Readers of the hugely popular Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue will now be able to completely immerse themselves in the watery world of bikini-clad bodies with the launch of a virtual reality (VR) element tied to the 2016 edition of the annual blockbuster issue.
The SI Swimsuit issue hitting newsstands Monday will be accompanied by a new smartphone app with the usual mix of news, photographs and video, as well as, for the first time, a VR component featuring three former cover models — Nina Agdal, Hannah Davis and Irina Shayk — who were shot on location in the Dominican Republic.
Available on both Android and iOS platforms, the new SI Swimsuit app will feature five pieces of VR content for free, including an introductory video, a sizzle reel and one video featuring each of the models. Each magazine subscriber will get access to an additional six videos.
To allow customers to view the videos, half a million magazines will come with a version of Google’s Cardboard VR headset. On newsstands, the premium edition will cost $9.99, which is $2 more than the standard version. Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated subscribers may resent having to pay $2.99 each in the event they want to get one of the special headsets, with nonsubscribers having to pay $4.99.
Last year, the same VR headset was shipped to 1 million print subscribers of the New York Times.
If you already have a Google Cardboard headset, the Sports Illustrated content will work perfectly, its publisher Time Inc. has said. For those uncertain whether viewing magazines in VR is the future, the company has set up viewing stations in New York and Miami to allow people to experience the app.
“Everybody wants to know what it’s like to be on the Swimsuit photo shoot. It’s the question I get all the time,” Chris Hercik, SI Group’s creative director, told Variety. “This year we are allowing everyone to be there in the Dominican Republic, with us and the models, to experience the Swimsuit issue in a completely immersive way.”
VR has become a huge trend in consumer technology during the past 12 months, and it is poised to grow even more this year as products such as Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Sony’s PlayStation VR are launched. Google’s relatively basic Cardboard headset, which was released in 2014, can be used by any Android smartphone and its low cost is helping give people a sample of what VR can do. Google is reportedly working on a more high-tech VR headset in anticipation of a launch this year.
The annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue is the biggest single seller of the magazine reaching 70 million adults, according to publisher Time Inc. The 2016 issue features three cover models: Hailey Clauson, Ashley Graham and UFC star Ronda Rousey.