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Credit: Image by Journalism.co.uk

Virtual reality has opened up a new way of storytelling for publishers, allowing them to immerse their audiences in what they are watching, giving them a sense of presence and, it is hoped, a deeper understanding of the story.

ABC News, Sky News, The New York Times, The Economist and Vice News are just a few of the organisations that have taken advantage of this innovative technology, but what if this format can be taken even further? What if it can bring us the closest to teleportation that we've ever been, by immersing audiences in live news events?

Virtual reality specialists NextVR have been working with media organisations worldwide to broadcast events live, allowing anyone with a VR headset to personally witness action as it happens, from the comfort of their home.

"Live virtual reality is in real time, so it is as if you are teleported to where the camera is filming," said Helen Situ, virtual reality evangelist at NextVR, who deals with business and product development.

Situ notes there are more than 7 billion people on the earth, but only a fraction of that can attend any one event or be in one place at the same time, so this livestreaming technology can take the audience where they are unable to go, whether that is court-side at a major basketball game or on stage at the presidential election debates.

"We mainly focus on sports events but also have been working with publishers, covering both the recent republican and democratic presidential debates on CNN," said Situ.

"When you watch such a news event on TV, you have a frame and are looking at one polished candidate at a time, but when the audience watched it live in virtual reality, it was as if they were on stage with them, seeing a completely different perspective to what they would see on television.

"You could see the whole stage, the audience reactions, and when a candidate was speaking, you could watch them live, articulating their thoughts and positions, whilst also seeing their neighbouring candidates fidgeting and wanting to get into the debate – in VR, you are you own director."

NextVR uses its own camera rigs and transmission system to capture and stream content to the NextVR app, but there are cheaper options available for publishers to test the water, such as practising with the livestreaming capabilities of the Ricoh Theta S camera.

"It is a completely different way of covering breaking stories, and I will be very interested to see how journalists get into it," said Situ.

"Journalists need to consider the ethics of putting the viewer as a first person participant in the story, but I think it is inevitable that journalists will get into this medium and use it in a completely different way to what we even imagine today."

Listen to our podcast with Helen Situ here.

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