Latest

9 Sep 2018

The advantages of making VR a reality for your business

Exciting developments in the virtual world are helping to give consumers and customers an experience they won’t forget. But is your business taking advantage of these developments? John Batty, Digital Growth Programme consultant and owner of Bluejohn Marketing, explains how even the smallest of businesses can get started with virtual and augmented reality – and stand out from the crowd.

WHAT IS VIRTUAL AND AUGMENTED REALITY?

The chances are that you, or your children, have already experienced augmented reality at various levels – for example, faceswapping on Snapchat or catching Pokemon with Pokemon Go. Augmented reality (AR) involves projecting or superimposing a digital computer generated image on your real world view.

Virtual reality (VR) immerses the user in a totally computer generated environment. As it is computer generated the user can experience fantasy worlds, work on a construction site or trial medical procedures from the comfort and safety of their home. 360-degree photography is a hybrid. It takes digital images and enables the user to place themselves at the centre of the ‘scene’. Imagine placing your head inside a goldfish bowl and an image being projected onto the inside of that bowl.

You are able to turn your head from side to side and up and down and still see the image.

IS IT HERE TO STAY?

There have been previous waves of VR enthusiasm, particularly in the 1990s, which have promised much and then faded away. Why should it be different this time? Here are just five reasons:

  1. The technology has improved beyond all recognition, including access to high-speed broadband.
  2. The public – you and I – are far more accepting and trusting of digital technology. There are around 40 million smartphones in the UK, most of them capable of delivering VR experiences.
  3. Popular culture has embraced VR. The recent Hollywood blockbuster Ready Player One had VR at its core and received very positive reviews.
  4. There has been significant investment by technology giants such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft.
  5. The market entry price for content developers and users has greatly reduced. Google Cardboard allows you to experience basic VR for less than £5 (see below).

WHAT DO I NEED TO START?

As a potential user with a current smartphone you can simply purchase a Google Cardboard headset online for a few pounds and access basic VR experiences on a number of sites including YouTube. High-end VR requires a powerful computer or laptop and a headset like an HTC Vive or an Oculus Rift. At this end of the market it costs around £4,000 if you don’t already own a suitable computer.
There is also a VR gaming system for the Playstation PS4, while Steam is the VR and gaming equivalent of iTunes.

HOW CAN IT HELP MY BUSINESS?

Imagine you run a wedding venue. Prospective brides, grooms and parents could immerse themselves in your venue from anywhere in the world using 360-degree photography. Much more powerful than standard video and innovative enough to help you stand out from the competition. The same applies to hotels, conference venues and estate agent properties… the list goes on. If your business uses exhibitions as part of its marketing mix you’ll know how difficult it is to do justice to your products and services in a restricted space and to attract potential clients to visit your stand. VR solves both of these challenges.

VR can also serve many purposes – for example it is already being used in several hospitals as a distraction device to manage pain when, for example, administering drugs or changing dressings.

John Batty is a guest speaker for tthe Digital Growth Programme's virtual reality seminars. He is an independent marketing consultant and works with client organisations to design and deliver projects and programmes.  John has a particular interest in using the emotional power of story to create compelling brand identities and communications. He also delivers workshops on creative thinking techniques to address business challenges such as innovation. To see seminars and workshops taking place near you - see our event listings here