VR News news – The state of the art in 2017
Zillah Watson, a news producer with more VR experience than most, has written a report on VR and news broadcasting for The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.
One point in the executive summary calls for news people to join together to lobby the tech world to reduce the walled gardens and create better hardware and standards for wider VR adoption.
The proliferation of content created through experimentation is solving some of the challenges involved in VR/360 storytelling. Journalists and news organisations are devoting more time to thinking about what works in VR, and as a result news VR is expanding beyond its early documentary focus. However, most news organisations admit that there is still not enough ‘good content’ to drive an audience.
360 may be a good short-term solution to increasing the availability of content. Alongside developments in storytelling, we see some impressive attempts to integrate VR across production, which across the board means that hundreds of journalists have now been trained to shoot 360.
The news industry needs to work harder at managing public expectations of VR. Playing with 360 may be fun for journalists, but the audience needs to be put at the heart of any serious future plans for VR. Audience adoption requires consumer literacy in how to engage with the new technology. Even if part of that education happens through audiences’ consumption of VR content in other areas – sport, gaming – news still has to show them why it is worth engaging with via this new medium.
Too many standards – don’t count VR video out
There are too many platforms: the ‘walled gardens’ around different VR platforms makes it expensive to produce content for a range of devices. There are parallels with the early days of mobile apps, which required different builds for each. Bandwidth is also an issue for viewers consuming this content.
Platforms and device manufacturers need to up their game if they are going to get mainstream audience adoption. This includes improved hardware and common platforms to provide a frictionless user experience, and lower costs for headsets and bandwidth.
The news industry needs to work together on this to present a united front when lobbying the tech platforms.
Although many see 360/VR video only as a gateway to ‘full’ VR, I wonder if the multiple VR platforms will coalesce faster than video – including 360 video – gets richer. Flat rich video will eventually be broadcast as objects: a cloud of video, audio, text and 3D objects that can be played back or even interacted with using standards-based players on the internet and on set-top boxes. Once that works with flat video, it could make 360 more interesting, which could lead to a full VR standard.