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Posts Tagged ‘technology’
06 Nov

NYT VR: It’s just the beginning of a long road

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I watched NYT/VRSE’s VR mini documentary called The Displaced, through the newly launched NYT VR app and it is clearly a sign of things to come.

Here are some thoughts after I watched the piece.

First, like other VR apps, the app itself took seconds to download, but the actual VR content took more time. The Displaced was 329MBs and took a few minutes to download. How long? I don’t know, I set it to download and worked on other things.

Whether we like it or not, this is the current state of VR… streaming is still clunky, but, of course, it’s just a matter of time before the tech catches up.

Now the piece itself.

It was gorgeous.

There are some truly beautiful shots they got and could only capture through a 360 rig.

They displayed creativity by having diverse shots, ranging from static with a tripod to mounted on a bike to handheld by a kid run after another.

You can tell by the rig's shadow, it's not the GoPro setup.

You can tell by the rig’s shadow, it’s not the GoPro setup.

The stitching, which is one of the major challenges in video VR, was pretty impressive and, based on the shadows the rig left, this was captured and stitched through something more advanced that the “simple” 6-camera, GoPro rig. Perhaps a Jaunt VR or Nokia’s Ozo setup.

The audio was the “voice of god” style and was not 360, but it was still powerful to hear the children in their our voices and languages, telling their own stories.

Due to the languages, the piece relied on subtitles.

And, while they cleverly placed the subtitles around three locations, the text was still hard to read, at least via Google Cardboard.

Bonus: You can watch this piece holding your phone vertically and but’s a great experience. (Whether you like it or not, vertical video is winning!)

Now, the bad news.

Outside of the high-level understanding of the story – three displaced kids – I don’t know what they really said. I couldn’t quote it back to you.

This is one of those it’s-beautiful-like-Snow-Fall-but-I-don’t-remember-the-actual-story situation, which VR is going to face as it starts out.

Most VR offers the flash of new and cool through tech rather than substance of story, but this piece really tried to deliver the story. It has incredible shots and visually takes advantage of each 360 degree.

But it’s not a powerful piece like, say, Perspectives I: The Party.

The real test is whether or not people download the next set of stories and continue to use the app – with or without Cardboard. That’s a high bar that content I can’t remember may not make it over. It’s a high bar that we all have to overcome if we want this to truly take off.

I am excited for what’s to come and – from I hear through the VR community – you should be too.
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I spy the production crew (the only show you really see them).

22 Oct

You don’t need to be the NYTimes to do VR (posted on Medium)

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I wrote this piece reacting to the news that The New York Times and Google were partnering up to do a major VR push. Got a lot of social shared and recommendations via Medium.

nytimes-vr-google-cardboard

Yay! Here comes everybody!

It’s great to see the rush of people coming to explore the emerging tech of virtual reality. Yes, it appears the overly-hyped promise that under delivered for several decades has finally become a legitimate reality.

All thanks to a former journalism student turned billionaire and this smart lady.

I’ve been exploring different forms of VR dating back to my college days when I was fascinated by Apple QuickTime VT Studio, but I am no pioneer. I have been more into Augmented Reality (I still think it is the most promising future) since I became a professor at USC Annenberg some six years ago.

But after attending a local VR conference about a year ago, I knew this was going to be huge.

So, I created a course with the aim of exploring what the hell VR experiences could be in journalism.

Read more here: https://medium.com/@webjournalist/you-don-t-need-to-be-the-nytimes-to-do-vr-be4efb00ff74

24 Aug

Hurricane Katrina and VR Journalism

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Tech has always been dorky. Long before Google Glass, nerds were looking like geeks in the name of innovation.

I’ve done my share of looking foolish, but I do it in the name of journalism.

This week marks the start of my latest innovative, hackathon style course… this year it’s Virtual Reality Journalism. (Last year it was Glass Journalism and Augmented Reality Journalism before that.)

This week also marks the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

There are a lot of things to remember and reflect on, especially in regards to journalism. I remember the amazing work done by the Times-Picayune/NOLA.com, that literally saved lives.

