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Can Reality Technologies Save Journalism?

Can reality technologies breathe new life for the struggling industry or is this just another fad?



August 8, 2018

The rumor has been circulating for years that “journalism is a dying industry”. Media company Condé Nast, known for magazines such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ, Bon Appétit, Pitchfork, and Wired has continually made cuts across their organization as a means of dealing with the surge of digitalization. The company has reduced the frequency of its print publications for many of its magazines, shifted several magazines to online-only, and now plans to sell three of its titles to amend the $120 million loss in sales from last year.

One of Condé Nast’s most popular publications, The New Yorker, has chosen to embrace the digital shift by publishing an augmented-reality cover, designed by artist Christoph Niemann in 2016. This move signaled a shift in media and proved that print publications and technology may be able to co-exist after all. Since the May 2016 cover, Niemann has created several virtual reality works for The New Yorker since including its 2016 “Serve!” cover, the 2017 “Enchanted Forest” cover, and a more recent virtual illustration of “The Vessel” building in New York. Niemann is a popular artist among publications such as The New Yorker, Wired, and The New York Times Magazine and his work as a digital artist shows just how far reality technology has cast its net across a sea of industries.

The New York Times is possibly the largest media group to adopt reality technologies thus far and uses augmented reality to provide visceral understanding of complicated events and ideas. For example, the recent nightmare of the Thai soccer team stuck in a cave for three weeks generated worry across the globe; but to many, the situation was so detached from their reality that it was difficult to understand its full severity. In order to explain the complexity of the rescue mission needed to save these children, The New York Times created an augmented reality simulation for readers to “step inside” the cave themselves. When the Fuego volcano erupted in Guatemala in June, The New York Times digitized an augmented reality depiction of a damaged area for readers to explore. The Times  used this technology as a means of in-depth human rights investigation when the Syrian military dropped a chlorine bomb on an apartment in Douma that allowed them to reconstruct a virtual crime scene that journalists were unable to visit.

While some speculate that reality technology is “simultaneously futuristic and obsolete”, its applications in media portray a different story. Can reality technologies breathe new life into the struggling industry or is this just another fad?

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