After a series of experiments with virtual reality, USA Today launched its full-fledged VR news show last year. "VRtually There" (as it's known) followed in the footsteps of similar segments from The New York Times and ABC News. Since then, the media outlet's immersive broadcasts have covered everything from extreme sports to marine life. It even hosted a VR livestream of Donald Trump's inauguration. The 45th President of the United States also happens to be the catalyst for its latest (and arguably most ambitious) experience. The Wall: Unknown Stories, Unintended Consequences uses Trump's campaign promise to build a border wall as its launchpad for an in-depth exploration of its possible ramifications.
The interactive experience includes a mixture of 360-degree video, documentary footage, on-the-ground reporting, and an upcoming long-form film. For the VR story, the USA Today Network mapped the entire US-Mexico border. Using a combination of LiDAR data collected from hotspots along the region and photographic surveys, the team built a virtual representation of the landscape. Reporters also took to the skies to provide aerial views of the region.
With the HTC Vive headset, viewers will be able to explore locations along the border, each of which are populated with interactive stories from border patrol agents, armed vigilantes, migrants, and local residents. An interactive map of the border is also available on the project's dedicated website.
"This [experience] highlights our unique ability to leverage our local footprint along the border to educate and inform Americans on a crucial topic at an important time, as Congress debates funding for the proposed border wall," said Maribel Wadsworth, SVP at Gannett (USA Today's parent company).