Every new medium opens up new vistas of potential for artists and journalists, and virtual reality is no different. While the main focus of VR often seems to be gaming, the technology offers exciting possibilities to educate, inform and inspire people about the world around them.
Mobile VR is ripe with potential for journalists right now, because for the first time it has a large potential audience. Whether you’re using a full HTC Vive headset, popping your phone into Google Cardboard or simply watching the content as a 360 video, almost any smartphone can offer a flavour of the VR experience.
Here’s a round-up of some of the best news outlets for VR videos, and what they’re offering. The best part is they’re all free, so jump in and discover how VR is enhancing journalism.
Virtual Reality by The Guardian
The Guardian is one of the most enthusiastic adopters of VR, last year giving away 100,000 Google Cardboard headsets to readers in a promotion for its new Guardian VR app. These headsets provide a low-cost way for anyone with a smartphone to enjoy a simple, but effective, VR experience.
Guardian VR tends to focus on experiences from other perspectives: for instance, First Impressions is a five-minute narrated journey through the first year of a baby’s life from the vantage point of a newborn. Another, The Party, offers an insight into what a social occasion can be like for a person with autism.
There’s also a healthy dose of the spectacle that VR is perfect for. Arctic 360 offers a short but compelling journey through the changing landscape of the Arctic’s Northwest Passage, while Underworld takes us beneath the streets of London to explore its fascinating network of Victorian sewers.
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The New York Times has a small but exciting collection of VR experiences. Sensations of Sound offers not only a window into what it’s like for a deaf person to hear music for the first time, but also asks the question “What does music feel like?”. It’s a clever use of VR’s potential, inviting us to look again at how we use our senses.
Similarly, the multi-award-winning Notes on Blindness shows how sound can replace vision for people with sight difficulties. Using binaural audio – a form of recording with two microphones that can recreate three-dimensional sound – it’s another engrossing example of how the medium can play with sensory information.
Meanwhile, indie rock fans can watch US band The National at work in their recording studio before virtually joining them on-stage in Copenhagen during Something Out of Nothing, all while gaining some insight into the band’s family lives and creative process too.
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BBC Taster VR
Taster is the BBC’s new ideas division, and they’ve been quick to embrace VR. If you’ve ever wanted to step into the shoes of an astronaut and see what they see, Home – A VR Spacewalk will be right up your street. Available for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, the experience takes you 250 miles above the surface of the Earth to repair the International Space Station. There may be a bit of danger afoot, too.
Fans of the Doctor also have plenty to discover, including the chance to Explore the Twelfth Doctor’s TARDIS and even hitch a ride, with Time Vortex VR.
If you’re looking for something a little more cultural, you can discover the world of an iconic Welsh poet with Hedd Wynn VR, or watch a unique contemporary dance performance with a difference in AbstrAction.
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