ISOJ panel will delve into virtual-reality journalism and 3D storytelling

There is a lot to discover, learn, and even disagree with during two jam-packed days at the International Symposium on Online Journalism (ISOJ), but a panel on virtual reality (VR) journalism may be one of most anticipated in the 16 years of this event, which will be held April 17-18 at the University of Texas at Austin.virtual-reality-1389032_1920

The panel,  “The arrival of virtual-reality journalism: Using immersive 3D devices for experiential storytelling,” will be chaired by Robert Hernandez, associate professor of professional practice at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. It will get underway at 9:45 a.m. on Saturday, April 18.

Hernandez will be joined by Nonny de la Peña, fellow at USC School of Cinematic Artsand founder of immersive journalism VR company Emblematic Group. De la Peña has generated major buzz with Project Syria: An Immersive Journalism Experience, which uses “virtual reality and 3D environments” to tell the story of Syrian children refugees.

Also on the panel are Taylor Owen, assistant professor of Digital Media and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia and the research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia School of Journalism; Ray Soto, 3D creative lead for VR product at Gannett Digital; and Aaron Luber, head of partnerships and content for Cardboard, Google.

Hernandez, who chaired a panel on “Life after television” at the 2014 ISOJ, sounds excited, even via an email interview, about the panel on virtual reality journalism.

“We are still in the planning stages, but my goal is set the table on why we need to embrace these emerging technologies and encourage the attendees to start exploring and producing VR journalism experiences.”

When asked if this form of storytelling is all that prevalent or even within reach of news organizations, Hernandez is clear-eyed:

“I believe — after decades of over-promising — VR is within reach and I expect this year to be a big year for VR and journalism,” he replied.

“It’s not mainstream yet, but that is the perfect time for us to work different drafts/experiences for journalism. We need to explore this and not wait until it has gone mainstream and we get left behind, again.”

The panel has already generated interest on the Web, with Dan Smigrod, the founder, CEO and chief photographer at Matterport Photograpy in Atlanta, noting, “Journalists around the globe can get started today with 3D photography embedded on their website.”

Hernandez hopes ISOJ participants leave the panel discussion with “a good introduction to virtual reality, how it can be applied to journalism and how they can start exploring the technology right away.”

Registration for ISOJ has been closed but the symposium will be livestreamed, with Spanish translation supported by Univision. Access the livestream on the ISOJ websiteafter the event gets underway at 8:30 a.m. (CST) in the Blanton Museum of Artauditorium at UT Austin.

The latest version of the ISOJ program can be viewed here.