Product marketing is one of the top commercial uses of VR today. 1 in 3 consumers are more likely to shop with retailers that utilize VR, and 70% of younger U.S. consumers are interested in brands that offer VR-powered shopping experiences.
One insurance provider used VR to promote its products in a rather unusual way. NRMA Insurance designed a car crash simulator to show how car safety features have improved over three decades. “Victims” put on a VR headset, climb behind the wheel of a showroom car, then (virtually) crash into a barrier at the same speed that actual crash tests are conducted. The user then goes through the same simulation, only behind the wheel of an older car with fewer safety features. The user has firsthand experience in being in a major car accident, but gets to walk away at the end. It was an effective campaign strategy that earned “Best in Show” at the 2014 Sydney Royal Easter Show.
Some companies aren’t limiting themselves to products, and are instead bringing entire buildings with them to shows.
In 2016, Anheuser-Busch gave SXSW attendees a VR tour of their St. Louis brewery that involved seeing, hearing, and even smelling different parts of the facility. After being led into a special room, users donned VR headsets were led on a tour of different rooms. When attendees entered a colder part of the facility, fans blew actual cold air into the room. When the tour brought them near the hops that went into the beer, real-world employees held actual hops under the attendees’ noses. And of course, attendees got to taste the beer afterwards.
While it may seem strange to attend a show while you’re at a show, VR lets people from around the world meet in the same place at the same time. You could walk through the CES showroom or attend a workshop at SXSW simply by putting on a headset.
One area where VR is used to literally put on a show is the music industry. Nothing compares to attending a live concert, but companies like Live Nation and NextVR are coming close to fully simulating the experience. Through VR, viewers can not only move through the audience, but they can also stand front and center, hop up on the stage, or go backstage with the band. With 65% of VR consumers expressing interest in live events, VR is set to revolutionize the way we experience concerts, sports, and other live events.
Bring Fiction to Life
VR is the perfect medium to breath life into fictional worlds and characters, and content creators are taking advantage of it to make viewers feel like they’re in their favorite movies and shows.
At the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con, FX Networks created a fully immersive simulation of the American Horror Story universe complete with an enclosed room, employees in lab coats, and beds with hospital sheets. After lying down, attendees put on VR headsets and were transported through a 5 minute psychological roller coaster ride complete with creepy characters and haunting scenes that played on common phobias. The experience was so popular it was fully booked through all four days of the convention.
VR is also ideal as a training platform. Although actions in the virtual world are free of real-world consequences, the simulation feels real to the user. Users can make decision that feel impactful, but can still be changed or reset entirely. This is especially important in fields like medicine and healthcare, where one mistake could cost a life.
For this exact reason, Osso VR is creating a virtual training platform that accurately emulates surgical procedures. Although the human body is an extremely complex system, companies like Osso want to give surgeons in training the opportunity to practice in life-like environments. Not only can students make mistakes, they can also reset the operating room at any time. It’s also significantly cheaper than having to source a sample to practice on.
While you may not see many surgeons in training at an event, you might see an artificial intelligence in training. Graphics manufacturer Nvidia developed Isaac, an artificial intelligence who learns by interacting with other people. In 2017, Nvidia brought Isaac to SIGGRAPH where he directly interacted with attendees. After putting on a VR headset, attendees entered a virtual room where they could play a game of dominoes with a digital avatar of Isaac. It’s a new step in VR that gives an actual body to an artificial construct, further bridging the gap between computers and people.