In the infancy of newsroom experimentation with virtual reality, The Washington Post is taking an approach that acknowledges and works around the fact that so few people own an Oculus Rift or other VR headgear.
The project, titled Journey to Mars, lets viewers explore a virtual version of the red planet on their phones, browsers, tablets, via downloadable app or on the Oculus Rift.
“If this technology becomes one of the new ways we bring readers into our stories,” write the project developers in a post explaining what they sought to accomplish, “we didn’t want to limit our audience to only those with headsets. Think of it as the democratization of VR—the first step in a long journey toward bringing this storyform to as many people as possible.”
The tour of the planet, which was reported by Christian Davenport, is punctuated by guideposts that offer information on space exploration and technology, as well as interviews with NASA planetary scientist Jim Green. It has the feel of a self-guided museum tour.
The world itself was created in collaboration with the University of Texas at Austin. Choosing Mars as a subject for this project was a no-brainer for WaPo director of strategic initiatives Jeremy Gilbert, who said in a statement that “certain stories are best told through an immersive format like VR, especially one that explores the space frontier.”
As for whether VR in the newsroom will catch on or is merely a passing fancy, we’ll let you decide. Let us know what you think in the comments.