New York Times launches virtual reality news app

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Here's Why the New York Times Is Handing Out VR Headsets

The New York Times has unveiled a virtual reality storytelling app, dubbed NYT VR.

The application, available for Android and Apple's iOS platform, saw a quiet release Thursday that encouraged readers to pair the experience with Google Cardboard, a head-mounted device that offers 360-degree viewing.

Currently free of charge, the app's first-blush content is the film "The Displaced" — meant to accompany a magazine feature on child victims of war. The short focuses on "an 11-year-old boy from eastern Ukraine named Oleg, a 12-year-old Syrian girl named Hana and a 9-year-old South Sudanese boy named Chuol."

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"This new filmmaking technology enables an uncanny feeling of connection with people whose lives are far from our own," said Jake Silverstein, editor of The Times Magazine.

Print subscribers will be shipped the Google Cardboard viewer free, though a post from the Times said the device isn't required to view the content. There's also a feature called "Walking New York," shot in April, available to watch.

Engadget reviewed the experience on Friday and found that, despite some substantial glitches, the effect is powerful.

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"Everything is fuzzy at first while I adjust my iPhone in the Google Cardboard headset. Then after a few adjustments, everything lines up. It's not crystal clear, but the story starts to unfold without the technology getting too much in the way," the review said.

"That should be the end game for The New York Times. Tell stories without the tech getting in the way. The app is a good -- yet gimmicky -- start, but it'll need more adjustments to bring it into focus and really change the way we get our news."

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