Futures Lab Update #145: SXSW 2016 and VR Analytics

    by Reuben Stern
    March 24, 2016
    A screenshot from this week's Futures Lab Update video.

    This story first appeared on RJI’s Futures Lab. Reporting by Reuben Stern, Rachel Wise, Berkeley Lovelace and Blair Ussary.

    This week we offer a recap from the 2016 South by Southwest conference, where virtual reality was a major focus; and we explore how it might be possible to track what people see when they experience immersive content.


    PART 1: SXSW recap

    Virtual reality was by far the most prominent technology on display at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas. We recap some highlights.

    [To skip directly to this segment in YouTube, click here.]

    Additional information:


    New York Times CEO Mark Thompson participated in a panel discussion where he explained how the organization leapt into VR storytelling. The Times also hosted its own SXSW event to tout its VR efforts, as Politico recaps.

    For more information about Mashable’s content deal with Bravo, check out this report from Bloomberg.

    For more details about BuzzFeed’s cross-platform advertising vehicle Swarm, check out this report from Adweek.

    For additional insight from the conference, check out these helpful recaps published by Forbes, The Guardian, and The Associated Press.

    PART 2: VR analytics

    As news organizations, marketers, filmmakers and others quickly embrace the production of 360-degree video, multiple companies are working to gather more robust analytics that document what users actually see within the content. Benjamin Durham, founder and chief executive officer of Thrillbox, explains the type of data his startup is working to provide.

    [To skip directly to this segment in YouTube, click here.]

    More information about VR:

    Other companies working to provide VR analytics include FocalHub, Ghostline and Retinad.

    A few other immersive technologies on display:

    • Google’s Tilt Brush enables users wearing an HTC Vive headset to draw digital images in three-dimensional space.
    • Splash is a newly launched iPhone app that enables users to create and share 360-degree video. As Mashable points out: “The results can vary from impressively immersive to wildly abstract depending on how you shoot.”
    • Mill Stitch is a filmmaking tool that displays in real time on a flat screen the footage being captured by a 360-degree array of cameras. The technology won a SXSW innovation award.
    • At the very high end, Nokia’s $60,000 professional-grade Ozo camera gives full spherical coverage, i.e. without any blank area at the top or bottom of the viewing sphere.
    • The Fallen of WWII garnered the SXSW innovation award for visual media experience. It’s an interactive data visualization that “uses cinematic storytelling techniques to provide viewers with a fresh and dramatic perspective of a pivotal moment in history.”

    And finally… if you want to sound smart about the correct terminology, Wired magazine’s Will Smith explains the distinction between 360-degree video and virtual reality. (This is not from SXSW but helpful all the same.)

    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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    The 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 receive email notification of each new episode.

    Tagged: 360 video buzzfeed futures lab mashable new york times rji sxsw sxsw 2016 virtual reality vox vr journalism

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