What if you could go anywhere in the world right from the comfort of your own home? What if it was more than just passively watching a scene or story, but being a part of it?
Virtual reality can allow you to do just that.
Virtual reality, as a storytelling tool, takes the immersive experience one step past the boundaries of what 360 would allow. 360 video places the individual watching on a predetermined path. They have to experience the story as the video is edited together, and only through the camera lens in which it was captured.
Virtual reality allows for individuals to experience a story or place on their own terms. They are a free agent of sorts within a virtual world; with the story happening around them like it would in real life.
With this distinction between 360 video and virtual reality, journalists can bring the two together to tell impactful stories.
When I consider what stories I would tell using virtual reality, I want to take viewers somewhere they wouldn’t be able to see on their own. For example, if I wanted to tell a story about the lone post office that operates on Antarctica; using virtual reality would enable people to be there without traveling to one of the southern most parts of the world. Plus, from recent news articles, a record number of people were interested in working there.
Many people have described VR as the ultimate “empathy machine.” A means by which people can tell stories that pull on emotions and reach to make a change. On the other hand, VR can be fun and engaging. Taking people outside of their everyday box and giving them an escape all while telling a story.
Creating a VR world of the Antartic post office would allow individuals to engage with the scene almost as if they were there working. If 360 video was used, they would only get to explore the path set by the camera person.
I hope that one day creating VR worlds becomes a less time-intensive process, so then we could create more carefree stories. As journalists we still must strive to ethically create these worlds, so they are true representations of the world they are portraying.