Advancements in technology may enable stand-alone VR headsets to reduce dependence on dedicated computers for support, but many companies and institutions are finding creative uses for the visualization process in its present state. The equipment requirements do not hinder the use of VR by some business leaders, and their acceptance of its potential may encourage others to implement the technology for a range of purposes.
Starting with Potentially Life-saving Applications
Forbes cites a campaign by law enforcement that helps officers envision potential encounters that may face them on the job. The simulator that lets officers virtually experience routine or extraordinary situations requires five screens to depict a 300-degree view of an impending situation.
Aircraft designers use VR in the design of prototypes in less time than traditional development practices require. The savings that result from eliminating the need to build a working prototype can amount to millions of dollars in labor, time and materials. Inc. magazine reports that Boeing uses the technology for its ability to create prototypes. It allows designers to address maintenance and engineering elements as well as comfort issues for passengers. The ability to see the interior of an aircraft and to rotate or zoom the image provides dramatic results.
Surgeons at Los Angeles’ Children’s Hospital use VR to prepare for saving the lives of infants who have experienced seizures or anaphylactic shock. VR technology teaches them how to handle emergencies in operations on infants when things go wrong. The safe learning environment allows them to reset the scene and take a different approach without creating any risk. Through VR, doctors have access to expertise by s around the world. Engage Me points to the first presentation of an operation to a worldwide audience.
Lawyers at LamberGoodnow, attorneys based out of Phoenix, are using virtual reality in order to help replicate/simulate the scene of the accident. This is being used to help sway the opinion of the jury, and better educate them on how an accident occurred.
Bankers at Delancey Street, a Los Angeles hard money lender, is doing 3-D views of the real estate properties.
Choosing VR for Educational Purposes
As the largest retailer in the world, Walmart sets an example of the power of VR to train employees. The company has tried it out in 31 of its 200 training academies that provide two weeks of learning experiences for new employees or those taking on a new role, according to Business Insider. Each employee uses a headset that links to a video screen showing the classroom, allowing an evaluation experience for students and instructors.
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) employees learn how to go into a virtual kitchen and learn the company’s method of frying chicken. Fortune reports that the lesson takes 10 minutes to step employees through the process that requires 25 in real time. Viewers become attentive observers of the procedure that starts with inspecting the raw product and ends with putting it into KFC’s virtual pressure fryer.
Maintenance trainees at General Electric’s nuclear power plant in France can see how its components work together. The physical models that they relied on previously limited an understanding of the interactivity of the parts. More than 400 employees of the nuclear plant and an electric utility who received the VR training have a more nearly complete picture of how the machines inside the plant link together. The presentation puts them inside the virtual power plant.
Preventing Accidents with a Virtual Reality Experience
ExxonMobil’s philosophy of using technology to simulate oil field conditions provides a “3D immersive environment” that improves traditional training methods. The presentation connects plant operators with activities in the field to experience the same environment. The training by ExxonMobil simulates situations that can occur so that workers can learn to respond promptly to control potentially dangerous conditions. The program uses scenarios that include routine operations as well as abnormal ones and covers critical procedures that affect operational integrity. Employees observe emergency response practices and upset situations repeatedly until the proper reaction becomes routine.
Engaging Automotive Companies in VR
Volkswagon provides a platform that allows its suppliers of computer hardware and software to communicate, and any employee can upload project information into the system. VW confirms its reliance on the system by establishing a proprietary Digital Reality Hub that employees can access through VR headsets. The company plans to use the system across its car brands.
BMW plans to cut development costs for research and development by as much as from $1 billion to $6 billion, an expense that the company typically spends to create a new vehicle. The same technology that gamers use can allow engineers to collaborate on the components that designers incorporate into a finished product. To enhance the experience for its employees, BMW has created a room that simulates the interior of a car with the noise and sounds that a driver hears on the road. The company invests in the technology as a more efficient expense than building full-scale models that take time and provide less useful knowledge for designers and engineers.
Marketing has come a long way since the days of print ads and direct mail campaigns. Customers crave real interactions with brands, and this driving force has given rise to big data, omnichannel content and interconnected shopping experiences. Now virtual reality (VR) is entering the picture and transforming the way brands bring their marketing messages to consumers.
The Growing Impact of VR
Virtual experiences appear in fiction stories dating back to the 1800s, but VR headsets didn’t start hitting consumer markets until the 1990s. Used mostly for gaming, these early devices allowed users to immerse themselves in worlds they couldn’t visit in real life, effectively transporting them into the very games they loved to play.
