Keith Cox

Implementing virtual reality into your business

You’ve done the research, gauged the benefits and have a business case for harnessing Virtual Reality (VR) capabilities, so what’s next? When beginning the journey into your first VR project there are a lot of considerations – it can be difficult to know where to begin.

Having worked with leading companies from engineering to pharmaceutical sectors, we have extensive experience in implementing VR technologies into many different types of businesses. Here we share tips and considerations to help your company get started with the process of implementing VR into the heart of your business.

Keep your use case front and centre

If your business has decided to implement VR it’s likely that you already know the use case – it’s a good idea to keep this at the forefront of implementation decisions to ensure the final project fits and adapts to your purpose. There are many reasons virtual realities are being harnessed, including:

Training – increases engagement and allows staff to be trained in a safer, more cost-efficient way that is not tied to a specific location.

Learning – allows teachers to enrich lectures with immersive and engaging experiences like exploring underwater flora and fauna.

Collaboration – enables real-time, collaborative discussion as professionals explore a product model or building from remote locations.

Marketing and Sales – facilitates the demonstration of products or buildings, enables interaction with digital product catalogues and allows buyers to get familiar with equipment or residential homes prior to closing a deal.

Visitor Experience – promotes engagement and attracts visitors to public and private enterprises. Think virtual events and conferencing, or tourism engagement in museums and public spaces.

First footsteps: Plan the path

In the next stage of implementing VR, some fundamental questions should be answered.

Audience – How will people see this experience? What size is that audience? How will this impact on how the experience is delivered?

Accessibility – What platforms will this experience be made for? Does it need to be accessible to the general public?

Competition – Look within your sector and review your competitors’ VR implementation efforts. What use cases are they exploring? What business goals are they pursuing?

Balance interactivity, quality of experience and cost

Next your business should define the practical and operational technology requirements, the VR equipment needed, and how the audience and use case impacts these elements.

The audience and quality of experience are main factors in choosing a suitable VR headset. Quality can depend on many aspects including the headset resolution and the development of the app itself (e.g. the level of detail included in the experience).

If your project is a one-time campaign that needs increased accessibility for commercial use, affordable kits with fewer hardware requirements will be available to more people.

If you’re planning a training program that will be delivered in-house to many employees over multiple years, more expensive, better quality headsets and more interactive experiences may be the way forward – enabling increased knowledge retention and engagement.

With technology, accessibility and scalability constantly advancing and evolving, VR experiences don’t have to be as expensive as you might think. There are a number of options for balancing budget, interactivity level and quality of experience.

Modest – Short experiences, perhaps using 2D assets in a 3D environment and viewed with virtual reality mobile phone headsets. These low-cost head-mounted displays (£12 – £105 per headset) use mobile displays and apps to deliver the experience.

Medium – Short experiences but with more scripting, character design, spatial audio and interactivity, and viewed with virtual reality mobile phone headsets. The budget is increased due to increased development costs.

High – Scripted experiences with game-like production for high-end headsets such as HTC Vive and Oculus Rift (£400 – £1500 per headset). The experience is of higher quality (the headsets give greater resolution) and the user can explore the environment with much more interactivity. The budget is increased due to the use of high-end headsets and higher development costs.

Place users at the heart of decisions

Virtual Reality experiences are undoubtedly powerful, but as with any technology there are considerations too. Several factors affect the speed at which this technology is adopted across industries.

Adoption of the higher-end headsets could be slowed by potential financial restrictions, as quality headsets can be costly. Mobile phone headsets provide a more affordable commercial alternative, while higher-end headsets may be more appropriate for internal business use.

VR headsets can have specific technical requirements. Oculus Rift, for example, requires a PC with a graphics card, 8GB or more of RAM, and a good processor. Again these requirements mainly apply to high-end VR headsets.

At present many VR sets are substantial pieces of kit, not grab and go compact designs. As such there will be considerations needed for user comfort and duration of use at any one time. As the technology becomes more compact it’s likely to become more commercially viable.

Good VR experiences must have as high frame rate as possible (aim for 90fps – ideally 120fps). Low frame rates cause nausea and can leave customers and employees not wanting to engage further with the technology experience.

See the big picture: from design to delivery

You will typically work with a developer during project implementation, but it’s useful to know the general process for VR application development – helping your business get the most out of the technology.

The below stages give a brief overview of the process based on our methodology (bearing in mind every digital studio has its own ways of working).

Get help from a VR developer

VR gives exciting possibilities for telling stories in innovative ways, training employees in remote environments, and driving interaction and engagement. But with powerful technology comes the need for expert advice.

If you want to explore VR further, contact us for information, help and advice. Working together we can define, develop and strengthen the case for implementation of VR into your business, build process frameworks and provide guidance from project initiation right through to delivery.

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