Digital Reality – virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, 360 video, and immersive capabilities – enables new levels of storytelling for journalists and allows viewers to experience the news for themselves.

The greatest journalists have always had a gift for transporting the reader (or viewer) right into the middle of the action. These days, digital reality is delivering an assist, providing new tools like 360 video, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR) and other immersive experiences that allow users to process the news for themselves. Whether reporting on a sports event, the aftermath of a natural disaster, or from the battlefront, digital reality (DxR) is a powerful way to tell a story.

DxR is opening up new opportunities for journalism right in the nick of time. In the digital age, where media outlets compete for audiences with nontraditional news sources, it’s a new way of delivering information with impact and with engendering a new level of empathy. News organizations are currently experimenting with new models and ways to cover events. Drones help cover major news events and capture footage from the field. Leading newspapers are presenting daily 360 video and immersive VR films that take us everywhere from remote villages to factories to inside the human body. DxR can also transport you to the past to experience events from new perspectives, such as the work Deloitte did with the USGA.

Journalists are just beginning to dip their toes into the water, but it won’t likely be long until the entire industry dives right in. Today, VR goggles, ancillary wands and other gadgets are viewed as luxuries. In a few years, VR/AR will be as commonplace as today’s smartphones. In fact, smartphones are predicted to be AR/MR-ready, putting the next best thing to being there right in your pocket.

VR offers a “feel” for the news

A recent study by the Associated Press set out to discover how immersive storytelling impacts the human brain. They found that humans respond best to life-size experiences where they are allowed to touch 3D objects and “experience” the story with their entire body. The video below brings home the point that the more interactivity provided, the better the perceived experience and the more details remembered. (1)

DREAM: DxR and the Revival of Journalism

One of the most interesting aspects of this type of journalism is that users can “write their own endings,” so journalists will have to relinquish some control over the story that is told. With these new tools comes the added responsibility for journalists to master the new technologies and immerse the user into stories in an objective manner. How will journalists present alternative views and perspectives of the same story? And what images are appropriate to share? How will users adapt to storytelling in 3D?

DxR could help validate news by putting viewers right inside the story and equipping them with information to draw their own conclusions. However, that very same technology can be manipulated to create alternative versions of the facts. Many important discussions need to be had among journalists around ethics, standards and the impact of DxR on viewers.

While there are many questions yet to be answered, DXR offers an exciting new frontier for journalism. Recently, I was interviewed for an article
published in Wired magazine. Read on to learn more about the current state—and future promise—of digital reality in journalism.

Allan V. Cook is managing director with Deloitte Digital and the Digital Reality Business Leader. Follow him on LinkedIn.

1) Visit Deloitte Digital’s complimentary app experience here or here, download the print version of the Wired article, and view the experience with your mobile device.