“For journalism, VR offers huge potential in storytelling, immersion and visualisation.” Tom Standage, Deputy Editor and Head of Digital Strategy, The Economist

Tom Standage, Deputy Editor and Head of Digital Strategy at The Economist, will be speaking at VR World being held on the 16th and 17th of May at Olympia Conference Centre, London.

Tom, who is also the author of six history books, one of which is a New York Times bestseller, will be discussing if Virtual Reality is going to be the next mass medium on the 16th of May in the Developer Theatre.

Tom will be joining over 140 other speakers discussing VR, MR and AR and its impact on enterprise, and took the time to complete the VR World 2017 Q&A:


Please tell us a bit about the work you are doing in the VR/MR/AR space?

So far we’ve only really one done a few experiments or prototypes. We’ve put out three VR pieces: a reconstruction of the Mosul Museum and artefacts within it that were destroyed by Islamic State militants; an offbeat tour of Osaka, shot as a 360-degree video, including visits to a fish market and a bath house; and an animated explainer about the perils of overfishing, in which you see things from the perspective of a diner, a fish, a fisherman and a politician. We have more VR in the pipeline but it’s still not an established part of our output; we are still trying things out, both editorially and with regard to the business model. Our hope is to integrate VR commercially as part of the film-sponsorship packages we offer through Economist Films, our video unit. We’ll have an example of that model to show soon, but it’s still a work in progress.

What benefits do you think immersive technologies can bring to your industry?

For journalism, VR offers huge potential in storytelling, immersion and visualisation. But we are still trying to work out exactly what that means in practice, and how to integrate it with our output on other platforms and in other media. Ultimately, though, rather than having a reporter explaining what’s going on somewhere, VR can actually put you into that situation.


Which industry do you think will be most impacted by VR/AR/MR technologies?

This technology has a very wide range of uses, and ultimately AR will be the evolution of the computer interface, allowing us to use the world as input and output, in effect. But the most immediate impact will be in entertainment and other forms of media, including education and training.


How can we boost content creation for VR applications?

It’s a classic chicken-and-egg problem. As technology improves and standards emerge, more content producers will jump in. But at the moment it’s a bit of a punt. It’s just like the rise of the consumer internet in the mid-1990s. It took a decade before you could really build decent websites that worked on most devices and didn’t rely on horrible proprietary technologies like Flash. As far as VR is concerned, we’re still in 1996.


Are there any projects or applications of VR/AR/MR that you’ve seen that are particularly impressive and why?

My favourite VR experience so far is actually a game, namely “Land’s End”. It’s brilliant, both in its distinctive visual style, but also the cleverness of its user interface. On a more serious note, the VR recreation by Nonny de la Peña of Emblematic, of a solitary-confinement cell, captured using photogrammetry and displayed as room-scale VR on the Vive, is also very powerful.


What are the key ethical issues that arise from the use of immersive technologies and how are these being addressed?

I think some people will consider the immersive nature of VR to be an ethical problem in itself, and I think they are wrong. There has been a backlash against every new medium, from writing to printed books to novels to cinema to rock’n’roll to comic books to videotapes to video games to social media. It happens every time, and it will happen with VR too — the “VR taught man to be a killer” headlines are surely just months away. I think it’s up to the industry to get ahead of that by emphasising the positive uses of VR in training, therapy and so forth, so we’ve got our counter-argument ready when the Daily Mail finally notices this stuff.


Where do you see immersive technologies in the next 18 months?

VR’s future is as a mobile medium, but for the time being the PC-based systems, notably the Vive, are the best. I see mobile VR improving in the next 18 months as we get faster phones, better sensors and tracking, better screens, new headset adaptors and so on. I’m looking forward to the spread of Tango phones too in this regard. We may get some answers from Magic Leap; and Apple may show its hand, too. 


What are the key challenges to mass market implementation of VR/AR/MR and how do you see these being overcome?

This is going to be a mobile medium, but headsets are still clunky and phones are underpowered. And we need more content, too. As I say, this is like the web in
1996: promising but primitive. The web was still useful in those days, but it has since improved beyond recognition, both technically and in the amount of content
that is available. VR/AR/MR will get there, but even when things feel as though they are moving quickly, this stuff still takes time to become widely adopted.


About VR World

Now in its 2nd year, VR World 2017 is a 2 day conference and exhibition focused on Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality and its impact beyond gaming.

With 4 in-depth event tracks and over 150 leading speakers, no other European event covers the market in as much detail.

Amid unparalleled networking opportunities, attendees will have access to visionary speakers and case-study led content. Hear from inspirational keynotes and thought-provoking panel discussions from key players redefining the boundaries for technology.

Register now to reserve your place for THE VR, AR and MR event of 2017.




For more information please call Georgia Deery on +44 (0) 330 335 3900 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.