Fake news, and the discussion of how to prevent the spreading of misinformation, is a hot topic right now. A student studying at the Syracuse University in New York thinks VR might have the answer.
Pritesh Desai this month released Little Maxima for the Oculus Rift. This is a VR news reading app that lets users travel the world, exploring stories from countries across the globe a bit like you might spin around the world in Google Earth VR. When you find a headline you want to read, you’ll be teleported to a 360 degree environment where three articles from different publications, each on the same story, will pop up. The idea is to give readers access to different sources of information all at once to help them get as clear a picture of an event as possible.
Unsurprisingly, Desai, tells me the idea span out of studying the recent US election. “Fake news has been one of the villains of this election,” he says over email. “Many solutions have been provided, one of them is censorship.”
Desai himself is opposed to that idea, and thinks that presenting multiple articles on the same subject is a better approach. “You can read what left-leaning CNN has to say about gun rights or abortion and you can also read what right-leaning Fox news has to say about the same topic,” he explains.
Not only does Little Maxima combat fake news, but also what Desai describes as a “filter bubble”, entailing our social media accounts only giving us access to people we agree with, rather than a rounded view of an issue.
But the student’s ambitions stretch far beyond these early points. “I want to build the world’s best news app, not just the best VR news app,” Desai says. “Instead of just reading about bombing in Syria, imagine actually being taken there in VR. You can see the destruction caused by the war and how it is affecting Syrians with 360 images and videos along with the article.”
He hopes the app could give the world a better sense of place; perhaps visiting Syria as you read about it will create the deeper sense of empathy we know headsets can create.
“I want to make it possible for journalists to have a greater impact with their stories with Little Maxima,” Desai concludes. You can download Little Maxima now for free with support for Oculus Touch. The developer is also working on a Vive version, which should be out “in a few weeks”.