To mark the occasion, on Saturday 7 October, the Guardian gave away 97,000 Google Cardboard headsets to UK readers - with select copies of the Guardian and via theguardian.com - enabling more people to “step inside the story” and experience the Guardian’s VR journalism.
The giveaway marks a year since the Guardian created its dedicated VR team. Comprising expertise across editorial, digital, design and commercial teams, the Guardian has produced a series of VR experiences including 6x9: a virtual experience of solitary confinement which places viewers inside a US solitary confinement prison cell and tells the story of the psychological damage that can ensue from isolation.
The Guardian will also launch its new VR project The Party - a virtual experience of autism - to coincide with the giveaway. Based on an original concept by author Lucy Hawking, The Party puts viewers in the shoes of Layla, a 15-year old autistic girl at her mother’s surprise birthday party. Through the dramatised piece, viewers experience Layla's attempts to deal with a stressful situation using the coping mechanisms she has devised to manage her anxiety.
Francesca Panetta, executive editor, virtual reality, Guardian News & Media 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 below Guardian VR experiences are now available to view on Cardboard via the Guardian VR app.
- 6x9 - A virtual experience of solitary confinement which places viewers in a US prison cell and tells the story of the psychological damage that can ensue from isolation.
- Arctic 360 - After years of record temperatures, the Arctic is melting. This environmentally-friendly Arctic tour allows viewers to witness the consequences of human behaviour.
- First Impressions - Using the latest research in neural development and colour vision in infants, this film allows viewers to experience and interact with the world from the point of view of a baby.
- Limbo - There are approximately 31,500 asylum seekers in the UK waiting for a decision about their asylum status. This film enables viewers to experience what it is like to live in this period of limbo, waiting for a decision that will affect the rest of your life.
- Sea Prayer - Inspired by the story of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian refugee who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, Khaled Hosseini, the novelist and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, has written an exclusive story brought to life in virtual reality using Tilt Brush, a tool for painting in a 3D space using virtual reality.
The free Guardian VR app is available for free download from Google Play or the iTunes store.
Viewers can also visit the Guardian VR YouTube channel to view the accompanying 360° videos for Sea Prayer, Limbo, Arctic 360 and 6x9.