Guardian marks launch of mobile app for virtual reality content with give-away of 100,000 VR headsets

The Guardian has launched a new mobile app for its virtual reality (VR) story content, marking the occasion by giving away nearly 100,000 VR headsets with Saturday’s print edition.

The launch of the 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.

The Guardian established a five-strong in-house VR team last year, led by VR executive editor Francesca Panetta, becoming one of the first UK news publishers to invest dedicated resources in the emerging technology.

It has since published nine VR projects, including 6×9, 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), released in partnership with Google, are based on the web giant’s simple design and work using a smartphone.

Both the BBC and the New York Times 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, with 6 per cent of the UK owning one.

Growth in the VR market has been driven by cheaper, mobile phone-enabled devices which comprise 80 per cent of the market, such as Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear which was bundled with Galaxy phones.

However higher end headsets, which can cost over £400, are also growing their market share, including Sony’s Playstation VR which has 10 per cent of the UK market.

Picture: The Guardian

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