I got really into virtual reality recently, and you should too. I bought a Google Cardboard, which subsequently allowed for each of my friends to load up the New York Times VR app and spin around like an idiot, amazed by the aerial view of Manhattan they were experiencing. I made the above video after I got them hooked on VR.
If you don't know what virtual reality is, read the Post Haste I wrote explaining the basics. A lot of other people, who are smarter than me, have written about how VR is the future of media and I tend to agree with them. The medium is obviously more immersive than any other, and it's the immersion that makes it so powerful.
We have been becoming more and more immersed in our media over time. Moving from telegraphs to radio allowed real human voices to paint us word pictures. Color photographs allowed us experience the thousand words of a scene all at once, and we became more immersed. The same happened when video came along, and we are entering the final stage of immersive media with VR.
As a creative, it's all about connecting with your audience. NPR says they strive for "driveway moments" when their listeners are so engaged with their storytelling that they can't end the narrative prematurely after pulling into their driveway. Innovations like Snowfall allowed the reader to really explore and understand the story, to become immersed in it. Virtual reality takes that to a whole other level. You look stupid using it, but you don't care because it seems like you've been transported to another world. Whether you are hovering over Manhattan, like my friends were in the above video, or jumping off a mountain in Norway, you feel like you are really there. You are so present in the story that coming out of it is often disorienting.
It's not perfect yet, but virtual reality is final-media frontier. There are still infinite iterative improvements to be made, like tactile feedback and more portable devices, but we have arrived at the most complete form of immersive media. If you can see, hear and feel like you are actually present in the story you are experiencing, you have reached the best possible form of that story. The only way this would be more compelling would to be actually physically present in the story. If we get to some technology that makes that a possibility, I would argue that it transcends the "media" classification.
Even if VR become widely adopted, it won't kill traditional media. Print will still exist and photography will still be important to make and consume. We won't want to be completely surrounded by every story we consume, but when we do want the whole experience, VR will be able to provide that for us.
I'm working with a couple photographers at The Post in order to make our first VR video. Right now we are in the material recruitment stage, but hopefully before the end of the year we will be able to transform our readers into viewers, and introduce many of them to the final media medium.