The BBC has been working on a portfolio of projects created especially for virtual reality gear such as Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard and the HTC Vive VR headset, released today (9 June).

Not unlike many other news organisations, the broadcaster has been experimenting with 360-degree video and virtual reality, in an attempt to see how this technology can bring new opportunities for storytelling.

The new collection explores subjects including the refugee crisis, space-walking and taking viewers along on a tour of Rome's Pantheon.

Some of the experiences, including 'Easter Rising: Voice of a rebel', 'We wait' and 'Home' will be premiering at Sheffield DocFest in the UK on 10 June.

They can be downloaded from BBC Taster, the organisation's platform for testing experimental ideas with the public.

For 'We wait', the BBC's research and development (R&D) lab worked with Aardman Studios to create an animated virtual reality project that combines computer-generated imagery (CGI) with real stories of refugees to create an authentic experience for viewers and place them at the core of the experience.

Zillah Watson, producer for BBC R&D, told the project, which has been developed for Oculus Rift, allows people, "in a visceral way", to sit on the beach alongside a group of refugees who are trying to make the journey across the sea to Greece.

"You also sit with them squashed in on a boat as they recall what happened the last time they made the journey, where they witnessed another boat go down, and you see it through their eyes.

"It very much follows this idea that has been set out by years of university research about achieving a sense of presence – and the people in the story look at you when you interact with them.

"It's subtle, but it's very powerful so you do get a real sense of being there."

With 'Easter Rising: Voice of a rebel', viewers get to experience the streets of Dublin and witness the 1916 rising that saw the attempted rebellion against British rule in the midst of World War One.

"We wanted to explore a completely new method of making knowledge and learning content more accessible," Catherine Allen, freelance digital producer at the BBC, told in March, when the project was presented at the i-Docs conference in Bristol.

The BBC joins the Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Economist in experimenting with 360-degree video and virtual reality to place viewers in a location they would not otherwise be able to reach, get them to experience historical events in order to further their understanding of certain topics, or recreate places that have been altered or destroyed in time.

It's a real concern for virtual reality journalism that you can take people to very dark places. You have to be very aware of what impact that would have on themZillah Watson, BBC R&D

At the Tomorrow's News event held at Reuters at the beginning of June, Aron Pilhofer, executive editor of digital at the Guardian, outlined some takeaways from producing the outlet's first virtual reality project, 6x9, which explores solitary confinement.

Pilhofer said indicating to viewers what options they had for interacting with the story in a virtual reality format proved "challenging", alongside finding the right balance between conveying the seriousness of the topic at hand and ensuring people were not going to experience feelings of anxiety or helplessness after watching 6x9.

"It's a real concern for virtual reality journalism that you can take people to very dark places," Watson said.

"You have to be very aware of what impact that would have on them, and that is something we did bear in mind when producing 'We wait' – it's a difficult piece but with a hopeful ending.

"We have deliberately created this portfolio of virtual reality pieces to show the possibilities of this technology in different areas and across different topics."

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