For my review, I will be examining the New York Times VR app (NYT VR). The app, created by the New York Times, allows the user to view all of the 360 videos the site has published in one place. NYT VR can be downloaded free of charge on iPhone, Android, and Samsung Gear devices.
First and foremost, the best feature about this app is that it provides hundreds of high-quality VR videos to the user. The New York Times posts some of the most immersive, story-driven videos that VR has to offer, so it is great to be able to browse through them in one place.
In terms of design, I enjoyed how it displayed a large image of the video with a short description underneath it. Scrolling down to view all of the other videos was fluid. When selecting a video to watch, the app smoothly transitions to the video’s page where it offers the user to either play or download the video. I thought the transitions were excellent and made me believe that this is one of the most well designed apps for viewing VR videos.
Another feature of NYT VR that I liked was the on-screen option of selecting your viewing experience. Before the video started playing, you had to choose if you were watching it as a 360 video or through Google Cardboard or any other device. I thought this was better than YouTube’s system of playing it automatically in 360 and having to select Cardboard at the bottom of the screen. Another feature I enjoyed about this app was the countdown before the video started. While the countdown was only 3 seconds, it was nice to be given some time to put the phone in my viewer before the video started. Often times when watching videos on the YouTube app, I miss out on the first few moments of the video because I am adjusting my phone into my viewing device.
Finally, for those who can’t get enough of VR video, the app offered to notify the user whenever a new NYT VR video is posted!
While I thought the app was excellent for the most part, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. Although I did enjoy scrolling through to see all of the videos, I would have liked a search function to be able to find a specific video more efficiently. In addition, I believe a category section could be added (Ex- Science, Documentary, etc.) to help the user browse and select their desired video.
When watching videos, I had issues when attempting to jump ahead. Rather than go to the timeframe I selected, often times the video would simply continue to play at the time I was already at.
The NYT VR app is a great choice for anyone looking to view high-end 360 VR videos with unique stories. The app is excellently designed and offers features such as the viewing selection and countdown that improve user experience.