360 video, audience, journalism, media, video, virtual reality

My first steps in telling stories through virtual reality tools

Virtual reality is no longer in hands of the gaming industry. Journalists are experimenting with 360-degree cameras, GoPro, Google Street View, Cardboard Camera and other apps to create immersive experiences.

But how is virtual reality shaping the news and readers? Does it need a rule book?Edward Helmore says in this article that immersive journalism, as journalism in general, can also be subjective and subject to manipulation.

7 headlines on using virtual reality in newsrooms

After researching on what has been said on this field, talking to some experts, and testing some primary VR apps, here are my headlines:

1. Content can still be manipulated in the post-production process. Some Twitter users raised their concerns for possible manipulations of pictures in the Walking in War’s Path, created by The New York Times:

2. Editorial work seems higher that expected. For the Large Hadron Collider 360º tour, Zillah Watson, from the BBC Research & Development, pointed out the difficulty of choosing the explainers without distracting the audience.

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 17.54.17

3. The interaction on virtual reality is primary. The user can be placed on the story, but only the Oculus Rift allow a response to this virtual world.

Francesc Pallarès, product management of digital publishing at El Periódico, thinks that giving the first-hand experience to the user is only the first step. This newspaper has created, for instance, political debate in a 360-degree video last December and a Mobile World Congress 360º tour with graphics and interviews.

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 17.57.38.png

Mobile World Congress 360º tour

4. This technology can bring young audiences to consume news, but there is a danger of not keeping the citizenry informed.

5. Users can reflect primary immersive experiences investing less than £20 with a smartphone with Cardboard Camera, Google Street View, and Google Cardboard.

I tested some places in Birmingham and London with the Cardboard Camera:


Library of Birmingham


Boston Tea Party cafe in Birmingham




Metro entrance in London

6. There are websites to edit these images such as Holobuilder. I tried it for a story presented by students from Birmingham City University at Build The News, a competition held in London by The Times:

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 11.40.52

7. Astonishing and high-quality pieces can be done with a 360-degree camera. I tested the Ricoh Theta 360-degree camera in collaboration with Michael Smith, who is doing some great VR stuff with this and other apps:


Virtual reality seems helpful for explainers, debates, fairs and recreating scenes that would be difficult to depict as plain text or audio. However, these non-breaking news require a lot of research and editing, and there is the danger of manipulation and ethics.

Similar from the print to web process, audiences can create primary immersive content playing the journalism role and share it through several platforms. This active user presents a challenge to journalists: produce better and more accurate stories without blurring the line between journalism and games.

Do you have some examples? Let me know in the comments


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