Design Futures

Thinking about journalism, immersion, and emerging technologies, almost anything is possible. We can invite our readers to navigate the rivers of the Amazon, check out a crime scene or relive a chapter of history. We can transform them into protagonists or witnesses of our stories. Technology can enhance storytelling. It’s essential to identify what is ‘the story’ that we want to tell. More than technology, narrative is the central focus. 

Extended reality (XR) is the next frontier for journalism. This term refers to augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality experiences generated by computer technology and wearables. 

With AR, users can visualize the real world with added graphic information through a technological device, such as lens or filters. Users can also be immersed in an artificially created environment by wearing helmets, suits, and gloves. Or they can mix both techniques. In short, these are technologies that allow the creation of new interactions and environments between computers and people. 

XR is being applied in many ways in entertainment industry, marketing campaigns, trainings, and real estate. There are also some experimental groups that apply XR in journalism.

These technologies are innovative tools for telling stories about our communities and engaging younger audiences, as visual platforms and video games are closer to their cultural practices. With XR we can design environments to enable our audience to live the news, to interact with content and to get different points of view of the reality that we are presenting on the news.

In my opinion, one of the challenges we face is to understand how to take advantage of this technology in journalism schools, mostly in countries where there are still digital gaps. Added to this reality, the need to purchase the equipment, devices or software licenses takes us a little further away from this situation.

Let’s talk about the future

Dennis “Fox” Bonilla, co-founder and the Chief Technology Officer at Baltu Technologies and instructor at ASU’s School of Arts, Media and Engineering, explained us about the state of the art of emerging technologies, for example generative AI, Internet of Things, nonfungible tokens (NFTs), decentralized identity, digital humans, and so on. 

In recent years, many technologies triggered out but soon reached the peak of inflated expectations. Only a few reached the plateau of productivity. That’s the technology hype cycle.

Currently the metaverse concentrates the greatest interest. It refers to digital environments where people interact with others, buy, play, and have different virtual experiences. This space is a metaphor for the real world, but without its limitations.

However, there are some dangers and risks of cutting-edge tech. The big tech companies get loads of data about users’ behavior and interests to create more products and services. Artificial reality can induce derealization and depersonalization. And the disparity based in the technology gap will likely increase in some parts of the world. 

I have no doubt that with these technologies we can reshape the journalism landscape but also, we can build different futures. We must decide how we will go about it.

Hands-on Lab!

Led by Retha Hill, an expert in innovation, entrepreneurship, and digital media, we immersed ourselves in the world of video game construction with Unity, a software package that has a series of programming routines that allow users to design, create, and operate an interactive environment.

Hill is also the founder of AncestoriesXR, a platform that uses immersive media and gaming techniques to tell genealogy stories in America. She explained the project and the challenges of creating a first-person perspective and 3D visualizations that recreate locations where Americans’ ancestors lived.

With baby steps, we learned to create 3D game objects, like cubes and spheres, in a scene and how to translate, scale, rotate, and transform the shapes. We changed the main camera position and the lighting to understand how it works. Then we added material qualities to the objects and tried some movements.   

During this week SUSI Scholars will learn how to use virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to tell stories and communicate ideas. So, this is just the beginning.

Are you interested in immersive and interactive art? Visit Wonderspaces in Scottsdale Fashion Square. It’s an art show at that presents a lineup of 15 art installations from around the world. More than an exhibition, it’s an immersive experience. Try it. Buy tickets in advance.