VR use has since taken off, and there are now over 43 million people around the world engaging with virtual environments. The Google Cardboard app alone has enjoyed 10 million downloads, bringing VR to the average consumer for around $15. Around 98 percent of all VR headsets have mobile capabilities, meaning users aren’t locked to a console or tethered to their homes. Because of this growing accessibility, estimates suggest there could be 171 million users of VR by 2018.
Sixty-six percent of consumers are interested in virtual shopping experiences, and 73 percent of the upcoming generation of shoppers, known as “Gen Z,” shows a general interest in VR. With these numbers and the prediction of Goldman Sachs showing the industry could be worth as much as $35 billion by 2025, the time is ripe for brands to get on board with VR marketing.
Business and VR Tech: Meet the New Face of Marketing
The implications of VR for marketing are staggering. In the past, brands had little direct interaction with consumers, and customer engagement took place solely in physical stores. Tracking shopping habits was almost impossible, and follow-up consisted mainly of direct mail campaigns offering coupons, discounts or store credit cards.
Mobile and internet marketing took shopping to a new level with the opportunity for brands to retarget customers who left items in their carts without checking out or use location-based services to send personalized offers. The growing popularity of connected “smart” devices and the internet of things (IoT) is expanding marketing opportunities by providing more robust consumer data, but nothing compares to VR when it comes to truly capturing a customer’s attention.
According to Tech Digi-Capital, VR may generate as much as $30 billion in spending by 2020. Retail brands are already starting to utilize this growing technology to create new brand experiences through which they can connect with customers. Brands looking to adopt VR for marketing can take a cue from what forward-thinking companies are doing with virtual platforms.
Immersive Virtual Shopping
Lowe’s home improvement stores introduced the Holoroom in 2014, a VR experience in which customers can design a dream kitchen or bathroom using the company’s products and “tour” the finished project in a virtual environment. Available in 19 stores, this marketing tool operates on the assumption that people are more likely to buy products when they can visualize how the items will look in their homes. Holoroom also allows customers to make changes to paint color, wallpaper and other elements as they view the virtual room so that the finished design exactly matches what they imagined.
Chinese company Alibaba is bringing VR shopping to consumers with virtual “trips” to popular stores, including giants like Macy’s. Strapping on a virtual headset, shoppers are transported to complete virtual store environments and given the option to shop as if they were really there. Integration with Alipay allows for real-time purchases using only eye contact and a few nods.
Virtual shopping is also helping big brands, including P&G, to learn more about shoppers’ behavior and how to position their products in real stores. Test shoppers interact with virtual stores just as they would when shopping in real life, and their reactions give brands valuable information about how to improve their marketing efforts.[http://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/virtual-shopping-real-results-105633/]
The Next Level of Product Testing
Brands can allow consumers to experience products before they’re commercially available, and few make better use of this than car manufacturers. Volvo tapped into the accessibility of Google Cardboard to provide a virtual test drive of the XC90. Using a branded black headset and a custom app, the company invites customers to experience the car and become familiar with all its features so that driving it in real life feels like second nature.
Honda created a similar experience at a launch event in 2016. Audience members were provided with a Google Cardboard headset branded with a QR code. Scanning the code granted access to an app allowing them to “race” the brand-new Civic model in a virtual landscape. This 360-degree virtual test drive demonstrated the power of VR to put consumers into unique worlds where advertising is transformed into an immersive experience in which a brand’s products play a central role.
Law firm’s like Lamber Goodnow, a Phoenix firm, is using VR in a fascinating way. They have developed a new virtual reality system, that allows members of the jury to simulate how the injury happened. It immerses the members of the jury in a manner which has never before seen – and arms personal injury attorneys with stronger forms of evidence.
On a smaller scale, the Happy Family company, makers of organic baby food, used virtual shopping to test the effects of product positioning, packaging and choices on consumer behaviors. Their tests revealed important metrics about how labeling and accessibility of products, particularly in the organic category, can influence which brands shoppers choose.
Virtual reality offers unprecedented opportunities for brands to connect with consumers. Far from the clunky video games of the past, today’s VR is becoming more streamlined, immersive and accessible. Although virtual marketing hasn’t quite hit the mainstream, getting a foot in the door now positions companies to take advantage of new developments in the coming years.
Watching how innovative brands leverage VR to reach customers provides a blueprint for creating unique marketing plans designed for specific audiences looking for immersive experiences. Consumers want more opportunities to interact in the virtual world and seek out connectivity with brands through realistic experiences. Turning these experiences into marketing opportunities increases visibility, improves brand recognition and expands the reach of companies beyond the limitations of traditional advertising.