“HTC is working with developers to foster the creation of content that spans multiple sectors including entertainment, retail, education, design, healthcare and automotive that will ultimately transform people’s lives.” —From HTC’s Blog “Unveiling the Vive
Virtual Reality hardware has been heavily buzzed about in 2016, with four main products currently on the market — HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard — and a fifth, Playstation VR, being readied for a fall release. The real heat in the VR market is currently coming from the two highest-powered devices: The HTV Vive and the Oculus Rift. Both offered a robust user experience, but early signs point to the Vive jumping out to an early lead over its competitors. Credit the best visual experience of any platform, which allows for the most immersive experience currently on the market.
All of these technologies remain in the early days of their development as consumer electronics products. For example, The Vive has only been available to the public since April, but the VR headset has already seen rapid adoption by businesses and institutions looking to improve the buying experience, increase brand visibility, or just charge headlong into the future — before that future has even arrived.
So how are cutting edge businesses putting the HTC Vive to work? There’s a number of ways:
Car dealerships have remained essentially unchanged for the last 70 years: There’s a large showroom featuring new models, a repair shop, and a gargantuan parking lot used to store inventory. That’s a lot of overhead, and innovative dealers are always looking for ways to slash costs without sacrificing customer service.
One such dealer is Vroom, which wants to sell you a car in Virtual Reality, and is partnering with HTC to make it happen. The company is planning pop-up “Virtual Showrooms” in Texas and Arizona to test the concept, which allows customers to kick the tires on 15 different models ranging in price from $25,000 to $60,000. Fortune Magazine took a Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500 for a spin through a virtual rendition of suburban Dallas, and reported in depth about the experience:
“Users are put in a virtual world that includes a large, black corridor with several 3D representations of the cars parked as if at a used car dealer. … When people want to give a car a closer look, they must stare at it for a few seconds to get a list of real-time information about the vehicles including the number in stock and their price. … People can also open the car doors and peek inside to get a look at their interiors.”
Though they missed the bumpy feel of the road, Fortune did appreciate the authentic roar of the Mustang’s engine during the VR test drive.
Vroom’s VR showroom is just the beginning, with General Motors, Audi and others announcing plans for their own installations in the near future.
House-hunters know that the home-buying experience is a slog. Sure, there’s a thrill in imagining all the ways you’ll use some heretofore unknown space, but in the real world buyers are often dragging along screaming kids or have crammed so many visits into one afternoon that it becomes an endurance sport. As such, a VR buying experience seems like a natural fit for the real estate market.
Atlanta’s Atlas Bay is one early adopter using the HTC Vive to give customers virtual walkthroughs of as-yet unbuilt properties. The company was profiled by Curbed Atlanta, which spoke to co-founders Cameron Abt and Adam Chechila about how they’re using the HTC Vive to market properties in a whole new way. “This VR experience is costly but mind-blowing to say the least,” Curbed says.
Why is Atlas Bay moving into VR now? Cameron Abt explains: “It’s only recently this kind of technology has been available,” talking about HTC’s headset. “It’s now at a point where we need to let everybody know it’s the real deal. It’s not a gimmick or a novelty anymore.”
The entertainment industry has been in a state of constant upheaval since at least the late 1990s, when Napster and other Internet file sharing sites arrived on the scene and made music and movies available to anyone with a little technical know-how and a decent cable modem connection. Now almost two decades later, major media companies are looking to insulate themselves from the latest tech disruption: Virtual and Augmented Reality.
Take Disney, which has launched the Disney Movie VR app in the Steam store. An HTC Vive exclusive, Disney Movie VR allows users to enter the Star Wars universe or the land of the Jungle Book and have a look around. Though the app is getting mixed reviews (common complaint: once inside the movie experiences, there’s relatively little to do other than be subjected to advertising for future Disney products), it represents a tiny peek at what the future holds. In addition to Disney, heavy hitters like Comcast, Time Warner, Netflix and Amazon are all looking to create a “Netflix for VR,” and they’re spending big dollars on the effort.
Entertainment companies jumping into VR is in its infancy, and Piper Jaffray analyst Stan Meyers tells Investor’s Business Daily: “Generally, all the studios are experimenting with the medium. I think they’re looking forward to VR being sort of the next medium to tell stories. However, I still think we’re very early on. The filmmaking process, the storytelling process using VR is very limited at this point, so it becomes more of an experience.”
Another area that seems like a natural fit for Virtual Reality experiences is education. HTC has formed an official partnership with Lifeliqe, with an eye toward producing educational experiences to motivate and inspire students. The Journal recently profiled Lifeliqe, saying that HTC Vive will be coupled with content from Lifeliqe that will enable students to walk among dinosaurs, explore the internal organs of a shark, examine the parts of a heart and get inside an engine to see how the gears operate. Pretty cool stuff.
“The fact that HTC Vive chose to work with us proves that educational content is an important area for virtual reality to conquer,” said Lifeliqe Co-Founder and CEO Ondrej Homola, in a press release, which also outlines the company’s plan to have pilot programs in schools starting this fall. “We’re excited to bring our content to life with this new technology and distribute across classrooms.”
But the education value of Virtual Reality isn’t limited to the classroom. VR Training is coming soon to a job near you as well, with early forays already underway in the medical, military and construction fields.
When it comes to the VR hardware, and the HTC Vive in particular, you don’t want to be left behind. The future of retail is yet to be written, but it’s certain that the way people currently shop and buy their favorite products is rapidly changing, and companies that fail to adapt to the new marketplace will soon be confined to the dust bin of history. How will your company’s story turn out?
VisualCommerce™ Virtual Reality Design Studio and Showroom makes entire 3D product inventories accessible and configurable within real-world environments. A powerful sales tool, VisualCommerce™ is designed to empower shoppers with confidence and efficiency when visualizing high-consideration purchases. Learn more about VisualCommerce™
To learn more about Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality applications for sales and marketing, contact us at any time. Email Beck Besecker or call 727-851-9522.
Virtual Reality is constantly changing and there is much to learn. Here is a supplemental list of VR/AR resources for you to enjoy and share.
Marxent Great article from @RetailProphet on what "experience" truly means in #retail: https://t.co/GPqN0QPDg4 via @BoF #CX #futureofretail
Marxent RT @attdeveloper: 4 things #developers need to know about Markerless #AR - Guest blog by @beckbesecker from @Marxent: https://t.co/cKvdEUug…
Marxent Show off more of your inventory with virtually zero space with a #VR Showroom. #virtualreality #retail… https://t.co/VyD3nVbapD