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  • Writer's pictureUpanishad Sharma

Can you mourn for someone you never knew?

Death and destruction everywhere. That was the scene on 25th April 2015 when Nepal experienced its worst earthquake since 1934. Over 9,000 lives were lost, and twice as many were injured. One of the most painful tragedies to ever occur on Earth and yet people living thousands of miles away could only read or see it from afar. But what if you could experience the carnage? What if you could stand where a building once stood and sift through the debris for supplies? That’s what RYOT studio thought, and a month after the earthquake a VR film documenting the disaster was produced.

Journalism has been an essential pillar of democracy for a long time. The simple act of recording events and making the people aware of them possesses incredible power. Utilising the technologies available, journalists ensure a constant flow of information. Up until a few years ago, the audience had little to no part in what it read or saw. However, that has now changed with the internet.

Video by: RYOT YouTube

RYOT studio’s excellent production was successful because of a central idea in their mind; to make the viewer relate to the disaster in a way they never could. The Nepal Earthquake VR enabled someone living in New York to stand with the survivors as they recounted their tales of grief and loss. This immersive experience satisfied something deep within the mind of the audience. The need and more importantly, the want, to be enlightened while feeling it actually matters to them.

The digitisation of content has put everything within a click’s reach. From full feature films to small voice notes, all sorts of material is found online. However, the same tool which has helped increase the flow of information has also resulted in people having incredibly short attention spans. The internet is full of information. The constant stream of news has unfortunately made people indifferent to most happenings over the world.

Here is where the need for newer technologies come in. When you’re trapped in an endless pool of content with every article looking like the previous one, it gets difficult to stand out from the crowd. Reporters are always on the hunt for new ways to present their stories. RYOT’s 360° film on the Nepal earthquake was one of the many examples of how journalists have taken a situation entire nations away and made it incredibly close to home.

Technologies like Virtual & Augmented Reality have been on the rise ever since David Em started producing open worlds at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1977. In 2014 social media giant Facebook changed the game when it bought the new VR company Oculus in a multi-billion-dollar deal. The company has been experimenting with immersive realities in gaming and other fields ever since. Similarly, Augmented reality is also on the rise with many journalists using it as an add on technology on mobile platforms for creating immersive news.

As immersive realities come up as options for the dissemination of news, older technologies like social media on the internet continue to be a popular choice for journalists and content creators alike for gaining audience and exposure. However, things are not so simple there anymore too.

The interspersed relationship between journalism and these new technologies has been a process which has been in the making for a long time. The field of journalism is no less than a journey. One which unfolds like a tale. I intend to unravel it and show you how far we've come and what still remains.

But before we discuss how much Virtual Reality has impacted journalism till yet, it's better if you get acquainted with what it actually is. Head on back to the main page and click the handy explainer I've written to know more.

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