The New York Times has become the latest media outlet to launch its own virtual reality app — and it's doing so by shipping out Google Cardboard viewers to anyone who gets the paper delivered to their homes. Today, the Times and Google announced NYT VR, a platform that will deliver a series of virtual reality short films over the coming year.
The NYT VR app for iOS and Android will launch on November 5th, and on the weekend of November 7th and 8th, a free Google Cardboard headset will go out to all print subscribers — the Times recently announced that it had 1.1 million of them. The app's first film will be "The Displaced," which follows the lives of three refugee children from South Sudan, eastern Ukraine, and Syria. It's produced in partnership with Vrse, the biggest player in VR documentary filmmaking and one of the best-known VR film companies — among other things, it previously helped Vice launch its VR news coverage.
Some digital subscribers will get a redeemable code
NYT VR will also feature a mini-documentary about the making of the Times "Walking New York" cover image, likely the one it unveiled earlier this year. Another film will come in December, and they'll continue through 2016. They'll all be available via the Cardboard-compatible app, which will also support non-VR 360-degree video for those without headsets.
While they won't get a headset in the mail, some people without print subscriptions can get a redeemable code for a free Cardboard viewer as part of the project. The codes will go out to Times Insider subscribers and a "selection" of digital subscribers — The New York Times magazine's editor Jake Silverstein tells The Verge they'll go out to the oldest accounts.
Cardboard headsets usually don't cost more than $30, which puts them within reasonable reach of the VR-curious, but this active promotion will reach people who might otherwise never give it a shot. And it continues a growing trend of virtual reality journalism, which has previously given us looks into Syrian refugee camps, the experience of surviving Ebola, and more.
Update October 20th, 10:00AM ET: Updated with detail from The New York Times.