- 2 years ago

When journalism, virtual reality, and unclear App Store guidelines collide

If you're a VR developer, options are limited and you need to rely on some gatekeepers.
Andrew Cunningham

Dan Archer is a graphic journalist who uses comics and immersive storytelling to report on human rights issues. His work can be found at ArchComix and Empathetic Media.

As virtual reality becomes cheaper and easier to access, the ways content developers might explore the new medium have expanded accordingly. For example, virtual reality journalism a field I have focused on for the past few years can enable immersive stories in which users put on a headset or use their smartphone to transport themselves inside a real-life scenario. Sometimes, they offer 360-degree camera footage from real locations like The Nepal Quake Project. Other apps use virtual content to retell a real-life story, like my first piece, Ferguson Firsthand.

Right now, the easiest way to put viewers inside a VR news story is a bit inelegant, asking them to combine a smartphone and a Google Cardboard viewer. Still, it's a cheap and effective way to distribute ideas like my own (and some users have preferred to try such apps in 2D anyway). Either way, VR designers, unlike more traditional journalists, are currently beholden to gatekeepers like Apple's App Store or Google's Play Store to distribute those stories to anybody with compatible, affordable equipment.

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