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Time's Life VR immerses you in documentaries

You can see what it was like to rescue children in occupied France, or discover the thrill of a classic race car.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
September 20, 2016
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There's a certain detachment to watching a conventional documentary. You may understand and appreciate what you're seeing, but you'll never quite get a sense of what it was like to be there. Time, however, believes it can do better. It's launching a Life VR brand that will use virtual reality to give you more immersive view of historic events and unusual experiences. One of the first examples includes Defying the Nazis (above), a parallel to a similarly-named Ken Burns documentary -- you'll see what it was like to take asylum seekers from occupied France to the US. Others include Lumen, a self-guided meditation exercise, and Fast Ride, a view of what it's like to drive the classic Mazda 787 race car at Laguna Seca.

Naturally, Time wants to cover as many VR platforms as it can. On top of smartphone apps (through Google Cardboard and Gear VR) and the web, it'll make these virtual views available through the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. And Time isn't limiting itself to VR that fits Life magazine's style, either. It's introducing more 360-degree material in the fall.

This certainly isn't the first major media outlet to embrace VR. Just ask New York Times viewers who got Cardboard viewers in the mail. However, it suggests that conventional news and documentary producers are increasingly seeing VR as a way to remain in the spotlight -- it provides a hook that you don't get by reading an article online or streaming a documentary series. This only works in the long term if VR becomes more than a novelty, of course, but Time and its peers undoubtedly feel that it's worth experimenting.

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