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Wearables, immersive experiences in virtual reality, and sensors – these are just some of the technologies coming to disrupt journalism.

The "skyrocketing" rate of adoption of new technologies points to a need for media outlets to experiment with wearables and other emerging tech, said Robert Hernandez, associate professor of professional practice at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

He said media organisations should try these new technologies and see how "our industry is being distrupted for better or for worse," speaking at the GEN Summit in Barcelona yesterday.

"We can either embrace it, or we can do what we've done in the past and pretend it's not happening."

He compared some media outlet's scepticism of wearables and virtual reality to the initial negative attitudes towards Twitter in light of its character limit, to those sneering at bloggers, and even to comments about the internet itself in its early days.

Hernandez told himself he'd never buy a mobile phone when the first models hit the market, and when the first mobile phone with a camera hit the shelves, he didn't think much of this new feature either.

Don't be left behind by crossing your hands and saying 'prove it to me'Robert Hernandez, USC Annenberg
"Then we all started taking pictures of our lunch. Why? Who could have predicted that... These are emerging technologies that we should play with and experiment on."

Hernandez led a Glass Journalism course at USC, experimenting with Google's headset computer, creating apps and looking for its potential uses in journalism.

While Glass's future might be uncertain at the moment, the need to experiment with new platforms is crystal clear.

He will now lead a new programme looking at virtual reality, and he is not alone, as Syracuse University in New York also has its own virtual reality journalism course.

For media outlets looking at working with wearables, Hernandez has two key tips.

The first is related to the traditional 'content is king' mantra: "journalism first, technology second."

"To me, my loyalty is to journalism," he said. "I will use all these tools as a means to share my stories of the community around me."

He also pointed out how important the culture within an organisation was, and that simply getting access to the technology was not enough.

"It's not about the technology, it's about the culture and how you embrace the technology."

"My message to you is don't be left behind by crossing your hands and saying 'prove it to me'," he said, "because every time we've done that in the industry we've been left behind, whether it's social, whether it's mobile..."

Smartwatches and VR in journalism are also on the agenda at our next news:rewired conference in London next month. Find out more about the event to talk innovation in digital journalism.

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