The promise of Virtual Reality and how it can change our world has been on the tips of tongues for decades. You can see the first example of VR all the way back in the late 50’s with the sensorama.

The Sensorama

VR before it was VR

Shockingly, a fully functioning multi-sensory single viewer not so mini movie theater never caught on. But if you think it was hard to get people excited about that, imagine how tough it would be to get someone to try out the “Sword of Damocles” back in 1968.

The Sword of Damocles

The first Head Mounted Display in VR

And honestly, i don’t want to get into all of the VR failures and missed opportunities that took place in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and pretty much every year up until 2016. Suffice it to say that the mess ups were numerous and the blown chances even more so. But that all changed within one week of April Fools Day, 2016. (Check back on this blog as I will be writing about the entire history at some point sooner than later. Some of the head mounted displays make the one pictured above look comfortable. LOL)

Since the Oculus Rift (bottom) and HTC Vive (top) arrived, everything has changed. Unlike their cell phone counter parts (Samsung Galaxy VR, Google Cardboard, etc.) these devices work with lightning fast computers that can render images on the fly.

Today's head mounted displays

Biggest Names in VR – The Rift and the Vive

What this means to you is that we can develop through either photography or artwork any simulation you can imagine. 

Here are some very interesting examples of VR being used to market, sell, train and more.

Marketing

Merrell Uses VR to show off new hiking shoes

Maybe it’s that I’m a sucker for Michigan based businesses, or that the 3 pair of Merrells I’ve owned have been some of my favorite shoes ever, but I just love this. Back in 2015 (even before the Rift’s public release) Merrell partnered with Oculus to show off something amazing to the Sundance Film Festival crowd. They setup a bit of a course, put on some new shoes and told participants they were going on a hike through the mountains. They strapped the headset on users instantly they were in a-whole-nother place.  You can watch this VERY COOL two minute video here:

Your Happy Meal with a Side of VR

Just because it is something EVERY parent can relate to, I have to include this very interesting experience McDonald’s in Sweden has been piloting. Take a look at the conversion from Happy Meal Box to VR goggles HERE.

Residential Real Estate

I have to place this one right between marketing and sales because I can prove to you how it’s both. From a marketing side, going in and taking 360 degree video with a product/service like Matterport makes all the sense in the world. A realtor can share this video all of the social web. Friends, even those without goggles see the video and share it because it’s so cool to “be able to move right through the whole house” (Seriously, this video is the one you should watch if you only watch one. Aloha!!).  Even Google will pick up the listing and index it and knows the house is for sale. Heaven for bid a smart service company understands how to tie this video into Google Earth and showcase ALL of the cool/important things a homeowner wants to know about their new location. Here’s the school. There’s the grocery store. This community still has a blockbuster. Sorry.

So that’s marketing. Now look at real estate from the broker’s perspective. Their agents, especially those buyer’s representatives spend a TON of time driving perspective buyers from house to house to house. When speaking to the Michigan Real Estate Masterminds group last October I asked the question: What’s the most number of houses you’ve shown to someone who eventually bought. I was appalled to hear numbers like 60, 70, 87. The big winner (hmmmm is that the right word?) showed 132 houses. Holy Cow!! Here’s what’s cool. When more Real Estate professionals (notice I didn’t say if) start using VR to market their houses, more agents can sit with clients in their office and screen through a dozen or so Virtual Tours and only physically go see the houses the prospect likes.

Selling

Commercial Real Estate/Multi-Unit

Similar to Residential Real Estate a buyer’s representative could tour numerous properties in an hour as opposed to driving to one property for two hours. That’s the easy part. Where VR and commercial real estate mix is in the pre-build sales opportunities. Imagine taking the renderings from the architectural firm and being able to create exact replicas of every space as if they already exist. It’s very doable and it’s likely way more affordable than you would think. Instead of having your leasing agents or sales reps going to the property, you have your prospects sit in your office, strap on the goggles and make decisions right there on the spot.

Manufacturing

It really doesn’t matter what product you build, if it can be seen and shown, it is likely better shown in VR. This is due to the immersive nature of VR. If your product is large, like the engine inside a semi truck as an example, the representation of the inner workings could be displayed and the viewer wouldn’t know the difference if they were standing there with the hood open. The ability to create similar experiences exists for anything that will be architected, engineered, built or otherwise manufactured. One very real benefit of this is the cost difference between shipping/carrying samples vs. sharing in VR. Another major difference is just how real these experiences are. You can show off your shop floor without ever having to have a customer step in. One other piece of interest is the coolness factor.

How Volvo Immerses Customers in their new SUV

I know I said earlier that there is a BIG difference between phone driven VR and computer driven VR and there is. That doesn’t stop industrious brands from making it easy for their consumers to have an experience unlike one they’ve ever had before. This is exactly what Volvo did when it launched the XC-90. Are you sitting on your couch or cruising a lovely country side in a new Volvo? Check out these lucky customer’s expressions in this super short video

Training

I think this is where the most immediate and relevant need for VR is today. Training, especially training of a physical nature that requires the development of muscle memory and thought process is superbly suited for VR. Once inside a simulation a VR user can go through the motions again and again. Think about dangerous applications like working on an oil rig or a production line. Sending someone out for the first time can be a scary proposition. Well, with VR even though it’s their first time on the actual rig, it’s not the first time their mind has been through the exercise (The hippocampus in your brain is impacted while in VR and can’t distinguish from reality).

Training for the Train

I’ve never really wanted to be a conductor of a train, but if I did, I could learn all of the important skills in VR. This company wanted to make sure their engineers were safe and knew how to handle repetitive situations long before sending them miles away on the tracks. I shortened this video a bit but feel free to watch as much as you want.

Sports Ball Anyone?

I admit to hanging out with a few too many nerdy types as of late. But that doesn’t change the fact that sports and VR go together like cups and sports do. Want to see how well you hit a fastball? You can do hitting training in VR.  There are also simulations built for hockey, football, soccer and more. These aren’t games like you would play on an Xbox, but actual training modules. And yes, there are games too.

Escape the Colonel

This wins the award for funnest use of VR I’ve seen in a while. Are you familiar with Escape Rooms? it’s like a series of clues you have to figure out and actions you need to take to move on to the next level. Well, KFC combined VR with that kind of concept and created pure hilarity. I suppose it’s less fun for their 19,000+ cooks who may have to figure out the clues and get past the colonel, but seriously…how tough could it be to wash the chicken and put it in the fryer? Take a look at the video below.

I know I said sales, marketing, training and more…but let’s face it. This post is already way too long. I will get back to you on the and more, but know this. One of those areas is Medical VR and there is HUGE potential there. Whether it’s for training surgeons and creating that muscle memory or being able to physically go into our bodies like THIS and see what is going on. It’s amazing. Social VR is another interesting area of discussion.

I promise, I’ll be back and writing much more on the topic of VR. In the meantime, what did you think? If you have an idea you wish to discuss with me, send me an EMAIL.