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Quad/Graphics Introduces Sleeker, Thinner Paperboard VR Viewer

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Quad/Graphics, Forest Park. Ga., USA, is hoping to make a big splash with its virtual reality viewer — offering the portable gizmo in 500,000 newsstand copies of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

The possibility of virtually cavorting with the barely clad models in the magazine's most famous — infamous to some — annual edition promises to create major buzz. But for the printing company, the (nearly) naked truth is that the viewer holds the potential for significant future business. It's easy to envision marketers of all stripes flocking to the immersive technology to deliver their messages, and Quad thinks it has an efficient vehicle to let them do just that.

First, though, the virtual date with the models: They're filmed on Dominican Republic beaches posing like a jungle cat poised to pounce, or tantalizingly hitching up — or is it pulling down? — a bikini bottom.

Armed with the viewer, a smartphone and an app from the magazine, people will get behind-the-scenes content related to the swimsuit issue, and what Sports Illustrated calls "intimate access" with five of the models. The flat page can be torn out and folded into a device (pictured below) that holds a smartphone, a pair of lenses — and 360-degree images of the models and the exotic locales.

The Quad-produced viewer is bound into special newsstand versions of the magazine. Quad's viewer is thinner than the corrugated Cardboard by Google, and can be easily distributed, Tim Fox, the company's director of custom products, said this past Wednesday.

This isn't a sophisticated device like Samsung's Gear VR headset or the as-yet-unreleased Oculus Rift, but that may be an advantage in the markets Quad is eyeing. Facebook-owned Oculus, for example, has priced the consumer version of its Rift headset at $599. The target audience there is gamers, and serious ones.

Quad, on the other hand, believes its flexible viewers, fashioned from non-corrugated paper about the thickness of consumer packaging material, can prove useful to a much broader slice of customers. Among them: marketers promoting their products, tourism departments offering potential vacationers a 360-degree peek at their destinations, and colleges providing virtual tours of their campuses.

Google's corrugated paperboard viewer, dubbed Cardboard (pictured above), is being used by media such as The New York Times and ABC News to immerse subscribers in reports on refugee children, or life in North Korea. It's cost effective for consumers and relatively strong, though somewhat bulky by modern expectations. Quad's viewer is thinner than the corrugated Cardboard by Google, and can be much more easily distributed,
Tim Fox, the company's director of custom products, said this past Wednesday that "we engineered a product that is as lightweight and as flexible as possible ...that allows us to get it through our equipment as well as through the postal service or retail distribution networks with great efficiency."

While the Sports Illustrated partnership represents Quad's big public leap into the virtual reality field, the company has already produced viewers for other customers, and has more in the works.

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