The Associated Press is inviting its news consumers to enter the world of virtual reality, starting with an immersive experience exploring an array of luxury accommodations available to international travelers.
"The suite life" is available in the Oculus store for the Samsung Gear VR headset.
Viewers can visit the suite class on Singapore Airlines, the Grand Duplex suite aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 ocean liner and the Ty Warner Penthouse suite in the Four Seasons hotel in New York. Each space was extensively photographed using a 3-D camera from the Matterport technology company and reconstructed for use in virtual reality.
"Each new publishing technology reinvents how we experience news, and VR promises the next revolution by immersing us deep in a story," said Paul Cheung, AP's director of interactive news. "With each technology, we are careful to ensure that we always meet AP’s highest editorial standards."
Using a virtual reality headset, viewers are able to "walk" through and experience each of the exclusive locations. They can explore the suites and study their furnishings from a variety of locations and perspectives. The headset tracks their head movements; by looking up and down, users can inspect the virtual world from floor to ceiling.
An interactive, 3-D version of "The suite life" is also available for mobile and desktop browsers via AP's "The suite life" page. The 3-D camera, provided by Matterport, combines infrared and high dynamic range imaging to create photorealistic virtual spaces.
"For this project, we took an entrepreneurial approach, leveraging AP’s access to exclusive locations," said Francesco Marconi, AP's manager of strategy.
"The suite life" is but the latest technological innovation in recent months at AP, which now uses automation to help produce many more earnings reports each quarter and is expanding its data journalism toolkit. AP will be working with students and researchers from the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri to explore storytelling in the VR medium over the next three months.
"We believe VR is the next frontier for news media, and we are excited that AP is participating in that trend by using Matterport's 3-D showcase to bring immersive VR content to 'The suite life,'" Matterport CEO Bill Brown said.