AOL buys RYOT to bring VR technology to the Huffington Post

Steven Loeb · April 20, 2016 · Short URL:

Eventually a slew of AOL properties will be able to create 360 degree, immersive videos

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It's not enough to just watch a video online anymore. Now it has to immerse you, with 360 degree video and virtual reality. Companies like Facebook and YouTube have been leading the way on this technology, and now AOL is getting in on the action too.

The company announced on Wednesday that it has acquired RYOT, a virtual reality content studio. No financial terms of the deal were disclosed.

Founded in 2012, RYOT has a focus on global news stories. The studio has produced movies on topics that include the Syrian war zone and the destruction of the Nepal earthquake. 

 The studio has received numerous awards for filmmaking, including a 2016 Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Short for the firm Body Team 12, directed by RYOT co-founder David Darg, about the Red Cross workers in Liberia who collected dead bodies the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. 

AOL will use the technology to create 360 degree video across its  content platforms, starting with the Huffington Post, where it has already been integrated with the company's 15 global editions. When you go to the RYOT website, it already redirects to The Huffington Post. 

For RYOT, this is a chance to take its core mission, of making the news more engaging, and bring it to a much larger audience.

"RYOT began with a simple mission to link every news story to an action. We wanted to make the news empowering rather than depressing. To turn people on by what was happening around them rather than turn them off," Bryn Mooser, founder and CEO of Ryot, wrote in a blog post

The two companies "share the same DNA," he said.

"The Huffington Post was also built on the principle that people should be empowered to tell their stories in their own voice. Together, we are adding VR to all their global news desks and thereby creating the world’s largest 360° and VR news network."

For the Huffington Post, they get their hands on cool and emerging technology, but the acquisition goes beyond that. Arianna Huffington, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post, wrote in her own blog post about the shared mission of the two companies. 

RYOT is "committed to using cutting-edge technology for a larger purpose," she said, and the company's mission to “Inform, Entertain, and Activate to Ignite Change Through Next Generation Storytelling" overlaps with HuffPost’s own mission, which is to "Inform, Inspire, Entertain and Empower."

"Of course, real impact can’t be measured in just awards and accolades. It’s the melding of technology and purpose that can make VR truly transformative. There may be no better medium for building empathy — and empathy is what we need if we’re serious about solving the multiple crises we’re currently facing."

RYOT had already worked with The Huffington Post last year on a VR film called The Crossingwhich told the story of the refugee crisis in Greece.

"By combining technology and storytelling, we were able to put flesh and blood on a human crisis that, for far too many around the world, had become an abstraction. And that’s just the beginning of what we will do together," Huffington wrote. 

Eventually RYOT's technology and VR capabilities will also be incorporated into AOL's other properties as well, including Autoblog, BUILD, Engadget, MAKERS and TechCrunch.

360 degree video has become a hot trend in the last year or so, with Facebook and YouTube as the two companies that have been leading the way.

Facebook has already made a big bet on the technology, which allow users to view video from a variety of angles, all by simply tilting their phone. They are able to do this by shooting the video with a bunch of different cameras.

The company has already introduced 360-degree immersive video, debuted 360 video ads, while also putting them into News Feeds on iOS and introducing developer tools. Now it's introducing new technology that will " make video in virtual reality work even better." It's called "dynamic streaming," which reduces the amount of bandwidth needed, thereby quadrupling the resolution. That creat "a more efficient way" to deliver VR videos.

YouTube unveiled its own 360-degree videos back in March of last year. It even has its own #360Video channel, dedicated solely to those videos, which now has over 1.1 million subscribers. 

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