New York Times uses virtual reality to transport users to Paris vigils

Screen shot, The New York Times
Screen shot, The New York Times

The New York Times

The New York Times' Ben Solomon and Leslye Davis used virtual reality on Friday to bring readers and viewers to the streets of Paris to see the stretch of candles, cards, flowers and flags that have grown into vigils since the terrorist attacks there once week ago. "As journalists, we always seek to help readers understand what life feels like in the places we cover," they wrote. "Virtual reality allows us to do that in an entirely new way."

As a reporting tool, virtual reality is still in its infancy; its power to create empathy is just beginning to be understood.

Using this medium, we aimed to create a more textured experience — the streets of Paris distilled to voices and spaces. Although the technology is evolving, it’s clear that this new frontier can soon become a crucial journalistic tool.

Here's the 360 video of the vigils:

The New York Times recently sent print subscribers Google Cardboard to view the Times' VR projects. After getting his own, Bill Mitchell wrote for Poynter about whether VR is useful or a novelty.

I expect I’ll find VR most useful in the case of big breaking stories with unexpected developments as well as stories that hold deep interest for me for one reason or another.

Those circumstances suggest a ubiquity of VR recording that’s unrealistic today but might not be in the future. As the Times’ Renee Murawski points out in a comment attached to my Facebook post about the Cardboard, the paper has taken a huge step forward in putting a million of these devices in the hands of thoughtful readers, many of whom care enough about the experience to share their impressions with others.

Related: Virtual reality news is becoming a reality in many newsrooms
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