AOL has acquired Los Angeles-based virtual reality (VR) studio Ryot, with the startup’s website now redirecting to AOL subsidiary the Huffington Post. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
Founded in 2012, Ryot touts itself as an “immersive media company linking content to action.” Founders Bryn Mooser, David Darg, and Martha Rogers refer to themselves as “aid workers, first responders and filmmakers” who seek to shine a light on the world’s key global and social issues. To do so, they create 360-degree videos and VR experiences around the likes of conflict in Syria or the destruction caused by the Nepal earthquake. The company received an Oscar nomination this year for best documentary short.
The fact that Ryot’s website is already redirected to the Huffington Post is a clear sign of what AOL has in store for the company. The site already sports a host of smart videos, and this will give HuffPo a platform to present more visual-based content across linear video, VR, and 360-degree video.
And yes, given that VR is the big breakout trend of 2016, it gives the broader AOL ad network something to chew on — “brand partners” are very much part of its plans here.
U.S. telecom giant Verizon acquired AOL in a $4.4 billion deal last year, so Ryot is joining a major organization here. But more than that, the deal gives other properties under the Verizon / AOL umbrella — including tech blogs Engadget and TechCrunch — access to Ryot’s tools.
“The Huffington Post is continuing to reimagine journalism as we move into the next generation of dynamic storytelling,” said Arianna Huffington, cofounder and editor in chief of the Huffington Post, in a press release. “From day one, we’ve been committed to using all the tools at our disposal to tell the most important stories of our time. And our work so far with Ryot covering the refugee crisis in Greece, The Crossing, has done just that – combining technology and storytelling to put flesh and blood on a human crisis that, for far too many around the world, had become an abstraction. It’s just the beginning of what we can do together covering news events, leading cultural conversations on a global scale, and going beyond raising awareness to making a difference in people’s lives.”
With more tech companies jumping on the VR bandwagon — including Facebook, Huawei, and HTC — what we need is quality content to enjoy on these new platforms — and this is part of the problem AOL is looking to address by bringing Ryot in-house. The Huffington Post isn’t the first mainstream media outlet to embrace immersive video, however — back in October, the New York Times announced its very own slate of VR films.
Elsewhere this week, VideoBlocks became one of the first stock media companies to offer 360-degree / VR content for creatives.