MSNBC providing ‘interactive HD views’ of news stories

MSNBC.com has been experimenting with what it calls “interactive HD views” of news stories. These are essentially super-high quality panoramic photographs presented using Microsoft’s HD View Beta 2 plugin. As with the similar QuickTime interactive view technology, the user can zoom, pan and tilt around the photograph.

Microsoft HD View doesn’t seem as intuitive as QuickTime. For example, to zoom, the scroll wheel on the mouse is used. We’ve also noticed the plugin doesn’t work in some versions of Firefox. HD View also seems to lack the ability to do a full 360-degree view and doesn’t feature the ability to fully tilt up and down as seen in some QuickTime and iPix tours.

So far we’ve seen the technology used to show the crowd at Barack Obama’s acceptance speech and protesters at the Republic National Convention.

The technology is fun to play with but doesn’t seem to add much to the storytelling, especially when it’s used in such controlled settings a political venues. It was interesting to be able to zoom into individual audience members’ faces, but it’s really more of a novelty than anything.

MSNBC.com could put this feature to better use by showing, for example, flood waters lapping at the levees in New Orleans or other news scenes that offer more visual excitement. It would also be interesting to see how the feature would work with ambient background noise taken from the scene or adding clickable areas with explanatory text and detail images.

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