But, perhaps because I am a dork, I mostly remember this photo:

VR is something that I’ve always kept my eye on. My experience began with Apple’s QuickTime VR Studio and I managed to work that tech (paired with ambient sound) into some multimedia coverage I did at the Seattle Times.

Those links are pretty much dead, but the Bering Sea and the Olympic Sculpture Park were two projects I did this with.

That said, the first time I saw 360-degree video in news was ten years ago when MSNBC’s special Katrina project Rising from Ruin.

I saw the video and was blown away (video no longer works… they killed it, I think, for their year anniversary).

But they kept this page… a page I looked at in awe.

Direct link: http://risingfromruin.msnbc.com/2005/11/you_write_the_c.html

It never occurred to me to reach out to the guy in the photo (Ashley Wells / @DangerWells), but I did today:

He replied:

While impromptu and we both don’t have the time, I asked him for an interview. I’ll keep you posted.

21 Feb

NENPA: My #realtalk presentation to newsroom leaders

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I was invited to speak at the New England Newspaper Publishers Association in Boston to talk about industry challenges, pulling no punches. “We would be quite interested in your views on what most newspapers appear to be doing right or wrong, and the best path forward,” the invitation said.

I had been invited to speak at a different newspaper publishers association in the past.

It didn’t work out. (I got uninvited when I told them my topic.)

But NENPA was committed and even wrote a piece on what I was going to say in my talk.

This talk, for me, was years in the making… one that I imagined giving when I was in the newsroom and one I wanted to give if I have a newsroom leader asking for advice.

Here, for those interested, is my talk*:
[ Hour and 15 minutes ]



Direct link: http://youtu.be/Hc6ZwLKDLP4

* Sadly, the projector changed the color of the slides… it’s not perfect, but it’s the content that matters, right? Right??

For those not interested in watching the entire video, here’s an animated GIF of the nutgraph from my talk:

realtalk-with-news-leadership

13 May

Google Glass in context

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I want you to take a moment and recognize something: Google Glass looks as technologically cutting-edge as the first Motorola Razr did in 2004.

This incredibly thin phone, which was a leap from its predecessor Motorola StarTAC, was fashionable and functional, making it the best-selling clamshell phone in the world to date and causing a dent into Nokia’s indestructible brick phones.

Everyone had to have one and no one could believe how small it was.

For some tech context, in 2004 Google was still a private company.

iTunes was finally was made compatible with Windows machines, which made the iPod have its largest year since its launch in 2001.

AOL was still known as America Online.

The New York Times, and many other sites, looked like this: http://web.archive.org/web/20040306074613/http://www.nytimes.com/

We thought we knew tech. I thought we were in the future because I could text a question to GOOGLE and get an answer back.

(For more context, know that Facebook in 2011 was as big as the entire Internet was in 2004.)

Now, I want you to realize that Google Glass is at an earlier stage than that. Much earlier.

Think Zack Morris phone.

Think back when mobile phones were just for yuppies.

Who would ever want to carry a phone around with them?

Only those elitist businesses people who can afford that ridiculous technology… like Gordon Gekko

Check out this report on cellphones and yuppies:



Anyway you look at it, Glass is in its early stages. And it will soon look so outdated. It’ll look like the first iPod.

Embarrassingly dated.

Zack_Morris_Glass

(Don’t get me started on the short-lived pagers.)

12 Mar

Learn Code Project: A year ago…

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It was about a year that I was boarding my plane headed back to the West Coast, recharged and inspired by SXSW12.

By the time I landed, I had coded and launched this new project.
learncodeforjournalismwithme-logo-thumbnail
Man, what a difference a year makes.

Frustrated (and starting to get desperate) with finding partners to collaborate/experiment with, I figured I should put off the inevitable and teach myself code. I know I wouldn’t be the best coder — like I’m not the best audio storytelling or photographer — but I respected the craft and know its power.

