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Brief Published: 29 Apr 2015

New York Times’ Virtual Reality Experience

Walking New York being installed in Manhattan

Walking New York, a virtual reality (VR) experience from New York Times Magazine, takes viewers through the making of the publication's latest cover. French street artist JR created the cover image by pasting a 150ft-tall photo of a recent immigrant to New York on a square in Manhattan. The film gives insight into JR's process, including the initial photo shoot, studio work, street pasting, and a final helicopter ride for the aerial cover shot.

As the artwork itself was temporary, the project is also a foray into VR news coverage for the New York Times media company. "It was a wonderful opportunity to use VR to transport a reader not to a place that's unattainable – because this is just right in the middle of Midtown Manhattan – but to a time, a time that is now lost," New York Times Magazine's editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein told Wired.

As we have previously addressed, the immediacy of VR experiences leverages heightened feelings of empathy, which in turn could give audiences a better understanding of global issues. While the time demands of post-production currently eliminate the use of 360-degree footage for live coverage, VR experiences could be a valuable contribution to background explorations following live coverage.

VRSE, the American production company responsible for the realisation of the project, has already set a precedent for this. In January, it collaborated with US director Spike Jonze and Vice Media to produce Millions March, a VR experience documenting civil rights protests in New York City.

If you have a Google Cardboard headset or another mobile VR solution, Walking New York and Millions March can both be downloaded for free through VRSE's Android and iOS apps. For more on the impact of VR on media and entertainment, see Sundance 2015: Key Trends, Storytelling 2020 and How Legacy Brands Innovate.