New York Times Is Sending 1M Google Cardboard Headsets to Subscribers
Google is hoping that it has found an efficient, inexpensive way to bring virtual-reality technology to the masses. The company will soon be supplying subscribers of The New York Times with Google Cardboard VR headsets [pictured].
During the first weekend in November, Cardboard will be included with just over a million home deliveries of the Times print edition. Each subscriber of the Times Insider, the newspaper’s digital add-on service, will also get an e-mail promo code for a free Google Cardboard headset, as will some online subscribers. The official product launch for Google Cardboard is November 7. The newspaper plans to distribute 1.1 million of the headsets, which it has already received from Google.
Why does Google Cardboard go by that name? Well, because it’s made of cardboard. The product is a lightweight virtual-reality system made of folded cardboard, with a pair of lenses attached. Once users put the kit together, they can slide Android phones or iPhones behind the lenses and look into the eyeholes to experience virtual reality apps that allow them to view virtual worlds from various angles by moving and tilting their heads.
VR Platform Coming
The distribution of the kits will coincide with the debut of NYT VR, a digital platform that will deliver a series of virtual reality short films to subscribers over the next year. The app's first film will be "The Displaced," a project that follows the lives of three refugee children from South Sudan, eastern Ukraine, and Syria. The film was co-produced by the New York Times Magazine and Vrse, one of the better-known VR documentary filmmakers and the company that helped Vice bring out its highly regarded virtual-reality journalism.
Readers will also be offered two more VR films this year and more in 2016. GE and Mini are also producing their own sponsored films as part of the deal between the Times and Google. GE’s film, about how design in industry and technology takes cues from nature, was created by T Brand Studio, the Times’ in-house content marketing agency, along with Framestore’s VR studio.
The Times developed the NYT VR app in collaboration with VR studio IM360. The app is compatible with iOS 8 and higher and Android 4.3 and up and supports VR playback for Google Cardboard as well as for 360-degree video for mobile touchscreen navigation. The app will be available for free download in the Google Play and iOS App Stores starting November 5. The videos will also be shown in 2D on the Times’ Web site.
The headsets will be sent to Times digital subscribers beginning with the oldest accounts. Existing Cardboard users should also be able to watch the films for free without copies of the New York Times. The Cardboard headsets aren’t anticipated to cost much more than $30, but Google is hoping that a freebie sent to more than 1 million intellectually curious Times subscribers will give the product a word-of-mouth boost out of the gate.