Keith Cox

Implementing virtual reality into your business

You’ve done the research, identified the benefits, and have a business case for creating a Virtual Reality (VR) experience, 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 brands from the engineering to pharmaceutical sectors, we have extensive experience in introducing VR technologies to many different types of companies. Here we share tips and considerations to help your business get started too.

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 decisions to ensure the final project fits the intended purpose. There are many reasons to adopt VR, including:

Training – enables 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 discussions during the exploration of a product model from remote locations.

Marketing and Sales – enables interaction with digital product catalogues and allows buyers to get familiar with equipment or residential homes prior to closing a deal.

Visitor Experience – attracts visitors and promotes engagement. This could include virtual events and conferencing, or tourism for museums and public spaces.

Answer the fundamental questions

In the next stage of implementing VR, ask yourself:

Audience – How will people view this experience? What size is that audience? How will this impact the delivery?

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 you should outline your operational technology requirements, a suitable VR headset, and how the audience and use case impact these elements. You also need to consider the quality of the delivery. This can depend on several aspects, including the headset resolution and the level of detail within the experience itself.

For example, if your project is a one-time campaign, for commercial use, and needs maximum accessibility – 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, higher-quality headsets and more interactive experiences may be the way forward – enabling increased engagement and knowledge retention.

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

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

Medium – Short experiences but with more scripting, character design, spatial audio and interactivity. Mobile headsets remain key but the budget is increased due to increased development costs.

High – Scripted experiences with game-like production for high-end headsets such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift (£400 – £1500 per headset). The experience is of higher quality (the headsets have a 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.

The adoption of higher-end headsets may be slowed by financial restrictions, as quality headsets can be costly. While these headsets may be appropriate for internal business use, mobile phone headsets provide a more affordable commercial alternative.

High-end VR headsets can have specific technical requirements. The Oculus Rift, for example, requires a PC with a graphics card, 8GB or more of RAM, and a good processor.

Many current VR headsets are substantial pieces of kit, not 'grab and go' compact designs. So you may need to consider user comfort and duration of use. As the technology becomes more compact, it’s likely to become more commercially viable.

Good VR experiences must have as high a frame rate as possible (aim for 90fps but 120fps is ideal). Low frame rates cause nausea and can put customers and employees off taking part in the experience.

The process: from design to delivery

You will typically work with a developer during project implementation, but it’s still useful to know the general process for VR application development to help 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 provides many exciting possibilities – for telling stories in innovative ways, training employees in remote environments, and driving interaction and engagement from all sorts of audiences. But with powerful technology comes the need for expert advice.

If you want to explore VR further, contact us with any questions you have. Working together we can define, develop and strengthen the case for implementing VR into your business, build process frameworks, and provide guidance from project initiation right through to delivery.

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