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    Futures Lab Update #97: Single-Story Apps and Virtual Reality Storytelling

    by Reuben Stern
    March 12, 2015
    The New York Times was able to build and release an app based on a popular modern love column by following a prototype from a previous web-based app its team had created. Screenshot courtesy of RJI.

    This week we learn how The New York Times quickly morphed a viral story into a successful mobile app, and we see how Project Syria uses virtual reality to immerse the audience in the news.

    "It [virtual reality] is a very, very powerful embodied medium in which you feel like your body is present on scene. And I think that affords the ability to give people a visceral and deeper understanding of what's transpiring unlike any other medium today." -- Nonny de la Pena, producer, Project Syria

    PART 1: Single-story apps

    Efforts to tailor content specifically for smartphones has given rise to freestanding mobile apps inspired by individual stories. As an example, The New York Times quickly created its 36 Questions app to capitalize on the viral popularity of a single article, “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This.” Interactive News Developer Alastair Coote explains how and why the app was built.
    Reporting by Tim Leible.
    [To skip directly to this segment in YouTube, click here.]

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    PART 2: Project Syria

    Project Syria provides an example of how virtual reality technology is being applied to news, in this case creating an immersive experience that reconstructs real scenes and events that took place in Syria. Producer Nonny de la Peña explains how the project was created.
    Reporting by Tatiana Darie.
    [To skip directly to this segment in YouTube, click here.]

    Other examples:

    • Vice News VR: Millions March uses virtual reality to drop users in the middle of a recent protest against police killings in New York City. The eight-minute long project used a 360-degree camera system to capture video in constant motion. Users can experience the project on their computers using a VR headset such as the Oculus Rift device, or download a new virtual reality mobile app called VRSE and watch the experience on the phone or via other means like Google cardboard glasses. The project was a collaboration between Vice News, digital artist Chris Milk and Vice Creative Director Spike Jonze.
    • Harvest of Change is an journalistic project that uses virtual reality technology and 360-degree video to show the story of an Iowa farm family. It is best viewed with an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. The experience was developed by the Des Moines Register and Gannett Digital.

    Reuben Stern is the deputy director of the Futures Lab at the Reynolds Journalism Institute and host and co-producer of the weekly Futures Lab video update.

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    FuturesLabWebBanner-mediashiftThe Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Futures Lab video update features a roundup of fresh ideas, techniques and developments to help spark innovation and change in newsrooms across all media platforms. Visit the RJI website for the full archive of Futures Lab videos, or download the iPad app to watch the show wherever you go. You can also sign up to receive email notification of each new episode.

    Tagged: apps native apps new york times project syria rji syria virtual reality virtual reality journalism web-based apps
    • Robert Sherman

      Interesting post! It is interesting to see how the app developers today are coming up with such wonderful ideas like the freestanding mobile apps focusing on a single story.

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