Now you can watch the news in VR

CNN has released a new virtual reality platform to deliver the news from around the world through live streams, while also producing weekly virtual reality experiences.

The new offering will be available across multiple devices including your laptop, Samsung GearVR, Oculus Rift and Google Daydream headsets, as well as CNN’s iOS and Android apps. CNN now claim it app is the third largest mobile VR app worldwide, only behind Facebook and YouTube.

Over the past year, CNN has been experimenting with VR, producing more than 50 news stories in 360 video, and now the new unit, CNNVR, will include correspondents in 12 cities around the world. The first story was a feature piece covering the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, though it has previously teamed up with VR broadcaster NextVR to live stream the full Democratic presidential debate in 2015.

While VR is certainly a growing trend in the telco and tech space, CNN is not the first broadcaster to enter the space. The Huffington Post, the Economist, and The New York Times have all created their own 360-degree video content in the past year.

“No matter what kind of medium you work in – print, radio, TV, digital video – journalists strive for a common goal: to transport their audience into a story that matters and leave a lasting impression,” said CNN’s Jason Farkas, Vice President of Premium Content Video on parent company Time Warner’s blog. “I believe VR is the most powerful tool we have to accomplish that goal.

“You are in the story, or at least your senses tell you that you are. The viewer walks away feeling the emotional impact much more viscerally, and memorably. So, when we produce a VR piece from the earthquake in Italy, a Donald Trump rally, or a Syrian refugee camp, we try to take that impact into account, and write narration as if the viewer has just arrived to the scene. 3D TV was a nifty gimmick, but it couldn’t compare to VR’s ability to convincingly transport you to another place.”

Elsewhere in the world of VR, Facebook has launched a 360 app for Samsung Gear VR, powered by Oculus, to allow users to experience 360 photos and videos in a VR environment. With 25 million 360 photos and 1 million 360 videos posted on Facebook already there certainly is an area to be addressed, though whether this could be seen as a long-term proposition for the team or a PR gimmick remains to be seen.

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