5 compelling stories told with Virtual Reality

May 24, 2016

Apathy is one of the biggest challenges journalists and human rights activists face today. How do we inspire audiences to listen, engage and care about a story? Enter the world of Virtual Reality (VR) and we may have found the answer. 

For those unfamiliar with VR, it involves creating an artificial environment presented to the viewer in such a way that the audience accepts it as a real environment. The concept has been around for decades, but it’s only now that VR is coming to life in the newsroom. As an immersive storytelling tool for journalists, VR lets audiences experience a story for themselves allowing them to better understand what is happening on the ground. Below we take a look at 5 different ways news outlets are using VR for journalism.

1) Solitary confinement - The Guardian

Dubbed “6×9,” The Guardian’s first VR project gives audiences the chance to explore life inside a prison cell of solitary confinement - a reality for 80,000 people in the US alone. Audiences can experience this story in two forms - the Guardian’s VR app or a 360 video you can watch on the VR headset.  


2) Seeking Home - AP

The Associated Press produced a 360-degree video documenting conditions at Calais, the refugee camp in northern France - a place where refugees stay before crossing the English Channel. The AP’s video takes the viewer directly inside the camp for a close-up view of refugee life.


3) Inside North Korea - ABC News

To give audiences a taste of culture in North Korea, the ABC News teamed up with Jaunt, a VR equipment producer, to take viewers inside Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. The 360 degree video offers a compelling glimpse into the country - or at least the parts visitors and journalists are allowed in. 


4) The Displaced - The New York Times

After sending 1 million Google Cardboard headsets to its subscribers last October, The New York Times introduced “The Displaced,” its first VR project. The VR experience gives audiences an inside look at the day-to-day lives of three refugee children around the world: an 11-year-old Ukrainian boy named Oleg, a 12-year-old Syrian girl named Hana and a 9-year-old South Sudanese boy named Chuol. 


5) LA Times - Discovering Gale Crater

VR journalism isn’t just for human interest stories — it can also bring scientific discoveries to life. In October, The Los Angeles Times produced a VR project that depicts the inside of Mars’ Gale Crater. In a guided VR tour, viewers can see evidence of water on Mars up close and personal.


Got a compelling interactive VR piece you want to share? Tweet us at @AdvocAssembly!


Want to learn more about designing interactive storytelling? Sign up to Advocacy Assembly’s free course “Data for change: Data visualization for human rights” taught by the award-winning designer Stef Posavec.