broadcast. In reality, dozens more are behind cameras, producing, monitoring sound, etc.


How will this work with VR news? Will we get to turn around to look at a camera man? Not likely, as some other infrastructure will be needed in order to utilize all of the visible space. So, what will we see? Perhaps the newscaster sits in a green room and is superimposed on a space relating to the story. Imagine being told about the start of the Emperor Penguin’s mating season by a newscaster standing in the arctic.


As I mentioned in a previous blog, Tips for Filming 360, VR Video, there is a delicate dance to placing an active speaker in a 360 space, so we might experience some bumps as this type of newscast gets off the ground.


I fully believe the news will become a more transparent experience.


The term “fake news” is all the rage right now. I half expect rebellious teens to shave this phrase into their hair, paint it on their jeans, and tattoo it on their fingers. Regardless of how unbelievably trite that combination of words has become, there is some legitimacy behind providing consumers with a more transparent version of the news.


Instead of going into an incredibly lengthy description as to how and why AR/VR will help with news transparency, I’ll instead go back in time to the Vietnam War era.


Pre-Vietnam, war was largely glamorized. When technology of the day allowed for better live coverage of events happening in war zones, this once-glorified idea was thrown into viewer’s faces for what it really was — horrific. This mindset transformation was a result of transparency. The military could no longer hide the truth from the public.


In the same way, AR/VR will do this for the news.


Today, we get a photo attached to a headline. Let’s use this one as an example:

A popular photo on the internet, one article from the Washington Postadded the headline of: Kellyanne Conway kneeled on a couch. The Internet went insane.


Insane, indeed. Everyone in the U.S. had an opinion on this. Kellyanne, herself, had to come forward to explain the photo showing her feet on a couch in the White House’s Oval Office. Her rationale? She had been asked to take a photo of the group and was trying to get a good angle while remaining unobtrusive in the space (as seen in the below photo where there is clearly at least one additional photographer behind Kellyanne).

Political affiliations aside, as I reference this photo not in defense or against Kellyanne Conway’s actions, VR news would have kept this story from becoming, well, a story.


Had we been given the opportunity, we could have put on a headset and looked around the room in 360 degrees. Instead of having a limited, flat image from which to deduce whatever we wish, we would have had the full vision of the room from which to draw more well-rounded conclusions.


  • * How many photographers are behind Kellyanne? Was she indeed trying to stay out of their shot? With VR, we would have no doubt as to the answer, one way or another.
  • * Who else in the room was on furniture? Were other aids or photographers on footstools or chairs fighting for the perfect angle? VR would have shown this.
  • * How crowded is the space not seen within this small photo? Were there literally no other spot for her to go in order to capture the desired picture? Again, VR would have provided this answer.


In short, in the days where we are on guard when it comes to the news given to us, we are searching for clues — becoming amateur detectives working with only half the story — from which to determine the validity of the information provided. Virtual and augment reality news will hold news sources more accountable by showing the public a more well-rounded story.


How we get the news will be more efficient and relevant.


Let’s jump solely into the space of augmented reality.


Put yourself in a time where your augmented reality device (whether it be a set of nifty glasses or a new handheld contraption) pushes pre-selected types of alerts to you as you enter certain areas.


  • * As you pull into the parking lot of a restaurant, an alert allows you to read the news article detailing how this establishment was shut down three months ago for health violations.
  • * When you’re walking the streets of a city on vacation, an alert shows you a brief story on gang violence recently reported in the area.
  • * While you’re test-driving a new-to-you (because it’s actually nine years old) vehicle, an alert voices a brief statement about how this car company was recently performing recalls for brake malfunctions on this model.


Now, at this brilliant time in the future, the news is presented when it’s relevant specifically to you. Gone will be the days of sitting through a 30–60 minute program to find that one story you want or need. Instead, everything you read, hear and see will be exactly what you want, and you’ll get to customize it to yourself.


This will not only be more beneficial to the user, but it will likely make the news a more relied upon entity than is its current status.


When it comes to the news and how VR/AR will transform the space, we are on the cusp of greatness. In the near future, the news will become a more transparent while providing each individual with a more customizable and relevant experience .

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