4 examples from virtual reality

04 December 2015
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New headsets, new technologies: a great deal is being written about virtual reality. But what exactly can it do for you? These examples show that VR can be put to practical uses in the business world now.

The military have already been using virtual reality to help in their training for years. However, these projects usually required millions in investment. Now that Oculus has brought out an affordable VR headset and the technology is getting ever more inexpensive, virtual reality is becoming available to the masses.

This is the moment to start applying VR, not because it’s a gimmick, but because it can be put into concrete use in the business community. Let those businesses who have pointed the way be a source of inspiration for you.

1. Automotive – BMW

BMW started experimenting with augmented reality headsets years ago so that their engineers would be able to identify the different engines and see exactly how parts were fitted and repairs carried out. In this way, margins for error were diminished and less investment in training was needed because mechanics only had to follow what the headsets were telling them.

2. The oil and gas industry

The process by which oil platforms are engineered is a complex one. Once virtual reality has made sense of the entanglement of pipes, it’s a lot easier to see how certain systems are integrated. Things are much more difficult in a 2D situation. Employees in the oil and gas industry also receive training in VR for safety and work-related issues. This prepares them better for their work and they acquaint themselves with safe working practices. The fact that VR works better than 2D video in this field has been proven by research carried out by Stanford.

3. High-tech – TenCate

With virtual reality the keyword is experience. It means you can experience how it is to find yourself in a different situation. This makes the VR marketing examples already mentioned in this article so powerful. Virtual reality involves a translation from information to image. The question remains however: what do you wish to communicate? A certain product, for example, might incorporate special technical specifications, but the benefits of these only become apparent when the product is seen or used in its completed condition. As it happens, many products form part of a larger system or are so small that the product, and therefore its benefits, is simply not visible. The difficulties perceived in the simple explanation of a technical product’s benefits depends on the position in the value chain.

The reason we use VR for TenCate is that TenCate, as a supplier of materials, cannot easily visualise the benefits of its products for users just by showing them the materials. By using visual tools such as VR, the added value of a composite, for example, becomes clearer as soon as you are able to show how the product is used and what its function is at a particular location. Instead of producing a brochure listing the technical specifications of a certain material, it’s now possible to show how effective the product is in protecting the end user from external attack (see example with military helicopter personnel below). Potential clients of TenCate will understand immediately why this product is interesting. Other visualisations we have made for TenCate have, for example, helped the company win orders from Alfa Romeo and from the Pentagon. These practical applications have really proved their worth.

(The video below is not VR, because there are no recordings of this, but it does show how visualisation helps in marketing technical innovations which are only apparent at the detailed level).

4. Luxury yachts

Sometimes it’s not enough to launch a new product on the market. Nowadays, clients have to be told why it will make them happy. In this event, it all comes down to how the product is experienced. Both online and at exhibitions, it’s easier to single yourself out if you can visualise your proposition.

A perfect example of this is a luxury yacht. Of course, if you have a stand at the Millionaire Fair, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to put your yacht on display there. What you can do however, is allow potential clients to see for themselves how big the yacht is and what it feels like to stroll around on deck with virtual reality. You can choose to do this using a fixed VR headset (e.g. from Oculus) or using a cardboard variant behind which you can slide your smartphone. If you want, you can equip these inexpensive VR headsets with your own logo/URL and give them to visitors. This will only help reinforce the value of your brand. One stunning addition in the video below is the use of the unidirectional treadmill as interaction interface for the VR experience.

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