However you choose to use immersive technology, use it thoughtfully. That’s the biggest lesson we’ve learned here at brand experience agency Imagination Sydney, where we believe “experience technology brings with it new levels of magic.” When used with careful consideration, immersive technology has the potential to reimagine business processes. It can change perceptions, drive empathy, increase brand preference, improve learning, and even relieve pain.
Immersive technology comprises virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR), all of which merge the physical and digital worlds to create a unique customer experience. AR will naturally morph into MR, while VR will incorporate elements of MR.
But just because immersive technology is new and evolving doesn’t mean the approach should be markedly different to that of other channels. Brands and businesses still need to consider who they’re targeting, what challenge they’re addressing, where it will be used, and why they’re doing it.
Let’s consider seven ways VR, MR, and AR segments are impacting how businesses operate.
1. Training: All sectors can benefit from including immersive technology in their training mix. From doctors to oil-riggers, immersive technology can offer new opportunities to learn; previously, factors ranging from cost to health and safety have inhibited large-scale rollout or rapid implementation. Think along the lines of re-creating a physical scenario versus a virtual scenario. The key advantage here is low cost and no risk with high return on investment. For example, Microsoft HoloLens teamed with Japan Airlines to create MR training modules so airline staff could learn about upgrades to aviation machinery.
One of the biggest challenges for brands–particularly in the automotive and technology industries–is getting a product into consumers’ hands before it becomes a reality. An immersive experience can bring a consumer face-to-face with a digital model that is still sitting on a warehouse shelf. That could mean the difference between purchasing the item or passing it over. For example, check out this interactive VR car reveal that my company created for Jaguar:
3. Prototyping: The ability to create a virtual prototype quickly and cheaply, and one that people can work on collaboratively, will revolutionise product development. The key attributes here are speed and ease. Adding these factors to a product development timeline opens up huge potential to try ideas previously discounted due to cost, time, or both.
4. Virtual visits: Immersive technology allows exploration of environments that were previously inaccessible. Touring factories that don’t yet exist or following a molecule’s journey through the human body are two great examples. Whether you’re pitching a business case for creating a new factory, bringing to life your vision of the future, or looking for a new medical cure, creating virtual experiences that immerse others in your brand’s vision can surely win hearts and minds.
Australian home-builder Metricon offers potential buyers the chance to walk through and view a property using VR–a convenient means of delighting and informing.
5. Data visualisation: Companies are leveraging AR to visualise, analyse, and manipulate big data in the workplace. The aim is to augment the data scientist’s toolbox and improve the efficiency and depth of analysis. With further development, immersive experiences could enable us to experience data by walking through and around a data-transfer network showing data packages as they move through the system
6. Gamification: The Hydrocarbon Hunt game for Shell (also created by Imagination) encourages users to explore everyday environments–bedroom, garage, kitchen–to unlock content when correctly identifying objects that are manufactured from petrochemicals. Users are awarded points for the number of objects they collect and for the time taken to complete the experience.
The entire environment was produced in an illustrative style, akin to a graphic novel, to appeal to the high-school demographic. Students tend to retain more information when their learning experience is fun and immersive. This game offers students a better understanding of petrochemicals and their prevalence in our everyday lives.
7. Collaboration: Opportunities for people to collaborate are rapidly elevating the impact of VR, AR, and MR, which aligns with the development of social VR applications. Microsoft’s HoloLens integrates with Skype, enabling users to share screens and add virtual annotations. But this is just the tip of the iceberg of collaborative opportunities using this technology.
As more businesses and brands look to immersive technology as a potential solution, the need for robust measurement and tangible return on investment will become key factors in determining its long-term success. I, for one, am looking forward to every step in this process.