The Guardian has updated its App for Virtual Reality (VR) story content, making it compatible with Google Cardboard, and marked the occasion by giving away nearly 100,000 VR headsets with Saturday’s print edition. The launch of the Cardboard App coincides with a new VR story from The Guardian, called The Party, which puts the viewer in the shoes of an autistic teenage girl at her mother’s surprise birthday.
Led by Francesca Panetta, The Guardian created an in-house VR production team last year, making them one of the first UK news publishers to invest dedicated resources in the emerging technology, along with the BBC. Since then, it has published nine VR projects, including 6×9 (See above), a virtual experience of solitary confinement, which are all available to watch on the Guardian website.
Panetta said: “The Guardian has always been at the forefront of digital innovation and since we launched our VR team a year ago we’ve created a series of immersive and impactful stories, marrying the Guardian’s experience of quality journalism with innovative storytelling.
“Through the launch of the Guardian VR app for Cardboard we’re pleased to be able to share the unique encounters we have created with more people than ever before, giving them the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective and enabling them to become fully immersed in the experience.”
The cardboard headsets (pictured top, courtesy of The Guardian), released in partnership with Google, are based on the web giant’s simple design and work using a smartphone.
The BBC, New York Times, CNN and Life have also invested in virtual reality and 360-degree video content.
Research company YouGov reported in May that the uptake of VR headsets has exceeded the uptake of tablets or wearable technology.
Growth in the VR market has been driven by entry-level, smartphone-enabled devices which comprise 80 per cent of the market, such as Google Cardboard, Google DayDream View, and Samsung Gear which was bundled with Galaxy phones. However higher end headsets, which can cost over $399USD, are also growing their market share, including Sony’s Playstation VR which has announced over 1 million units sold in under a year.