'NYT' Sends Cardboard Viewers To Digital Subscribers

While the technology is still in an experimental phase, publishers are betting that virtual reality is the future of multimedia content delivery. They are working to introduce their readers to the new digital universe through simple, inexpensive tools.

On Thursday, The New York Times revealed it is giving its readers another nudge with the delivery of Google Cardboard viewers to its most engaged digital-only subscribers.

The NYT plans to distribute 300,000 of Google’s low-cost tech tool, which turns smartphones into rudimentary VR viewers, in conjunction with the publication of a new interactive VR experience, titled “Seeking Pluto’s Frigid Heart,” which takes viewers on a stereoscopic trek around the enigmatic ex-planet.

The special feature, produced by the NYT with the Lunar and Planetary Institute and the Universities Space Research Association, uses data collected by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. It allows viewers to fly over Pluto and enjoy panoramic vistas of its mountains and plains, as well as its main moon, which have never been presented in such detail for public viewing before.

“Seeking Pluto’s Frigid Heart” will debut on May 19 on the NYT’s VR app, free to download via Google Play and the iOS App Store. To date, the NYT says the NYT VR app has been downloaded over 600,000 times since its debut in November.

This isn’t the NYT’s first foray into VR. Last month, the newspaper announced two new virtual reality films available on its NYT VR app, in conjunction with the first “Music Issue” of The New York Times Magazine.

Previously, the NYT VR app debuted last year with a documentary film, “The Displaced,” about three children whose lives were uprooted by war in South Sudan, Ukraine and Syria. The New York Times Magazine produced the film in collaboration with virtual reality company Vrse, founded by VR media pioneer Chris Milk. Launch sponsors includ3E GE and Mini, which both produced VR films for the app.

To help readers experience the new VR media offerings, the NYT distributed over a million Google Cardboard viewers to home subscribers last November.

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