Connor Hayes

With Virtual Reality Gaining Steam, News Outlets Must Adapt

In a recent Fast Company article, “The Biggest Challenges Facing the News Industry in 2016,” several expert journalists voiced their opinions on the future of the news industry. To me, the most interesting opinion based on putting increased effort into virtual reality, came from USC Journalism professor Robert Hernandez.

Hernandez caught me off-guard stating, “In 2016, the journalism industry needs to start preparing to lead the next disruption. When it actually hits is nearly irrelevant, because there is no doubt it will hit. Journalism needs to start experimenting with platforms like the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard now.” It was surprising to me that he thought virtual reality platforms were the future. I had never heard of a single one of the devices he mentioned and it peaked my curiosity. I did some research to get myself up to speed and to examine whether his opinion had any merit.

The first opinion that I saw was in an article for CNBC. In the article Goldman Sachs analyst Heather Bellini said that she foresees the virtual and augmented reality market possibly becoming an $80 billion industry by 2025. Later on, it was mentioned in the article that Google has already opened it’s first “dedicated virtual reality unit”, which led me to researching their virtual reality approach. How could Google already have so much success in virtual reality in 2016?

It turns out that Google has already sold 5 million copies of their virtual reality headset, Google Cardboard, according to their blog. Their headset, reasonably priced at $20, is the top virtual reality headset only 19 months into it’s existence. The post also points out some other surprising statistics. Over 350,000 hours of YouTube videos have already been watched using Google Cardboard and over 750,000 photos have been taken with the Google Cardboard app alone.  With such a large amount of early success and easy availability, I can see why so many experts  are starting to push towards a virtual reality movement.

The large interest in virtual reality shown by large television companies also may be an indicator of the technology’s future success. According to fiercecable.com, Comcast and Time Warner have already teamed up to fund 30.5 million dollars for  NextVR, a startup that broadcasts in virtual reality. In addition, CableLabs CEO Phil McKinney mentioned that consumer interest for virtual reality is “off the charts” in a interview with Variety. Pair that with DirecTV launching an experimental virtual reality app and it is clearly obvious that cable is already positioning itself to be a part of the movement. It only makes sense that News joins in at the forefront.

Coming back to the Fast Company article, Hernandez mentioned that his students were already using virtual reality products to complete their assignments. This is very exciting news because journalists can be at the forefront of utilizing this new technology as it gains popularity. The trend has already started and will likely take off, so it is best for the news industry to get a head start and work on developing more virtual reality content.

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