How exactly can journalists use virtual reality (VR) for storytelling? DW trainees got a taste at the VR Journalism Hackathon in Berlin.
The "VR Journalism Hackathon", which ran from September 21-22 in Berlin, brought together journalists, programmers, designers and video experts. Some 35 participants spent two days filming, programming and trying out the new technology. By the end of the event, they’d produced six prototypes showing some of the ways virtual reality can be used for journalism stories.
One of the prototypes was a live talk show where users can shape the discussion. Another model visualizes datasets in a virtual reality setting, and a third was a documentary format where viewers could explore the world of child laborers working on plantations and in textile factories.
While the use of virtual reality for storytelling still faces technical challenges, the prototypes demonstrate the diverse new ways users can experience and be part of a story. This was the goal of the hackathon which was organized by DW Akademie together with the virtual reality studio Vragments and the Center for Investigative Reporting at the Mediadesign Hochschule in Berlin.
"As media workers it's essential that we think through creative approaches to new formats and possibilities," said Ramón García-Ziemsen, head of DW Akademie's journalism traineeship.
In addition to Vragments and DW Akademie, others represented at the hackathon included the German daily Die Welt, the German SWR public broadcaster, the 2470 storytelling company, the Spanish daily El País, a film production company, a virtual reality startup company and the computer magazine, CT.
Creating experiences, overstepping boundaries
Several DW Akademie trainees from the 2015-2016 program also took part. "Virtual reality technology might be in its early stages but it's important that journalists get involved now so that they can help shape the creative potential offered by this medium," said DW trainee Maximiliane Koschyk. Although the participants had differing levels of experience working with virtual reality, their mix of technical and journalism skills enabled the development of prototypes combining new technologies and new forms of storytelling.
"Virtual reality journalism and its possibilities are still being defined," explained Vragments co-founder, Marcus Bösch. "That’s why it’s important to get a head start on this new technology and get involved early on." Even though channels for VR output aren’t widely available yet, said Bösch, practical application of the technology is moving quickly ahead. Virtual reality's potential when it comes to journalism is huge, and pieces like the New York Times' "The Displaced" prove the point.
The prototypes created at the VR Journalism Hackathon were presented to trade professionals, including Euronews and Google, at the subsequent VR Conference in Berlin. Find out more here:VR Journalism Hackathon