Journalism students celebrate innovation

“Imagine a fun, festive atmosphere where students and faculty get to drive robots or look at 360 video or see the latest camera and microphone technology — that’s Innovation Day. It’s a day to help accelerate our thinking about media innovation,” said Cronkite School Innovation Chief Eric Newton, one of the organizers of the event. “It helps us see how changing technology is offering new ways to do journalism and to talk about the kinds of journalism that could be done at the same time as we try out the new tools.”

The public was also invited: Innovation Day, now in its second year, was held in conjunction with ASU’s annual Night of the Open Door open house in February.

The second floor of the Cronkite School was transformed into an exhibition. Some stalls demonstrated how journalists can get the most out of their smartphones by using new reporting apps or attaching their phones to broadcast rigs — making it easier to hold the phone steady and also attach stronger mics, lenses or lights. Another stall showed a 3D printer in action. Faculty members guided participants in test-driving drones that could be used to record video in locations that would be difficult or dangerous for a human videographer.

“Events like Innovation Day really make you understand the momentum of journalism. I love that we, as students, have the opportunity to engage in cutting edge technology and bring it into our everyday reporting,” said freshman Lauren Marshall.

Meanwhile, two telepresence robots (picture a video conference screen on wheels) casually rolled around the room. Participants at Innovation Day could take a turn to control one of the robots; in practice, the technology would allow someone to attend an event without being there in person.

Several stalls demonstrated uses for virtual reality headsets, from a tour through a visualization of a human cell to a 360° visual and audio panorama of National Parks across the southwest.

Retha Hill, executive director of Cronkite’s Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab, said that innovation is key in both gathering news and disseminating it. “The role of innovation is saying, However you want to get your news, I’m going to give you your news,” she said. “Whether you want it out of your refrigerator, you want it on your phone, you want to listen to it as a podcast as you are driving into work or bicycling into work, you want it as an immersive video game that has you play the news and learn about important issues. We have to be innovative to slice and dice that news in different ways with all the tools available to you.”

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