Virtual reality has been on the rise for a number of years now. Consumer products are starting to show up in the market, and mainstream media is starting to take notice. The New York Times isn't just standing by and reporting on the medium, though; it's embracing it.
The NYT announced that it has collaborated with Google to provide over 1 million Google Cardboard viewers to New York Times subscribers with their newspaper delivery in early November. These free VR goggles can be used in conjunction with your smartphone to experience 360-degree immersive videos that NYT will be releasing periodically.
An App For Content
The paper worked closely with IM360 to create the NYT VR application. The app will be available for free for both iOS 8+ and Android 4.3+. It can be used with the Google Cardboard viewer, but a pair of VR googles is not required to view the video. NYTimes.com will host 2D versions of the videos, and 360-degree YouTube versions will be found on the company's YouTube channel.
The first video being released through NYT VR is a collaboration between The New York Times Magazine and Chris Milk at Vrse. Together, they created a film called The Displaced, which covers the story of three young children -- one from South Sudan, one from eastern Ukraine, and one from Syria -- who have been uprooted from their homes due to war in their regions. The story is captured with 360-degree cameras and taken from the perspective of these young children, depicting what they go through in their daily lives.
There was a recent TED talk by Chris Milk about virtual reality's power to evoke an empathetic connection with what you view. At Immersed 2015 (which we covered extensively), Jon Peddie touched on this same topic. We also saw it in person with Oculus' Henry, and many VR industry insiders believe this kind of experience will change the world for the better.
"The power of VR is that it gives the viewer a unique sense of empathic connection to people and events," said Jake Silverstein, Editor in Chief, The New York Times Magazine. "In the context of international reporting and conflict reporting, where our readers rely on us to bring them news and stories from remote and inaccessible places, this has huge potential. Through this immersive video experience, we can put our readers at the center of the most important story of our time."
NYT VR's second planned film is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of The New York Times Magazine's Walking New York cover image. There will be a third video released on NYT VR in December and more in 2016, but we don't have any details about what those videos will be.
To bring this project to fruition, the Times turned to advertising sponsors for funding. GE and MINI have stepped up to provide short videos for the NYT VR platform.
GE's entry is a story about how design in industry and technology borrows from nature. The film was created by T Brand Studio (NYT's content marketing agency) with help from Framestore VR Studio.
MINI will provide two short films, Backwater and Real Memories. These stories explore how new technologies such as VR will change the way stories are told and content is viewed.
The New York Times will be sending Google Cardboard viewers with the newspaper's home delivery service over the weekend of November 7 and 8. Times Insider subscribers will receive a promo code by email that will let them claim a free Cardboard viewer.
The NYT VR application will be available for free in the Google Play store and iOS App store on November 5.
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Kevin Carbotte is a contributing writer for Tom's Hardware who primarily covers VR and AR hardware. He has been writing for us for more than four years.