After seeing pages like http://newsmap.jp/ which hope to organize the huge stream of news out there, we realized the potential of this mapping news trends. Both researchers and consumers alike struggle with finding relevant data in news articles. We decided to give more flexibility in the visualization of this data, we would use VR.
What it does
Our VR app allows you to explore trending news articles in virtual reality.
How I built it
There are two parts to our app: the app itself and a web service. The web service is hosted on AWS and gathers relevant information including news categories and trends. It then aggregates the information into an easy-to-use JSON output for the app. The app requests this information at periodic intervals. It translates the data into objects and displays news articles in order based on trending topics. `## Challenges I ran into Unities version of C# does not support parsing nested object in JSON data, so we had to use workarounds and external libraries to parse this data.
In addition, we had planned to use an Oculus to demo as it would have a better resolution and framerate, but we’re not able to boot the Oculus up on any computers we had access to.
Accomplishments that I’m proud of
Our product has a solid base implementation and should be easily expandable. The web service can easily package more data, sort by complex parameters, and retrieve news by category. More data visualization can be implemented into the app simply by interpreting the new data and setting properties such as color and size relatively.
What I learned
We previously had no experience in news APIs and only minimal experience using Unity for VR. Everyone on our team got a good chance to explore these new fields and their product landscapes.
What’s next for VR News
More data visualization and personalization can be packaged into the app, differentiating it more from current news aggregators and exemplifying the advantages of VR. In addition, allowing the user to see trending news through time adds another level to the data visualization applications of the app. VR allows a huge potential for data visualization, since the location, physical properties, and the world itself can change with one change of a parameter. This immerse experience allows users to experience the data, rather than just read numbers.
More media integration can also make our app more visually appealing and better use VR tech. Many news sources are starting to include 360 video and other VR techniques so by adding, regular media and this VR media, the user can have a better all around experience of the news rather than just reading the news.
Overall this app is about the experience. We want to continue improving UX and making users feel more immersed in this massive feed of data.