2 min read
Austin Williams - Mar 3, 2017

SMW Buzz: Virtual Reality for All

There were lots of fascinating and insightful presentations given throughout Social Media Week, especially on the last day. But everyone can’t be everywhere. So, for those who missed out, here’s our last recap of the most interesting presentation of the day:

As Social Media Week closed up shop, Samsung and the New York Times stole the show with their primer on virtual reality. Throughout the presentation, the audience—every day bloggers and influencers—received thoughtful answers to questions that most people rarely ask when presented with new technology; that question being "what is this for?"

When asked why should stories be told in virtual reality, Sydney Levin, Executive Producer at the New York Times' T Brand Studio, noted that viewers are "now being immersed in an experience, instead of just watching a film."

Unpacking that thought, Andy Wright, Senior Vice President of Advertising and Publisher at the New York Times Magazine, added VR provides "the ability to drive real presence. People used to say 'seeing is believing.' I think that paradigm has shifted. I think experiencing is believing."

"The ability to drive true empathy," Wright continued, "is changing the relationship the viewer is having with the content itself."

Using the Times' past VR collaboration with the Rio Olympics as an example, Wright explained that virtual reality is about "being able to give people access to places they wouldn't ordinarily get into."

That idea of access is what made the Times and Samsung's presentation so interesting and engaging—the idea that virtual reality doesn't have to be some esoteric, futuristic, "Jetsons" type of experience.

As mentioned by Jay Altschuler, VP of Media & Partnerships for Samsung, the electronics company has 5 million headsets in the market, sold at over 20,000 retailers, while the Samsung VR app has 14,000 videos that equate to over 10 million hours of VR content. Virtual reality is now wholly accessible to the masses.

"In November of 2015," Wright recalled, "we as an organization launched NYTVR. It was distributed through Google Cardboard. That truly was the first time in which the masses experienced VR. It wasn't the first story to be told in VR—certainly gaming has been in this space for a long time, but that was the first time an influential audience was provided with the mechanism by which to experience VR in mass."

Today, the New York Times publishes a new Daily 360 video every day.

But while thinking back to that time, Wright noted "once it hit, it was a social explosion...on Instagram, it was trending all weekend. It was a really important moment for VR."

For brands interested in VR, and the level of access and engagement that comes with such a medium, this groundbreaking partnership between Samsung and the Times should pave the way.


Written by Austin Williams

A New York based writer and pop culture enthusiast, Austin is your best bet if you ever want to know about the MTA or Love & Hip Hop.