How the New York Times uses VR for Reporting

Just like we covered with Quartz, here’s another example of a media outlet exploring how to incorporate the use new technologies into its stories.

Companies should note these two responses from Marcelle Hopkins, deputy video editor and co-director of virtual reality at The Times:

What have been the strengths of using virtual reality for journalism? What unexpected stumbling blocks have you come across with it?
V.R. is great for creating a sense of place. We often use it for stories in which the place is important to the story and being there can create a visceral experience that is rare in other mediums. V.R. can transport our audience to places they otherwise couldn’t or wouldn’t go, as in “The Antarctica Series,” which takes people below and above the ice of Antarctica.
Unexpected stumbling blocks arise frequently because we’re working on the edges of what we know how to do. There’s often a gap between how we want to tell a story and the tools that we have to do it. That’s when we hack available hardware or software to suit our needs.


How are you thinking about augmented reality and its application toward journalism?
A.R. has huge potential for journalism. There are already a few applications that we’ve seen that could be useful in our reporting.
One is creating three-dimensional objects and putting them in the user’s environment. For example, if we build a 3-D model of how gravitational waves are generated from colliding black holes, you could walk around it to observe the mechanics of an invisible astronomical event.
Location-based A.R. has widespread applications for news, travel, culture and real estate. When visiting the vineyards of Sonoma County, you could access tips and highlights from our Travel section.
I’m also very interested in A.R. portals. Imagine a digital “door” in your living room that leads to a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh.
Of course, I’m most excited about the A.R. applications we haven’t thought of yet.