Drones and virtual reality and the future of journalism

I recently attended two events and saw drones and virtual reality in action.

At the Society of Professional Journalists Region 4/5 meeting in Cincinnati, we had workshops on both.

First to the drones. The presenter said that he believes the FAA will deregulate soon and open up drone usage for commercial uses. Right now, it takes a pilot’s license to operate a drone for commercial uses. That’s really held back the journalistic uses. Recreational use only requires you to own one. Soon, probably with some small amount of training required, commercial use will become more like recreational use. This will open it up to journalistic uses. Journalists in other countries already use drones because they don’t have restrictions like the FAA has put on us in the U.S.

The next level of drone technology was written about on fastcompany.com a couple days. The Hover Camera is designed for indoor use and has all kinds of possibilities for journalism and education.

I can see journalism students using drones for class and for Cedars to help produce stories that will truly benefit from drone footage. If you are familiar with Cedarville, imagine the cardboard canoe race, getting started weekend, involvement fair and many other outdoor activities. And what about a story showing off the new chapel in the fall from a variety of views. Drones are more than a gimmick. They can really help tell stories.

Virtual reality with 360-degree viewing experiences are coming fast. The workshop presenters at SPJ said within five years we will all have a VR device. Right now Samsung is pushing it with its Gear device as a $100 add-on. I got to try one there and then again at the Evangelical Press Association convention in early April. I watched a video made my a mission organization that told a story of a third-world village. You felt like you were sitting there watching all that was happening.

An editor from the Cincinnati Enquirer showed us some 360 virtual reality they have done, including this video from a pops rehearsal. It’s on YouTube which allows you to use the mouse to move around and see what the conductor sees. With a VR viewer it would be 3D and much cooler to watch. We always want to put people there with our words and pictures. Now we can virtually do it.

Of course these technologies aren’t cheap, but they are becoming more affordable. Hopefully we can get these technologies into our curriculum soon.

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