This morning I received Google's cardboard Virtual Reality glasses with my Sunday NYTimes paper. Very impressive. What a great use and introduction of new technology to the masses.
I can't imagine a better purpose for VR than news reporting. Incorporating VR into video games, advertising and other forms of entertainment are a given, but news reporting is ideal for a number of reasons:
1. I barely managed to get my hands on the little contraption before the kids were all over it, plugging in their headphones and watching the news. And I didn't even have to worry about it being dropped or damaged. Imagine how it warms a parents' heart to see her children glued to the story of the global refugee crisis.
2. Being able to look up, down and sideways--while listening to a story--is more than listening or watching. It's an experience. As if you were there. As if the reporter was talking to you directly. Now, if only we could ask questions...
3. The news is meant to be an informative medium--but also a unifying medium. We are meant to not only know what's going on, but also know and attempt to understand collectively. So we can talk about it. Have an opinion. Achieve critical mass. Organize. Do something. By offering a hi-tech experience in a stripped-down, cost effective manner, VR news is available to more people, attracting a wider audience and delivering a more provocative experience. Larger numbers will become more involved and make better informed choices, i.e., what the news is all about.
4. Newspaper readership has really suffered over the years. People don't necessarily want or make time for thorough reporting, or what some refer to as "slow journalism." Lots of people like to consume their news in quick video or audio soundbites, which doesn't always allow for accurate critical analysis. By bringing thoughtful and engaging story back to news, people spend more time with it, consider the different perspectives--they get pulled in. They care more.
5. Getting a little treat with my Sunday Times makes me revel in my Sunday morning paper ritual even more. The London Times is so good at this--offering a CD or a free app or some other such treat every Sunday. Social psychologists have known for a very long time that getting something extra that you didn't ask or pay for increases emotional attachment. It's called reciprocity. And reciprocity breeds loyalty.
6. Finally, from a branding perspective, what makes more sense than the partnering of The New York Times and Google? Two of the most globally recognized American brands that share a similar purpose and ethic coming together and combining resources. Imagine what this partnership could accomplish in the future...
Even though i struggled a bit with the double vision, it doesn't matter that it's not yet perfect. It will be. Thank you NYTimes, for taking a risk. Well done.