The New York Times hopes to bring a new sense of immediacy and immersion to its reporting with a brand new virtual reality app and accompanying VR content. While many of the VR experiences out there are designed to be escapist—transporting viewers to fantastical landscapes and fictional universes—The Times has the opposite goal: They want to make the news feel more real. 

Their first project, called "The Displaced," is a 10-minute introduction to the lives of three refugee children in Lebanon, South Sudan, and eastern Ukraine. Available to watch for free online (though not all browsers permit 360-degree playback) or on the brand new NYT VR app (downloadable in the app store and Google play), the film lets viewers experience the daily challenges faced by the three children in a way that feels almost firsthand. 

Turning this way and that, examining the sky or a cucumber or a lily pad, you begin to feel present in these vivid locations, a virtual witness to these children’s precarious lives,” The Times explains. 

Though The Times has only released one VR film so far, they have promised more to come. “Until now, VR has been seen mostly as a revolutionary new platform for video games,” an introduction to "The Displaced" explains. “But it has the potential to transform journalism as well.”

[h/t: The New York Times]