Augmented Reality is starting to be adopted across businesses. We began sharing stories with text, then added images, then videos, and now, 360-degree immersive experiences would soon be the next big way of immersive storytelling. For journalism, the level of immersion on a story determines how convincing and trustworthy it is for the reader. It’s a crucial part of journalism, and many news organizations are now exploring this media.
One of the organizations I follow is the New York Times, and since early 2017, they have invested in creating immersive articles for their readers. This post is about one of those immersive experiences. It is a crime scene investigation for Syria’s Chemical Attack. Published on June 2018, the article creates a 3D visual of the scene of the investigation.
What I like in particular about the piece is that the clips and information used in it weren’t shot by the New York Times but taken from other sources (Russian reporters and Syrian activists). So, to cover the story, and understand the truth behind the situation, the New York Times created a virtual crime scene by reconstructing a 3D model of the building in which the chlorine bomb was found.
The Times report uses this 3D visual to investigate the placement of the bomb (position, angle), material (corroded, grid pattern), among other features. Seeing the experience in AR made me feel as if I was investigating the story with the Times in Syria.
I value this format of storytelling because it creates a visual experience in journalism for the readers (probably now better-called story experiencers). All the facts of the investigation were not just presented, but they were digitally in front of me. Just by facing my phone camera on the floor, I could enter the experience of investigative journalism. I think of it as a Sherlock Holmes style of investigation, where each aspect of the scene is removed from reality and visualized in mind.
Today, creating such artworks is time-consuming, but as this trend evolves, we would have tools to simplify creation of such 3D environments. I can imagine these experiences getting better in the next decade.
Lastly, I want to comment on the nature of digitization in storytelling. As we skew information sharing using digital models, we move away from reality. So, it’s possible that such immersive experiences could be used to sway the user away from reality (fake news visualized in extended reality environments).
Link to the article
The app used for the experience: NY Times Mobile App on iOS and Android