Oculus Taps 'USA Today' For VR Experience

As Facebook unveils new initiatives in virtual reality, publishing partners are experimenting with the platform’s VR for their own editorial content, including complex, interactive features using the social network’s Oculus technology.

USA Today used Facebook’s VR platform to create an immersive tour of the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky, which the newspaper showcased at the F8 developer conference this week.

The 200-year-old Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, claims to be the oldest operating distillery in America — although that claim is contested. It boasts that its bourbons have won more awards internationally than any of its peers; the facility was declared a national historic landmark in 2013.

USA Today’s virtual tour, produced in cooperation with the Louisville Courier-Journal, a Gannett sibling and member of the USA Today Network, gives viewers an insiders’ look at the distillery’s workings, including the main warehouse and distilling room, where the acclaimed bourbons are formulated.

The experience was created by the newspapers in partnership with Oculus, using the latter’s new React VR technology, combining photos, video, audio narrative and text formats in an interactive, 360-degree photo-based story. The experience is available as a developer preview for developers with Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

USA Today Network director of emerging technology Niko Chauls stated: “Bringing this type of content to users across multiple VR platforms and within the Facebook newsfeed is critical to growing and cultivating the VR consumer base.”

Other big newspapers are ramping up their experiments with VR, too, including The Guardian, which recently launched a VR project to explore how a baby sees the world during the first six months of its life. Titled "First Impressions" and created by the Guardian’s in-house VR team, it is available on Daydream View, Google’s platform for mobile VR.
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