How We Are Thinking About VR at Alpha

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VR is the next big thing! Editors, futurists and tech evangelists are preaching that this is the year of virtual reality, and they may actually be right. With Oculus orders coming in, the Samsung Gear VR coming free with every S7 sold, and Google’s announcement that roughly 25 million Cardboard apps have been downloaded to date, we are hitting a tipping point where VR is moving from novelty to a viable content platform.

One thing that becomes clear when you put on a VR headset is that the hardware is far outpacing the software. When you are immersed in the VR experience you can’t help but imagine the potential of what surrounds you. You may also be concerned that it will be awhile before we hit that potential.

At Alpha, one of our goals is the help our brands meet the potential of new and emerging platforms, like VR. It’s not enough to simply create a way for AOL’s catalog of sites to make and release 360 videos. There needs to be more. So how are we doing this?

Explore the best way to consume content through VR. We are taking a very deliberate approach to researching the best possible UX and UI options for delivering and consuming VR content, keeping the unique nature of our brands in mind. It’s important to not be distracted by the glitzy capabilities of the platforms, but figure out how they best contribute and improve content delivery and consumption.

Take a platform approach. Alpha has the unique opportunity to work with top tier brands like TechCrunch, Engadget and Moviefone. Though the offerings of each is different, it is possible to create a common platform for all of them to use. Our hope is to create an engaging VR platform that can be optimized across all of our brands.

Empower Storytellers. In the early days of film, moviegoers, though amazed by the technology, were not impressed with its innovation above the theater. This was because most films were simply a stationary camera filming a theater production. It wasn’t until filmmakers changed the way they told stories, using the full capabilities of moving pictures, that film took off. It will be the same for content creation on VR platforms. If we simply take the same approach we do now, 2D video on a 3D plain, this will continue to be a novelty. Our hope is to work with editors and video production teams to educate them about the abilities and tools at their disposal and make sure what we create truly immersive VR experiences.

We are excited to learn more as we explore development and design in the VR space. Our hope is to release our first VR experiences in the second half of 2016. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts, feel free to let us know at or contact me directly at

Written by

GM and Product Director, AOL Alpha

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