History Made with Virtual Reality Debate

CNN Democratic Debate
CNN’s Democratic debate on Tuesday provided viewers with a unique way of getting to see the presidential contenders – the political event was live streamed in virtual reality, the first of its kind, thanks to a partnership with NextVR.

In a press release revealing the historic moment, CNN stated that “users [would be] able to hold a gaze on a particular candidate, catch off-screen interactions and more.”

Shortly before the debate, CNN reporter Chris Moody described the technology to news anchor Brooke Baldwin, as “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter provided a demonstration.

“This is not your dad’s 1990s virtual reality,” explained Moody. “This is only the beginning; you can only imagine if we can tell news stories on the streets of Havana.”

Stelter later interviewed flip-flop-attired Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey, who initially studied journalism, and expanded on Moody’s thoughts.

“I think [virtual reality] really does change the way you’re able to perceive things,” said Luckey. “If you’re talking about a war zone, if you’re talking about a political debate, if you’re talking about some kind of rally, knowing what is actually happening in that scene, as opposed to what a person is able to capture, or the story they want to capture through the frame of a camera … outlets are going to have to be really responsible with this.”

With all of that being said, what was the reaction to how the CNN stream went?

Scott Hayden over at RoadToVR “didn’t entirely hate it,” citing issues with the resolution.

TheVerge’s Adi Robertson wrote that “feeling the bright lights of the stage and hearing the crowd applaud all around you captures a real excitement that's not there on a flat screen,” but thought some improvements could be made like the addition of a social media component.

And Re/code’s liveblog coverage noted that “One of the joys of VR … is that you can always see which candidates are gesturing wildly to get Cooper’s attention. Desperation is good TV.”

It sounds like checking out a debate in virtual reality does provide an immersive and different experience for the viewer, and that further enhancements can only make it better going forward.

Once virtual reality is more widely available to the masses, it’s likely that news broadcasts, sporting events like the World Series and other special TV programming will be available via VR.

Author: Brian Cameron

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