virtual reality headset

Wed 15th June 2016

Virtual reality is the latest addition to the digital world. It is a discovery which allows consumers to experience situations in a technically advanced and sensory capacity. Essentially, virtual reality is the term used to describe a computer generated, three dimensional environment in which a person is immersed in and is able to interact with the action. Interaction may come in form of the five senses: touch, smell, taste, sight, sound, and also in the form of the additional human senses: balance, shock, and direction.

There are several channels to virtual reality and it is quickly becoming a service with the potential to boost the commercial value of businesses within the leisure industry. In particular, within the cinema, gaming and hospitality industries.

Cinema

Within the film industry, virtual reality allows consumers the chance to feel like they have stepped into the movie and turn their viewing experience into an expressively more exciting one. The equipment is placed across the viewers eyes and using technology such as positional tracking, gives creates a ”360” degree sensation. The viewer feels as if they are not only within the auditorium, but in some instances, within the film universe themselves, although they may be experiencing this from the comfort of their sofa at home. Paving the way for cinemas, uptake of VR within cinema has already begun with Amsterdam and Berlin as the first cities to launch the “VR Cinema.”

A recent example of a film which made use of the virtual reality system is the “Insurgent” film as part of the Divergent series. Lionsgate partnered with Samsung Electronics America to create a four minute virtual reality, summary of the film. The clip featured all the leading actors and actresses including Shailene Woodley and Kate Winslet. This was an enormous proportion of the marketing efforts for the release of this film.

The opportunity to view this short clip of “Insurgent” through virtual reality was available to experience outside the tour areas at select “Best Buy” stores across the U.S and downloadable for early VR adopters with development kits. This was an interesting aspect of the digital marketing strategy as the Samsung virtual reality is a new experience and therefore naturally, consumers were desperately keen to try it.

However, in years down the line if this piece of technology becomes highly popular, and production companies are able to provide full length movies to the consumer’s personal virtual reality device, there is the potential that this could have a harmful effect on the cinema industry; similar to the replacement of CDs and books by popular online vendors. Presently, the cinematic, big screen experience is one which you simply cannot get at home but with the very real threat of a new contender from the digital age, are cinemas going to be able to compete with such an immersive and emotive experience?

On the other hand, there is the potential that virtual reality could have a lasting positive effect on the cinema industry if its use is restricted to digital marketing purposes. With option to view a film in virtual reality from within the cinema environment makes consumers feel closer to the action and this in turn enhances their involvement with the story.

Commercially, this advancement has the potential to improve the cinema business. Consumers are likely to have a desire to purchase tickets more often, view sequel films in this format and create excitement about the technology through communication with their peers.

Gaming

Virtual reality in gaming has a similar effect on consumer viewing to film-watching. The idea is that consumers will purchase a device which acts as wearable technology. The piece of equipment has sensory detectors and enhances the viewer’s sense of involvement within the game.

This wearable technology might come in the form of eyewear just as the film-watching equipment, alternatively it might come in the form of a data glove or wand. For example the glove would be worn as part of a driving video game and each time the direction of the users hand changes, the sensory detectors would transfer this information to the on-screen game to make the direction appear realistic relative to the surroundings.

Gaming is an industry which could enormously benefit from the introduction of virtual reality and the devices have already began making their way into consumer homes for this purpose. There is a varying price range and in some cases additional equipment is required, such as a PlayStation 4 camera. In other words, it is not cheap.

The launch of virtual reality gaming has been flawed in the past and for this reason it has not yet quite taken off. However, 2016 is predicted to be its year. Numerous brands are taking on the challenge of breaking the mould and making virtual reality becoming the norm will launch their products this year. Such brands include: Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and HTC Vive.

Virtual reality within gaming would be a healthy addition to the products that consumers already own. Dissimilar to the cinema industry, there is little risk that the introduction of virtual reality would threaten another service, instead consoles would simply adapt to the technology – such as the progression from PS4 to VR.

Hotels

Virtual reality within the hospitality industry is an interesting use for the digital discovery, particularly for hotels. Similar to the other industries, VR is in its infancy, however the incorporation of virtual reality into a hospitality marketing strategy is a clever concept which could drive a competitive advantage.

The ability to offer a simulated, three dimensional environment is an innovative way to present hotel services including the conference and event services. Virtual reality also provides a platform to showcase other destinations the brand has around the world and therefore brings the potential to be incorporated into a global marketing strategy. If customers have the opportunity to be immersed into the environment of another destination, this may inspire them to book a new trip, as well as understand the true value of luxury – creating a product that doesn’t always appear particularly tangible or convincing in front of a booking engine.

Conference and Event sales teams within hotels can make use of the virtual reality technology to make the process of selecting the specifics for an event booking more efficient and more exciting for the client. In addition, the use of this system is something which could advance the efficiency of the event set-up and operation.

Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts is a brand which has already incorporated virtual reality into their sales strategies. There are numerous options on the website to view alternative hotel destinations and event spaces around the world. There are 360 degree videos which can be viewed with or without a supporting virtual reality headset.

Thomas Cook is another example of a brand which has incorporated virtual reality into their strategy, in a slightly different approach to Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts. Thomas Cook launched a “Try Before You Fly” campaign, allowing customers to essentially do just that. Customers were given the opportunity to immerse themselves in external surroundings of new destinations to choose where they wanted to go on holiday. Thomas Cook received many award nominations for innovation following this initiative.

Virtual Reality in the Leisure Industry – The Future

Although presently virtual reality is unique to a relatively small number of brands, it reasonable to expect the technology to grow in use over the years to come. Commercially, the technology allows a message to be heard more clearly across an increasingly saturated market. From a leisure perspective, it allows customers to have more fun and be more immersed in their experiences.

Virtual reality in the Leisure industry is a powerful tool – it harnesses emotions and makes conceptual products tangible. As brands continue to find their feet with new technologies, we suspect the first big breakthrough in VR marketing is just around the corner.

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