- British broadcaster BBC released a mobile application to test ways to transform its news and informational content into immersive virtual reality (VR) experiences, according to a press release by the news company. The app was developed by Taster, BBC's in-house test bed for new ideas, and uses technology from developer EEVO to publish videos using VR.
- "Planet Earth II," a nature documentary narrated by Sir David Attenborough, is the first piece of content on the app and offers 360-degree video tours of jungles, deserts, islands, mountains, cities or grasslands. The app also lets viewers choose their own path through the story.
- The Taster VR app also has a trailer to promote its new documentary "One Deadly Weekend in America" that focuses on gun crime. In addition to immersive videos, the broadcaster is planning other projects with animated VR, dynamic audio features and branching narratives, TechCrunch reported. The new BBC app is available for iOS and Android.
Because the app is so new, BBC's VR app doesn't yet have much content for users, which now includes a handful of immersive nature experiences and a preview for another film about U.S. gun crime. The "choose-your-own-adventure" aspect of the programming provides an innovative experience for consumers that wasn't possible via traditional TV. Other companies are also catching on to this dynamic viewing opportunity that will likely boost viewer engagement. Just last month, streaming service Netflix announced interactive stories for kids to decide what happens next in select programming.
BBC's app comes as some news outlets are beginning to experiment with unique reporting and storytelling formats. In May, The Washington Post tested augmented reality (AR) features. Its first series let users explore the interiors of groundbreaking architectural works and listen to related narration using a smartphone. The news outlet wanted to experiment with fresh forms of digital media, but VR was too expensive to develop and it requires special equipment for readers to wear, said Joey Marburger, head of product at the Post. Despite the efforts to innovate news reading through technology, it's still too soon to clearly see whether these efforts are successful long term, especially as publishers continue to struggle with revenue.
VR in general is still in its infancy of trying to provide immersive experiences for consumers, with recent Forrester Research saying that 42% of American adults have never heard of VR headsets and 46% don't see a use for the technology in their lives. However, adoption is expected to accelerate rapidly as the technology develops and more businesses continue to create content. Total VR headset shipments are expected to grow 10x from last year to hit 99.4 million units in 2021, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC).