USA Today Network Launches The Wall, A Virtual Look at Trump’s Wall

September 20, 2017

9:30 am

Today, USA Today Network revealed a new multi-media report and virtual reality experience that will detail one of President Trump’s most publicized campaign promises: the wall. In what the network is calling The Wall: Unknown Stories, Unintended Consequences, the project will bring an immersive experience to what has resulted in heated debates for months, endless pushback from Mexico, and will cost American taxpayers an estimated $25 billion.

USA Today Network gathered a group of journalists, photographers, and videographers, and collected information on every inch of the proposed 2000-mile border wall. This in turn has resulted in video, documentaries, reports, chatbots, 360-degree video, podcasts, LiDAR data, and even a virtual reality experience through the HTC Vive with a goal of documenting the area before any construction has begun.

According to the network, Texas, which accounts for more than half the border, currently has almost no fencing along the border at this time and the largest open stretch is more than 600 miles long. Their investigation also found public records detailing that walling the border in the wide-open area could require disrupting or seizing nearly 5,000 parcels of property.

The Wall is the result of USA Today Network’s selection from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s grant of $28,000 as part of the Journalism 360 challenge that is designed to develop and expand on immersive storytelling.

“We set out to bring the border to life in groundbreaking ways, through mini-documentaries, behind-the-scenes podcasts and an interactive map that offers the most exhaustive view of the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Kevin Poortinga, VP, Gannett Innovation Lab. “With the Vive headset, we are transporting you to the border. That technological prowess is powerful when paired with informative stories that spark curiosity and help you relate to the people experiencing life along the border.”

As part of the project USA Today Network is releasing more than a dozen stories and documentary features that take viewers through the potential consequences and outcomes from the building of Trump’s wall. They will also release an interactive map that notes the full 2000 mile journey that the team documented, and will embracing all of this through Facebook’s new Show page.

“We’ve got the sources, we’ve done the homework and we understand the issues. We’ve examined the border from thousands of feet in the air and from a tunnel 70 feet underground. We’ve roamed the ocean and desert with Border Patrol agents and the hills with armed vigilantes. We’ve learned something new at every turn,” said Nicole Carroll, Vice President/News and Editor of the Arizona Republic.

For those with access to the HTC Vive, USA Today Network created a special virtual reality representation of the environment along the border using LiDAR data. The VR experience will also include modeled terrain and audio from the locations, plus curated journalism from throughout the project The Wall.

Read more about virtual reality on TechCo

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Elliot is an award winning journalist deeply ingrained in the startup world and is often digging into emerging technology and data. When not writing, he's likely either running or training for a triathlon. You can contact him by email at elliot(@) or follow him on Twitter @thejournalizer.

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