Virtual Reality for Business

As today’s marketers know, cutting through the noise to get your brand noticed can be a daunting task. Even knowing which social media platform your audience prefers can be hard to pin down, and can change by the weekend.

But there will always be a home (and an audience) for eye-catching content. And few things grab an audience’s attention right now like the high-quality, immersive storytelling potential of virtual reality.

Rather than passively consume a piece of advertising, today’s younger audience is attracted to campaigns that allow them to participate and interact, and to form a relationship with that brand–and a virtual reality campaign does exactly that.

Virtual reality can take you on a stroll through the streets of Rio de Janeiro, thrust you into the thick of a music festival as it happens, or even let you step into your hotel room before you book it.

The Basics of Virtual Reality for Business

The words “virtual reality” might conjure images of “The Matrix,” but the reality is (for now, at least) much different. But to stay on the same page, we should start with a good working definition of the term.

Virtual reality is a technology that empowers viewers to experience an event or location as if they are actually there. This is called “presence.” While viewing a virtual reality experience, people can look around in first- person at what is happening around them. The virtual environments people might experience are created using panoramic images, 360-degree video, computer generated content, or any combination of these.

The Equipment

Most people will recognize a VR headset from movies and television. A number of products exist on the market, but most use two LCD monitors (one for each eye) to create a sense of depth. As the user moves his or her head, the image displayed through the headset adjusts accordingly to create a feeling of immersion.

Sophisticated headsets like the Oculus Rift, to be released in 2016, use an external motion tracking system (called “Constellation”) that tracks infrared dots on the headset, which can detect certain motions like leaning or crouching.

On the other end of the spectrum, inexpensive platforms like Google Cardboard seek to make virtual reality technology more accessible to the masses. A literal cardboard frame holds the user’s smartphone, and a program splits the screen into two images and provides barrel distortion. Magnets and the phone’s compass sensor track the user’s head movements to adjust the image.

A number of other input devices allow the user to further manipulate the environment. Moving through the environment can be accomplished on a treadmill, or with hand-held controllers, trackballs, or through eye tracking. Data gloves facilitate tactile sensing and manipulation, while motion trackers and specialized suits can track the user’s physical movements to translate into the environment.

How Virtual Reality is Applied

While VR is expanding the options and appeal for gaming, the practical applications of the technology are growing daily.

From the early days of the flight simulator, the military and other organizations have used VR systems to immerse pilots, soldiers, police officers, and medical personnel into virtual representations of real-life scenarios, allowing them to train without deadly consequences.

In the private sector, companies like YouVisit have harnessed the technology to produce immersive virtual experiences of colleges and universities, hotels, real estate, and travel destinations, providing clients with a powerful marketing tool to attract customers to their location.

What’s in Store?

As virtual reality technology becomes more powerful and readily available, the applications for its use will continue to grow. Like other technologies before it, advances in processing power and miniaturization should make the hardware less intrusive, increasing the user’s sense of immersion.

Future marine biologists will be able to remotely swim the ocean’s depths. Surgeons in San Francisco will be able to perform heart transplants on patients in Beijing. Chemists and physicists will step between molecules, or theorize distant galaxies.

Considering the level to which social media and portable devices have changed the way we connect, explore, and work, there’s no telling what innovations are in store as virtual reality becomes more and more a part of our daily lives.


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