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ASU's Cronkite School wins innovation award for virtual reality apps

New Media Innovation Lab

Cronkite School students Melanie Abramoff (left) and Stevi Rex work on a project in the New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab, which has won a prestigious innovation award from the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation.

August 05, 2016

Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication has won a prestigious innovation award from the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation (NABEF) for student-designed virtual reality apps that explore the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Cronkite School’s New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab is the recipient of the NABEF’s Excellence in Innovative Technology Award, which honors students who are driving innovation in the media industry. The New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab offers Cronkite students the opportunity to design and create cutting-edge media, such as mobile apps, news games and interactive websites.

NABEF recognized Cronkite students for their Cronkite News VR and Cronkite Border VR apps, which utilize virtual reality and 360-degree video documentary storytelling to give people a sense of life on the border. Students will receive the award during the NAB Show NY Conference in November in New York.

“We are so disconnected when we talk about the border,” said Retha Hill, director of the New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab. “Many people have never been there. We wanted to help people better understand and experience the border with these apps.”

According to Hill, 16 students worked on the apps during the 2015-2016 academic year, traveling to the border to shoot 360-degree video and interview residents and border patrol agents. She said the apps gave students the opportunity to tell a complex and emotional story in a completely new medium.

Recent Cronkite graduate Alexandra Scoville, who worked on the project, said the New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab team tried to create a virtual reality experience that was immersive and different from traditional storytelling methods.

“The experience expanded my idea on what storytelling and journalism can look like,” Scoville said. “You’re redefining everything, whether it’s working with a different type of software or thinking about ethics. It’s a really rewarding experience.”

Launched in 2006, the New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab is one of a dozen professional immersion programs in which students gain real world experience working with award-winning professional journalists and communication experts at the Cronkite School.

In the lab, Cronkite students work side-by-side with ASU computer engineering, design and business students to create digital media products for regional and national media companies and other organizations. Recent projects have included a mobile transit app for the Apple Watch, an interactive news game on veteran’s affairs and a mobile app exploring downtown Phoenix.

“The New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab immerses our students in a startup culture and gives them the opportunity to push the limits of journalism,” said Christopher Callahan, dean of the Cronkite School. “We are extremely proud of their tremendous work and look forward to the lab’s next innovative project.”

The National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reinforcing the future of broadcasting through a commitment to education and to advancing excellence in the diversity and community service efforts of our industry. The foundation offers a number of professional development programs and initiatives to achieve this mission, including the Broadcast Leadership Training Program, Media Sales Institute, Leadership Development Institute and many more.

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