On November 8th, 2015 the New York Times partnered with Google distributed over 1.3 million Google Cardboard’s to their print subscribers intended to kick-off the VR generation of news. In conjunction with the distribution of the Cardboard the New York Times rolled out their iPhone and Android app NYT VR. Available on the Apple App Store and on the Google Play store for few the app lets user dive into immersive 360 storytelling immediately full of content and documentary style stories. Nearly a year later on November 1st, 2016, the Times announced their next level of 360 video immersion by introducing Daily 360, where they hoped to present 1 VR video experience each day based on the news the day before or the current day hosted both online and within this NYT VR app on the phone.
Design and Features: The NYT VR app features a simple and easy to use feed of stories and content. A scrolling time of the most popular and newest videos. With the new Daily 360 feed at the top with the option to see the last week and beyond of daily content. Each story is presented with a image and brief description intended to draw in the viewer and to allow for them to select what video they are looking for.
Once a specific video is selected the video opens with the description, an option to read more with links to the written story that accompanies it. After selecting to view the video you are prompted with two options, to download or stream the video. Once the download is complete, there are two options for viewing the video, Cardboard or 360.
Selecting Google Cardboard allows you to watch the two lenses through the cardboard device while selecting 360 allows for full screen mobility to move around the video by moving your phone.
Pros: The application makes it simple to use and find videos in 360 and ease of use once you select the video. It features great quality and good audio in a seamless approach to presenting 360 video. It mixes still photos from the story with external links to the written article and the ability to share what you watch on social media and beyond.
Cons: Though the app is great and is easy to use a couple major flaws are also apparent. Each time you view a video and close the app or the story you are forced to re-download the video. For those users on data or offline it makes it near impossible to watch the video or to continuously use the app. While there is a large amount of content they haven’t accumulated lot of quite yet and is lacking content on a wide scale and you spend a lot of time looking for something that is not there.
Overall: A general consensus across the board was that this app was successful and a great tool for the readers of the NYT. Many readers were shocked to learn VR was easily accessible without the expensive viewing devices and I think this app has opened viewer’s eyes to that. The goal seems to be for the Times to get all the content in reader’s/viewer’s hands and hope the content does the rest of the work. From that standpoint and goal, the NYT VR app is a home-run, now to let the content to the rest of the job.