Science journalist Martijn Peters on augmented reality at VTM NEWS

"Augmented reality gives depth to your story, is fun to watch and a great advantage is that we involve young viewers in the news"

On October 13, 2021, science expert Martijn Peters explained in VTM NEWS about the space journey of 'Star Trek' actor William Shatner, better known as 'Captain Kirk'. That the 90-year-old actor finally saw the immensity of the universe with his own eyes is, of course, spectacular news. But for Martijn Peters, there was a whole other reason that made this newscast memorable: "For the first time I could give my explanation using augmented reality (AR), what a milestone!"

While the science journalist was recounting the second tourist flight of the Blue Origin rocket, the rocket also literally flew through the studio, hurtling past the head of news anchor Stef Wauters: a first in the VTM news studio that was followed up during several other reports.


Augmented Reality at VTM NEWS

"In the meantime, we are also working with augmented reality walls that allow us to create a sense of depth. It's very handy for explaining scientific subjects clearly, but it's also useful for topics such as technology and weather phenomena," says Martijn Peters

He doesn't need to think long about his personal highlight with this early technology:

"The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope on December 25, 2021," he says with a sparkle in his eyes. "On a scientific level, it was a top topic. It probably only happens once in a lifetime that a scientific instrument of that size goes into space. From a journalistic point of view, it gives more depth to your story if you not only say what is happening, but can also show the telescope in moving pictures."

Audience reactions make that clear as well:

"By working with augmented reality, our news definitely achieves higher entertainment value: it looks cool, it's just nice to look at. In this way we also engage a younger audience and show that we are up to speed with the latest technology. I notice from the reactions of young viewers on my TikTok channel that they watch VTM NEWS more when I announce that AR is going to be involved."

We agree in detail where I need to be. If I make a mistake, suddenly my feet disappear. It actually looks like dance choreography.

Martijn Peters
TikTok-channel of Martijn

Graphic Magic 

Supporting a news story with augmented reality requires extra preparatory work. "With the first news item we started a few weeks in advance, now we can work something out in 2 to 3 days. The graphic conjuring is entirely to the credit of the graphics team. We sit together and they come up with very clever ideas to translate what I want to say into visual elements." And then comes the utmost concentration during the presentation: "We practice beforehand and agree in detail on where I should stand at what second. Certain elements in the studio are taped, and if I change position my feet suddenly disappear. It's like dance choreography." (laughs

For Martijn Peters, augmented reality is only just the start, he still has a lot of dreams for the future. "I think it would be very cool to work with virtual reality in the news studio in the future, so you literally step into another world to make your story clear." What would he like to show then? "A moon landing will be for this decade anyway, and I'm hopeful that a starship will land on Mars while I'm still alive. How cool would it be if I could announce that on VTM NEWS?