I had been director of development for seattletimes.com where we designed and built cool shit, which was ahead of its time… and now feels… so… quaint.

In my quest for dev skills, I tried a variety of different non-journalism, code classes… from video to web-based tutorials. I, as ONA pre-conference and NAHJ conference coordinator, recruited friends and colleagues to craft custom journalism focused all-day coding workshops.

I even offered a (nearly free) all-day, intro to Python bootcamp at USC Annenberg thanks to the awesome PyLadies.

For the record, while this benefited the community as a whole, I was doing it for me. And none of it worked… for me.

But after SXSW, inspired by Codecademy‘s Code Year (even though I had given up on it like other New Year’s resolutions) and a curious user of Google+ Hangouts, I created the Learn Code for Journalism with Me project.

Yes, it’s a loooooong name. My partner-in-crime Kim Bui openly hates it. I know.

But it comes from a series of projects I’ve hung around the domain journalismwith.me.

Anyway, the idea was a simple one and the reaction to it was overwhelming. I was clearly on to something… and I wasn’t the only one trying to solve this.

Cindy Royal of Texas State University was trying to build a curriculum, Dave Stanton (who was joining two other friends and myself in launching a cooperative consulting firm) had expressed interest and I’m sure others were trying to grapple with this issue.

But, again, what a difference a year makes.

As I wait for my plane to take me back to the City of Angels still recovering from SXSW13, the landscape for this has completely changed.

There are two projects I want to point out:

First is Sisi Wei‘s Code with me project that offers weekend coding bootcamps for about $85.

Second is For Journalism, the successfully-funded kickstarter from Stanton, which will create journalism-focused coding tutorials.

Outside giving money to For Journalism and being a cross-country supporter of Code with me, I had nothing to do with their launches.

Even if their project names sound familiar, as people have point out … to be fair, my loooong title clearly had all the right words required for any successful coding for journalism project aimed to empower the community.

For my little project that is reaching its year anniversary, I didn’t have the bandwidth to make tshirts to use crowd funding.

It was just me.

Actually, it’s not just me anymore.

It’s me and my amazing cohort of determined classmates-turned-friends that still meet every Monday at 3PM PT via Google+ Hangouts since April of last year.

We’ve abandoned Code Year and have been developing our own journalism-based, project-focused coding lessons. We’re teaching each other code and hoping to share what we learn with others.

You can hear about the LCFJWM phase 2 in this View Source podcast interview or read about what I’ve learned in this post.

What a difference a year makes. And I am so glad talented people have come into this mix and found ways to address this need… in ways I couldn’t have for lack of the bandwidth or connections.

God only knows what the next year will bring, but we all know we’re going to benefit from this work.

08 Sep

My work featured in CJR – twice!

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Columbia Journalism Review logoI’m really proud to share that two of my projects were featured in the Columbia Journalism Review – in both print and online.

While you can read the article online, I strongly recommend you check out the latest issue of the print magazine, which focuses on The Future of Media (this minute, at least).

In it you’ll find a two-page spread about my Tech & Tools project, where a Mad Men version of myself showcases some of my favorite apps. Below is a screenshot of an early proof, but go get the magazine!

Coincidentally, a few days later, CJR also decided to write a piece for its site exploring Twitter chats: Building a community 140 characters at a time.

While others are mentioned, #wjchat was prominently featured. For those that may not know, Twitter chats are virtual meetups held around a hashtag to discuss a topic. #wjchat is on Web Journalism and is a chat I created with four others in February 2012.

It’s crazy to think that this weekly miracle has been happening for two-and-a-half years!

08 Dec

The GoPano Micro could be awesome, but still has a bit to go

GoPano MicroI just got a new tech toy in the mail that I think could be pretty effective in journalism.

“Could” is the key word.

The GoPano Micro (around $80) allows your iPhone to record and upload 360 videos that lets users to zoom in/out and scroll while watching the video. (I didn’t know this, but they have adapters and software made for better-than-iPhone cameras.)

