Business storytellers urged to embrace VR/360

Posted By Student Newsroom on Saturday April 29, 2017

By Hannah Levitt
Medill News Service

Virtual reality and 360 video technologies raise unique opportunities for business storytellers, particularly in industries that are highly visual.

“Will it be successful? Who knows, but I think as journalists we really need to be there,” said Retha Hill, executive director of the digital innovation and entrepreneurship lab at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

It could be a fad, Hill said, but the public seems to be embracing VR/360 and companies are investing billions of dollars in infrastructure. Bloomberg LP estimates that the augmented reality market will grow to $165 billion over the next few years, she added.

Hill’s comments came at the Society of American Business Editors and Writers spring conference in Seattle on Saturday at a session titled “Virtual Reality/360 in Your Business Reporting.”

With virtual or augmented reality, people can get a sense of what the past looked like and what the future may look like, Hill said. Brands are already using it in public relations and marketing.

Retha Hill

Retha Hill, executive director of the Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, discusses the storytelling opportunities of virtual reality and 360 video at the Society of Business Editors and Writers spring conference.

Marilyn Geewax, senior business editor at NPR, brought up ethical concerns surrounding the development of this technology, including how to prevent it from being misused to misinform the audience.

Hill said that as with every technological advancement, there are areas of concern, and that it is important to be as true as possible when creating these pieces of content.

Linda Shockley, managing director of the Dow Jones News Fund, said she is optimistic about the future of virtual reality/360 reporting, provided that the ethical questions are carefully thought through.

The opportunity for the user to “actually see and experience what the workers are seeing and experiencing, what the business owners are actually doing, and the implications of automation or manufacturing or environmental hazards” will bring the message home, Shockley said.

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