500k Cardboard viewers will be bundled with the Swimsuit Issue.
It was only last year that the New York Times brought virtual reality to the masses by shipping over a million Google Cardboard viewers to its print magazine subscribers. The NYT VR promotion allowed customers to download an accompanying VR app and immerse themselves in powerful VR videos from the likes of Vrse, introducing a new group of consumers to the power of virtual reality.
And where the New York Times brought us empathy driving VR video experiences that actually made some people cry, Sports Illustrated is following up with their own version of VR entertainment to reach an entirely different group of first-time VR users.
For the launch of the annual Swimsuit issue, Sports Illustrated is including Google Cardboard compatible viewers with its magazine. The latest push from SI is meant to drive new purchases and will not be going to pre-existing subscribers. Instead, the VR viewers will be bundled with about 500,000 special newsstand versions, costing around $10. (Subscribers will apparently be able to order the viewer for $2.99.)
Once you have your Swimsuit issue Cardboard viewer, or any compatible Cardboard VR viewer for that matter, you can download the app which is now available for free on iOS and Android. The app itself has a “virtual reality” section that comes with half of the videos unlocked to immediately download and start watching. To unlock the remaining VR videos, you need to either be a subscriber, have purchased the special edition Swimsuit issue, or pay $1.99.
Each video runs a few minutes each and can be played in either Cardboard viewer mode or just smartphone only. Smartphone only mode lets you see a non-3D version of the video that you can still move your phone around to see different angles. The Swimsuit issue VR videos are probably exactly how you would have imagined them to be shot. With names like “A Quick Dip” and “Beach Seduction,” you are very up close and personal with models Nina Agdal, Irina Shayk and Hannah Davis as they talk directly into the camera and well, pose for the camera.
Although the Swimsuit issue VR experiences may not be for everyone, this is probably the fastest way for Sports Illustrated to get Cardboard VR viewers into the hands of their audience and for them to immediately see the future potential of this technology. And with this newfound base of VR ready subscribers, Sports Illustrated can start planning for the rest of the year to bring sports-related VR videos and live-streaming VR events straight to their phone.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look too.