Getting to grips with emerging tech.

Posted by Erika Hobbs
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Looking out on virtual worlds

At the CAANT festival Netcel Senior Developer - Erika Hobbs, got to trial the latest VR technology.

It’s amazing how things change. Do you remember your first mobile phone? Flat screen TV? Internet search? What seems extraordinarily futuristic one day, can in a few years’ time be so normal that you find yourself asking how on earth you lived without it.

On 23 June I got the chance to get up close and personal with some of the newest tech around at the CAANT Festival, billed as the London alternative to Cannes Lions

The event centred around three interactive installations, of which my personal highlight was getting to trial the latest VR tech. Feeling somewhat like a character from Star Trek, I tested both a low-end cardboard VR viewer and a high-end VR headset. The cardboard viewer offered the chance to look around the inside of a car, exploring various features and finishes. While I enjoyed the experience and could see how it might assist in automotive marketing, I was still very aware of my real surroundings. Not really the immersive experience I was hoping for. 

In complete contrast, the VR experience using the more sophisticated headset was more like a mini vacation. Yes, the birds in the the 3D video looked more like bats, while the water in the lake had no reflection, but the experience was totally convincing and very soon I found myself reaching out to touch things, (making for rather amusing content for the the 360 video recording demoed later on).

An interesting fact about immersive VR is that many people experience nausea during the experience. Apparently, this can be eliminated by superimposing an image of a nose just within the user's field of vision. While the brain (as it does in reality), blocks the image of the nose, it uses the image as reassurance that the body is balanced.

Industries like entertainment (gaming), the military and healthcare are big adopters of immersive VR but its practical application for business is less clearly defined. However, it has already proved useful in employee training, and marketers are starting to get to grips with the tech to offer 360 views of a product or providing virtual tours of a site or business environment. 

As such, 360 video has seen a resurgence in popularity over the last 2 years, as prices for lower range 360 cameras have dropped significantly (around £200 for a basic version), and social media channels like Facebook and YouTube have enabled users to upload their own 360 videos. Many companies are recognising the potential benefits of 360 video and are starting to experiment with the format. For example, holiday companies are allowing customers to tour a resort before they buy, while food retailers can show how and where their products are sourced.

In terms of improving the customer experience the possibilities of VR are boundless; offering a whole new way of engaging audiences in content and generating interest by providing personalised experiences. 

Expect to see more and more examples of VR being used across various industries and in the marketing of products and services as this captivating medium moves further from the realms of science fiction and into the mainstream. Meanwhile, if you get the chance and haven't yet done so, then I'd encourage you to try out the latest immersive VR tech to see what possibilities it might hold for your business.