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Sunday, 22 November 2015 | By Bob Boucher


By Bob Boucher, Senior Copywriter

Converters around the world, take a bow! One of your very own mainstream products – corrugated cardboard – has grabbed some highly coveted high-tech spotlight.

The path to substrate stardom started about a year ago, when Google jumped into the virtual reality “space” with its a VR/3D Google Cardboard viewer. Seen mostly as a novelty at first, the device got a big boost this past November 7 when it was delivered for free to 1.3 million hardcopy subscribers of The New York Sunday Times.

The Times used the promotion to present its first VR-based journalistic piece, “The Displaced” (an article about the flight of Syrian emigrants). Editors hailed the viewing experience in VR/3D/360o as more “empathic” for the readers.

Media is STILL the Message – This Time it’s Cardboard

Now, isn’t it interesting that two forms of paper-based substrates – corrugated cardboard and newsprint – combined to launch the next evolution in journalistic virtual reality? Imagine that!

Even Times editors are on board (no pun intended). “The great irony here is that it takes a print newspaper – a 164-year old business – and its still remarkable distribution system to deliver one of the most advanced digital storytelling technologies to more than a million people,” said Meredith Kopit Levien, executive vice president and chief revenue officer for The New York Times Company.

Using a VR/3D cardboard headset to read the New York Times

Viewing a New York Times story through a cardboard virtual reality headset

The Google Cardboard device has two built in plastic lenses and, when folded into place, holds an iOS or Android smartphone. Peering through the viewer is somewhat reminiscent of looking at color slides through the old-school old Viewmaster.

But is it Really Virtual Reality?

As with most things high-tech, the jury for Google Cardboard is undergoing a no holds barred debate over its merits. Opinions range from support, curiosity, and some envy – “I just canceled my Times a month ago. Arrrghhh!” – to dismissal and harsh criticism.

One reviewer took issue with its labeling as a “VR” device – Don’t call it VR; it’s only a very crude 360o viewer. Others predict a wave of nausea and dizziness among users for the disorienting interaction.

Long View Benefit for Print Providers?

One thing for sure, advertisers are paying close attention to the prospects for Google Cardboard as a marketing tool. And, who knows, the Cardboard Era could mean additional niche work for converters and print providers. So, what’s your view?

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