Virtual Reality (VR, as the kids are calling it) is the latest buzzword making headlines in the media industry.
The technology that was once reserved for science fiction movie plots and flight simulations is now accessible to the public. While not quite mainstream yet, VR is headed in that direction as brands like Facebook, PlayStation, Google, and Samsung introduce their own headsets and VR apps.
But what exactly is VR?
Think The Matrix. Essentially, it’s the experience of a world that doesn’t actually exist. When you put on the headset or use the mobile app, the computer displays an image that adjusts as you move your head, creating a 360-degree scene with 3D audio that makes you feel like you are physically there. So, you can put on a headset and be instantly swimming alongside a pod of Gray whales in the Pacific Ocean, hiking the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii, or dodging a line drive at Yankee Stadium.
It’s this fully immersive experience that makes VR so attractive to filmmakers, photographers, and, especially, publishers. Magazine brands serve the niche interests of their readers, making them ideal candidates for the visual storytelling of VR. Sure, audiences love reading about the pink-sand beaches of the Bahamas in Travel + Leisure, but what if they actually got to walk beside the surf without leaving home? Readers can find themselves in the kitchen of a famous chef featured in FOOD & WINE or front-row at the next presidential debate they’ve been following with TIME.
VR gives users a unique way to engage with their passions, as well as enhance their relationship with their favorite brands—a top priority for publishers.
At this year’s NewFronts, Time Inc. announced its most recent foray into the world of VR. Synapse’s parent company previewed its LIFE VR video platform that will feature “immersive, next-level storytelling” from its 100 iconic brands, with channels dedicated to sports, news, entertainment, celebrity, travel, finance, and more. LIFE VR is set to debut this fall as a free standalone app on iOS and Android.
It’s looking like Virtual Reality is the real deal. Not only will it offer readers a new perspective (literally) on the world around them, but it will also help solidify the longevity of magazines and the publishing industry as we look to the future.