AOL is acquiring 360-degree media company Ryot in order to jump into the world of virtual reality news coverage. The companies, which did not reveal exact terms of the sale, announced that Ryot will immediately start working with AOL-owned outlet The Huffington Post to create VR video. Eventually, Ryot is supposed to work with all of AOL's properties, including outlets like Engadget, TechCrunch, and Autoblog.
Ryot was founded in 2012 as a socially conscious, activism-focused news outlet. It's worked on a number of non-VR films, including the Oscar-nominated short documentary Body Team 12. But over the past year, it's become known mostly for 360-degree video. After the Nepal earthquake, for example, Ryot released a Susan Sarandon-narrated VR short about the rebuilding process. Like other VR production houses, it's also partnered with more traditional news outlets. Last year, it signed a deal with the Associated Press to produce several VR mini-documentaries, starting with a piece on France's Calais refugee camp. It's worked with The Huffington Post before as well, producing a refugee-focused 360-degree video called The Crossing.
Ryot is one of a handful of companies — along with Jaunt, Vrse.works, and Wevr — responsible for helping popularize 360-degree video. With VR camera rigs and editing software getting easier to find and use, it may be only a matter of time until these studios' now-specialized skills become a more standard part of video production. Until then, though, Ryot says that this deal won't stop it from partnering from other news outlets — so while AOL might have gained a resource, the rest of the news world hopefully isn't losing one.