Embracing virtual reality (VR) has been near the top of retailers’ wish lists for some time now after awareness of its potential really start to grow in 2014 when Facebook bought headset firm Oculus Rift. Inevitably, once one of the world’s biggest technology companies had thrown its weight behind the technology, virtual reality became the latest must-try idea.
Fashion retailers such as Topshop were among the first to try it out for size, plus travel retailers like Kuoni, while IKEA has used VR to allow customers to visualise new kitchens in their home and US DIY retailer Lowes has used it to show shoppers how to carry out home improvement tasks.
They could see VR’s core benefit – that it can transport users anywhere – creating opportunities for new styles of marketing, immersive and experiential ideas and even virtual worlds. That potential has prompted predictions that within a decade a billion people will be interacting with virtual reality on a daily basis and that the sector will be worth $38bn by 2026.
Yet despite the vast potential for a brave new world, relatively few consumers have found a reason to buy even a cheap headset and download the apps required. Headsets haven’t penetrated the consumer market yet and less than 1% of the current generation of PCs are capable of running VR.
To me, the barrier is about content quality. In a rush to engage people, there have been many cheap and cheerful examples of cardboard headsets housing smartphone apps. And even some of the bigger concepts and installations have left users feeling a bit flat. Put simply, there has been a gap between expectation and delivery.
At AiSolve we have been working hard to ensure the industry raises its standards, because for VR to go beyond a novelty act we need people to be engaged in gaming, adventure play and edutainment that goes far beyond anything they can do in their own homes. We need to get people moving, interacting and engaging with VR within physical environments that enhance their experience.
To that end we’ve been working with some of the world’s top leisure brands to achieve these ambitious objectives and recently began the roll out of WePlayVR at Bandai Namco locations across UK and US, before a wider international programme. Mayan Adventure takes players on a mystical and thrilling journey which is far beyond a try-once novelty and makes for a compelling attraction in spaces from just 3 metres by 3 metres.
We believe such initiatives will open the door for consumers to start seeing the possibilities of VR and for retailers and destination operators to understand and experiment with the opportunities this amazing technology allows.
There is a brave new world approaching for retail and technology – it’s time to take the leap.