Oliver Richardson

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Creating customised VR environments

In our last blog we talked about how excited we are about the rise of Virtual Reality. Having recently returned from Mobile World Congress – the leading event for the mobile industry at which all the mobile brands showcase their latest innovations and new technologies –  we can attest that VR was indeed everywhere at the show.

What was really interesting however, was how many were using off-the-shelf gaming solutions rather than fully bespoke VR environments.  Stand after stand had customers masked up with a headset, arms outstretched as they navigated their way through a game or through outer-space, their heads swivelling up and round as they immersed themselves in another world.  Clearly, there is still very much a novel element to VR, and brands are keen to align themselves with it to reflect the fact they are operating at the cutting-edge of tech.

Missed opportunities?

The games and environments are certainly great entertainment, and a fun way to encourage people onto your stand – adding a leaderboard if using VR for gaming adds a fun competitive element onto which you can overlay social sharing, so there’s no doubt it serves a useful purpose as a stand attractor.    But it really feels like an opportunity is being missed here. An off-the-shelf VR experience is pretty much completely isolated from the brand or their values – it’s a bit of fun but a fairly hollow one and it means the chasm between asking “did you enjoy that game” and “are you familiar with our product” isn’t much reduced.

Given the focus in recent years on personalisation in marketing, on the importance of brand story-telling, on the creation of experiences specifically targeted to amplify a brand’s core values or activations which seek to create a deeper connection between their customers and the brand by being really clever in how the experience and the message are inextricably linked, it really surprised us to see so little in the way of customised and branded VR environments.

Creating personalised and meaningful VR

The VR solutions we’ve developed for clients in recent years have offered the visitor a unique experience and insight into the brand – from virtual venue tours, virtual stand pitches,  to journeys through the human heart to the intricate parts of a jet plane, their purpose has primarily been to educate in a powerful and immersive way.  At MWC this year, we took this a step further by not just creating an environment which reflected the brands products, but creating fun and interactive games within that branded space.  Each game reflected the “in-VR” environments of Home, Work and a Retail store, and each game included a Leaderboard which was also shared on social media, encouraging visitors to come and test their skills.  One game included an Archery element and each time a target was hit, that target span around to reveal a fact about the brand, whilst another game involved stacking branded product boxes, Tetris-style, by reaching out to pick them up and create a tower.  Prizes were real versions of the branded products.

Customising VR means you can brand any part of it, add pop-up facts, questions, clues or messages, add games where the items being collected are in some way relevant to the product or solution being offered and create a “full room-scale” environment rather than a space that only works if you’re sitting down.  And now, with the advent of Mixed Reality, we can also blend virtual/digital elements or environments into the real-world view, or create guided-tours which enable sales staff to interact and answer questions rather than stand by as their customer is shut-away literally in their own world.  It’s incredibly powerful stuff which is why we’re so surprised at the low-uptake at recent tech-led events.  I guess we’re ahead of the curve! But it’s a lovely view up here, so if you want to join us, give us a call on 0845 226 3083