After moving into virtual reality video journalism last year, the Associated Press is partnering with chip maker AMD for a new push into VR. Today, the companies announced that they're launching a web portal for AP virtual reality, promising more journalistic endeavors soon — including "lifelike VR environments" built with the help of AMD.
Several news outlets have now started producing 360-degree videos, which can be watched through a Google Cardboard headset or a smartphone. The New York Times, which partnered with production house Vrse.works, offers documentary video about topics like child refugees and the 2016 presidential election in a dedicated NYT VR app. Vice has similarly partnered with Vrse.works, and ABC News worked with Jaunt to record a 360-degree version of a tour in North Korea. So far, the AP has partnered with a VR studio called RYOT, whose past work includes a short film about the April 2015 earthquake in Nepal.
"I believe that VR ... is really a natural extension of photo and video."
The AP and RYOT's first project together was Seeking Home, which documented life in France's troubled Calais refugee camp. Seeking Home was first launched through RYOT's video app, and the news outlet currently offers a YouTube playlist of all its 360-degree videos, including footage from the People's Choice Awards and New York's Second Avenue Subway. But with this new portal, it's looking to turn VR into an integral part of its coverage. "I believe that VR and 360[-degree video] is really a natural extension of photo and video, just the same as going from black and white to color," says AP interactive and digital news director Paul Cheung. "We still need two-dimensional photos and videos, but at times, when the experience warrants it, then you will get the 360-degree photo or the 360-degree video."
The partnership also lets the AP start working outside live-action video. Cheung points out that the AP released a brief 360-degree visualization of last year's supermoon, but the AMD partnership will help it create longer and more sophisticated computer-generated VR. "We see that as an opportunity for AP to do really good explanatory journalism," says Cheung of rendered virtual reality. "If we were going to produce it right now, we might not have all of the technologies to produce a positive experience." While the AP's videos are generally for Google Cardboard, AMD can also help with projects for high-end headsets like the Oculus Rift.
AMD, which offers high-powered graphics cards for VR-ready computers, currently supports virtual reality with its LiquidVR software package. The Associated Press will use its technology, but will be responsible for the editorial side of the operation. As for when we'll see what the AP does with this partnership, it will be revealing a "detailed VR news experience" during vaguely defined "upcoming events."