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XR in Journalism: From Innovative Storytelling to Innovative Infrastructure

The DW Innovation team dives into the story of XR in journalism. Take a read.

Is there a shift in media organizations regarding the use of immersive tech?

Author: The DW Innovation Team

After roughly ten years of XR in international journalism, it has become pretty hard to compile a comprehensive list of interesting and influential experiments. From New York to Cologne and from Helsinki to Lyons (to name just a few hotspots where colleagues of ours used to work on projects), lots of newsrooms and R&D departments have worked with immersive tech. They took us to food banks in California and to landing sites on Mars. They put us in prison cells and on refugee boats in the Mediterranean. They showed antique artefacts, pro athletes, and the rainforest. They used gaming engines, iOS and Android SDKs, XR-enhanced browsers, cardboard contraptions, tethered headsets, stand-alone headsets, and smartphones. However, no matter how their story was produced and what it focused on, it was exactly that: a story. The better part of the XR decade was apparently dedicated to immersive reporting/journalism.

Even though it's hard to say at this point if we're looking at a real trend, it seems that the last couple of years saw at least a slight shift: away from XR as a storytelling device – and towards XR as an infrastructure technology. What may have started with a couple of immersive, avatar-driven meetings during peak COVID gradually moved to other areas of media operations, first and foremost: media production planning and media training.

Two recent R&D projects in DW's portfolio seem to be proof of this. The first one is XR4DRAMA (2020-2023) which heavily relied on AR, VR, and 3D models to improve situational awareness for reporters and filmmakers. The second one is actually SERMAS, which uses XR tech and avatars to improve and scale-up security training for journalists. At the same time, DW is still using XR storytelling tools (e.g. Fader in MediaVerse) and looking into new kinds of immersive reporting (e.g. the Snap Spectacles in a new lab project). However, the major part of the innovation's teams time and budget is currently spent on the aforementioned infrastructure projects.

The XR playground has clearly been expanded, and more changes are underway.

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