The New York Times launched their NYT VR app yesterday on iOS and Android, debuting their first virtual reality film, The Displaced.
In the face of many who say journalism is dead, the NYT virtual reality app is proof that journalism is sticking around. And it’s powerful. The ability to tell stories using virtual films will give journalists and media the ability to get readers and viewers closer to the story than ever before.
“By creating a 360-degree environment that encircles the viewer, virtual reality creates the experience of being present within distant worlds, making it uniquely suited to projects, like this one, that speak to our senses of empathy and community,” wrote Jake Silverstein of the New York Times. “What better use of the technology could there be than to place our readers within a crisis that calls to us daily with great urgency and yet, because of the incessancy of the call, often fails to rouse us at all?”
The launch of the app spoke to my own journalist heart, so I got my hands on a Google cardboard to check it out for myself.
I lost my VRginity a few months ago at the Kaleidescope Film Festival, but I had yet to experience VR from the comfort of my own couch, until yesterday.
After putting together my Cardboard and downloading the NYT VR app, which I was able to do in under 30 minutes, I hit play and visited Lebanon, South Sudan and Ukraine, again, all from my couch. The Displaced took me through 11 minutes of real-life footage from three kids forced to flee their homes.
Nearly 60 million people are currently displaced from their homes, The Displaced introduces us to three of them. In the film we meet Oleg, an 11-year-old boy from eastern Ukraine, Hana, a 12-year-old girl from Syria and Chuol, a 9-year-old South Sudanese boy. All three have seen their homes destroyed and two have lost family members. They are three of the 30 million children displaced by war.
The film was produced by virtual reality studio Vrse. A series of written profiles about the children is set to run in The New York Times magazine this weekend.
What stood out to me most after watching the film and using the app is the effect VR is able to have in journalism. Rather than just reading about an issue, you can be transported there, experiencing the scenes for yourself. VR gives journalists a new tool to tell stories in an impactful way.
The NYT is sending out free Google Cardboard VR viewers to all domestic NYT home delivery subscribers who receive the Sunday edition. If you fall into that category you should receive your Google Cardboard on Sunday November 8.
If you aren’t a subscriber, you can download the app for free and order your own Google Cardboard.