Syfy is stepping into the world of virtual reality with the launch of an app for Google’s inexpensive Cardboard viewer to promote The Expanse, a drama series from Alcon TV that’s for a December 2015 premiere on the NBCU-owned network.
The Expanse VR app, available now for iOS and Android devices, takes users on a 360-degree tour of the spaceship Canterbury, the ice freighter to be introduced in the first episode of the series, Syfy said, noting that it will add more VR content to the app in the months leading up to the premiere.
Syfy said the app was conceived by the network and NBCU Media Laps, and developed by IM360, in collaboration with Digital Domain. To maintain authenticity with the show, Syfy said the team created the app in close conjunction with the visual effects department on The Expanse, a 10-episode space drama set 200 years in the future after humans have colonized the solar system. The series is based on the New York Times bestselling book series collectively known as The Expanse, written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (under the pen name James S. A. Corey).
To prime the pump, Syfy is giving away 13,000 Google Cardboard viewers to attendees at San Diego Comic-Con, available at The Expanse Café (Mary Jane’s Café in the Hard Rock Hotel). At the event, Syfy also plans to screen the first episode of the series on Saturday (July 11) at 4 p.m. PT, along with a Q&A with the show’s cast and producers, at the Bayfront Hilton’s Indigo Ballroom.
Syfy’s app launch comes as Google puts more muscle behind Cardboard, a viewer that can be paired to a smartphone. At its I/O developers conference May, Google announced that it has distributed more than 1 million Cardboard viewers. Google has also improved Cardboard to support larger smartphones (screen sizes up to 6 inches) and quicker assembly – the latest version requires three steps to build, versus the original 12.
Syfy said Cardboard gives the network another, visual outlet for its content.
“At Syfy, we’re constantly looking for innovative ways to let fans experience and interact with our content, so virtual reality has been on our radar for a while,” said Matthew Chiavelli, SVP, Syfy Digital, in a statement. The Expanse, with its incredibly detailed, vast world, offers many environments for us to mine and bring to life, and made for the perfect project to launch in this space. We are thrilled to be the first series to utilize Google Cardboard in this way, and have been lucky to work with top-notch teams from IM360 and Digital Domain, as well as at NBCUniversal Media Labs, to premiere this first-to-market activation.”
"It's exciting to see this first of its kind Google Cardboard and NBCUniversal proof of concept come to life for Syfy's The Expanse," added Sanjay Macwan, SVP & CTO, NBCUniversal Media Labs. "Our Media Labs team leverages projects like this custom VR app to build 'real life' pilots that demonstrate innovation across NBCUniversal's content portfolio. Based on its success, we'll then be able to re-skin and scale the concept across our diverse set of businesses."