It’s pretty easy to install and start recording. First, you snap on an iPhone cover and pop in the periscope-looking lens. Then you install the app and creating an account. That’s it… you are ready to go.

You can record, view and share your 360 videos through your phone. The videos are even embeddable.

It’s all pretty simple.

Except for one significant issue… the image focus is not good. It’s bad.

Here are two tests I did:
USC Heritage Hall

My USC office

The @GoPano Twitter account did respond to my request for times on how to improve the focus by providing me with these links:

  • http://support.gopano.com/customer/portal/topics/98224-gopano-micro/articles
  • http://blog.gopano.com/2011/10/20/where_have_my_pixels_gone/
  • http://support.gopano.com/customer/portal/articles/221550-how-to-manually-calibrate-the-gopano-micro
  • They didn’t really improve anything, but I appreciate their responsiveness.

    I think software/app tweaks could really improve this device. Perhaps allow touch focusing as the video is recording… that way we can really control what gets in focus, rather then everything slightly blurry.

    If the quality of the image improves, I can easily see this in a variety news situations and events. Can you imagine how awesome this would be in the middle of a riot?

    Outside of the obvious need to improve the image, the next cool feature would be to live stream the 360 video.

    There is no doubt that the technology is coming… I just wish it got here with my GoPano Micro.

    21 Sep

    Talk Journalism with Me

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    I’ve written about experimenting with Google+ Hangouts before, and finally did a project inspired by Jon Favreau‘s Dinner for Five on IFC and Talking Funny on HBO: http://talk.journalismwith.me.

    @talkJournalism or #tjwm hopes to be an entertaining and insightful look into the minds of some of the country’s leading journalism thinkers/doers. The informal ‘show’ is held through a Google+ Hangout and broadcasted out using UStream.

    Here’s the first episode… you will notice it’s a work in progress… it did not pick up my audio for some reason.

    There *will* be another episode. Trying to align the schedules of the next panel.

    Please, feel free to send me feedback. Email: talk [at] journalismwith.me or tweet us by using the #tjwm hashtag.

    24 Jul

    How to live broadcast your Google+ Hangout

    The moment I played with the Google+ Hangout function I, like many others, immediately had a ton of ideas: communal movie-watching experience, a new form of Web chat, a vodcast and more.

    The first question, though, was how do you record a hangout to make a simple, informal vodcast? That was answered right away. (While not ideal, the answer is screen capture software, like Camtasia or screencast-o-matic.com.)

    The next immediate question was, why stop there… while there is a ten-person limit in a Hangout, how can I broadcast this and make it a live talk show?

    Today, I found the answer!

    Some background: I’ve been experimenting with livestreaming at locations for a few years. At Seattletimes.com we experimented with a few setups that led to live shots from bars, outside Safeco Field and an MST3k-style commentary of a governor’s debate.

    Oh the challenges we faced… but the setup has been pretty much perfected by the crew since I’ve left, but I recall the hacker tools like the “Wok-Fi.”

    Justin.tv, Qik, UStream and Livestream have been the key players exploring the live streaming space, each one releasing something new and advancing the technology.

    I flipped when UStream released their mobile app that allowed streaming directly from your phone over the 3G network. There are more apps that offer this now, including Twitcasting.

    But today’s tech development goes to Livestream.com (formerly Mogulus) that has been owning the desktop/laptop broadcasting space. They have a downloadable application called Procaster.

    The piece of software has a simple interface and is loaded with a ton of features, including the ability to broadcast your desktop. What’s also great is that you can zoom in/out to frame your shot, which makes it the ideal Google+ Hangout broadcasting tool.

    Here is the video of my test with Kate Gardiner earlier today:

    The first minutes of the video are of me setting everything up, but jump 7:30 minutes in to see the start of the finished product. The main need to tweak is to amplify your Hangout colleagues’ audio, but that’s an easy fix.

    All you need is a free livestream account, a Web cam, strong audio speakers and people to join you in a Hangout.

    Let me know how your experiments go!

    π