At a time where journalists strive to provide the most immediate, most visceral update on developing global stories, ABC News brought a real, immersive experience of important remote occurrences to an eager world audience.
"Inside Syria VR" introduces immersive journalism to bring in a sense of presence and empathy among viewers.
On the Sept. 16 episode of the late-night news program Nightline, viewers were invited to watch an accompanying 360-degree video piece on their smartphones or computers. In the in-depth report by journalist Alexander Marquardt, viewers were taken on a virtual journey through Damascus, Syria.
In the conflicted city, curators struggle to safeguard the country's antiquities, which are in danger of destruction, The Verge reports. The Disney-owned broadcast network collaborated with California-based studio Jaunt VR to come up with a video that was shot on an advanced 16-camera device. Jaunt VR specializes in live-action virtual reality experiences.
"This rare access also included the streets and historical sights of Damascus, now largely cut off from the outside world," saiys James Goldston, president of the news network in a staff memo.
The unusual newscast, which resembles a guided tour, took viewers to some of the ancient sites in the Syrian capital, including the Damascus Citadel and Souk, the Umayyad Mosque and the National Museum, where important items from conflicted areas are being catalogued and stored quickly, to get them stored away at a confidential location.
While the innovative journalistic tool gathered a lot of interest, the two companies behind it have not inked an official partnership. So far, ABC News has no concrete plans on monetizing or expanding its virtual reality capabilities.
ABC's producers were trained to use Jaunt's cameras earlier this summer, days before one traveled to the Middle East to collaborate with Marquardt and his producers.
"We'll be incredibly selective in what we do," Dan Silver, ABC News's executive producer of digital, tells the International Business Times. At the moment, the ABC team is considering using VR for the ongoing opening up of Cuba and Pope Francis's upcoming United States trip. The upcoming U.S. presidential elections may also benefit from the technology, Engadget reports.
The news app is available for download on both iOS and Android phones.