USA Today’s Emerging Tech director talks about the future of storytelling

For Thursday, December 20, on Digital Trends Live, our host Greg Nibler sat down with the Director of Emerging Tech for USA Today, Ray Soto, to talk about how the news organization is using virtual reality and augmented reality to create compelling interactive stories. Soto started his career as a video game developer, never imaging he would enter the world of VR.

“I did not expect to get into creative storytelling within USA Today and news, but when I think about, it’s a perfect fit, virtual reality and augmented reality the tools are very similar to what you find in the video game industry. When you consider my background — video game developer — we are passionate about telling stories. It was definitely a transition, it was a challenge, because when you consider video games being highly creative, in the news space you can’t make stuff up, so there was quite a bit of a learning curve but something that I very much appreciate having the opportunity to make that transition from video games into creative storytelling.

The conversation about integrating VR started five years ago and the initial challenge was finding how it would fit in the world of USA Today.

“The conversations really started off with what do we do with this platform, that provides a unique perspective for the audience. To feel as if they are actually there, to feel as if they are engaging and have full control of the story, the way they want to consume the story. The conversation that we initially had to support a project that we ended up releasing called Harvest of Change was truly inspiring. I feel like the USA Today Network felt that there was an opportunity to be different and it’s what we have been doing for the past five years.”

One of their projects, The Wall, which won a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism, has been one of Soto’s most rewarding projects. Another project that they worked on was the USS Eisenhower, which gives users the chance to explore the aircraft carrier. Soto and USA Today have also released an app called 321 Launch, described as an augmented reality rocket launch experience, with space experts as your guides.

As for where Soto sees the future for VR and AR he thinks the skies the limit, and he is excited to be along for the ride.

“What I see is a future in which convergence of different technology types coming into singular platforms. …What I am really excited about is augmented realties future, with where we are at right now it’s kind of playful, folks are figuring out what works and what doesn’t work, for our specific purposes we are focusing on a storytelling side of things…Our hope is to have USA Today be apart of that ecosystem, while I don’t think we are close to Ready Player One, I am looking forward to that.”

Digital Trends Live airs Monday through Friday at 9 a.m. PT, with highlights available on demand after the stream ends. For more information, check out the DT Live homepage, and be sure to watch live for the chance to win occasional prizes.

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