Tag Archives: Oculus Rift

How Virtual Reality Could Shake Up Retail Experiences

Written by: Eric Fransen
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I have a confession to make. I wasn’t always a believer in virtual reality. I thought it was the latest tech fad, with everyone trying so hard to make it happen.

Gamers are in the middle of the Virtual Reality Rebirth with Playstation VR (formerly Project Morpheus), Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, and others. You can’t talk about the future of the gaming industry without discussing virtual reality. Want to ride a virtual rollercoaster? What about a survival horror experience? You got it.

Yet, none of it was speaking to me in a way that caused me to say “THIS is the future…” until I tried the HTC Vive with Steam VR. It was eye-opening to say the least. For the first time in my life, I actually felt like I was completely immersed and present in a virtual world.

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HTC Vive taught me everything I know about digital kitchens.

To try and describe my experience with the Vive would not do it justice. It truly must be experienced to comprehend how realistic it is. In the demo that I tried, I watched as a full-scale whale swam by me on a sunken ship, I painted in 3D space and could walk through my creation, I cooked a meal in a kitchen, and I tried to repair Atlas — a robot from the beloved Portal series. It was incredible. TL;DR I’m a believer.

So how does this come to life in retail?
The possibilities are endless. With flexible VR tech like Google Cardboard and other smartphone-enabled opportunities, retailers can create simple, lightweight experiences designed to be used remotely or to enhance the in-store experience. With more sophisticated tech like the HTC Vive that requires a substantial footprint, there’s an opportunity to create in-store engagements that transport consumers into virtual worlds where they can experience products firsthand.

Here are a few ideas of how this could come to life:

Design: Stores like Bed Bath &¬†Beyond or Home Depot could create an interior design experience¬†where consumers virtually build their dream house using products available in the store. Once the design is complete, they’re provided with a shopping list of the appropriate materials.

Outdoor: Outdoor stores like REI could create experiences that allow consumers to try out the gear in the context of amazing locales like Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and even Mount Everest.

Fashion: Stores like Forever 21 and H&M could allow customers to model various clothing items on avatars modeled after their body types. This could extend to unique designs and colorations to be custom-made for the customer.

But why does this matter?
As I’ve touched on in a previous post: personalization (or perceived personalization). Virtual reality offers the ability to completely personalize the experience for each customer. It affords flexibility and immersion in the shopping experience like never before. In many cases, it’s going to be the closest consumers can get to trying out products without actually trying out the product. The possibilities are endless.

Extending Virtual Reality at SXSW 2015

Written by: Tom Edwards
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Another year, another SXSW Interactive is in the books. Each year I look to get inspired, reconnect with publishers and 3rd party partners and look for new or incremental innovation that can add value for my clients. This year, one of the areas that caught my attention was the advancement of 3rd party integration and applications tied to virtual reality experiences.

In 2014, one SXSW exhibit in particular received a lot of attention for creating an immersive Virtual Reality Game of Thrones experience courtesy of Oculus Rift. 2015 did have its share of branded experiences tied to Oculus, see Samsung below, but a majority of 3rd parties were focused on showcasing how they create value through integrating VR and mobile devices as they prepare to go to market.

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Samsung – I had the opportunity to experience the Samsung Gear VR headset while at SXSW. The Samsung Gear VR is powered by an Oculus Rift headset that integrates with the Galaxy Note 4. The approach of serving as an extension of an existing device that can scale through various media and applications is the right approach to allow optimal personalization of experiences through devices and media entities that consumers already consume.

The #GalaxyLife VR exhibit was a rich experience that I definitely enjoyed. My tour featured a Mountain Dew branded snowboarding adventure. There are pros and cons to the experience as it was immersive, although the audio was a bit lacking. If you have not tried the core Oculus Rift experience and this was your first foray into VR it is an impressive experience. For the average consumer, consuming media, be it VR cinema, gaming or 360-degree experiences can all be achieved through the Samsung Gear headset.

This type of VR experience is ideal for branded integrations as the experiences are tied to the mobile device and with the right SDK, it is possible to extend immersive content experiences through the Samsung Gear VR.

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Google – One of the more unique takes on a similar premise to the Samsung Gear VR came from Google. Google Cardboard is a simple, inexpensive way to enjoy VR-based experiences through either Android or iPhone devices. When the Google team handed me the device, it was about the size of an iPad Mini. After a few minutes of folding I had an instant VR viewer that I could view media from VRSE or other Google Cardboard supported applications.

As with most things Google, there are Android and Unity SDK’s available to easily integrate Cardboard into existing VR applications to ensure that it is supported. The experience is surprisingly rich and the fact that it is inexpensive and also supports iPhone VR applications is a plus. Google Cardboard is a great tool to introduce younger audiences to enhanced VR experiences. It definitely passed the test with my crew of 12, 10 and 7 years of age. And with the simple design, I am not concerned about how they would handle the device.

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Intel and 3rd Parties – The SXSW Gaming Pavilion featured multiple extensions of the Oculus hardware with various groups working to create new integrations that could bridge the gap between traditional gaming and VR. Intel and CybertronPC showcased one of CybertronPC’s gaming rigs that supported an Oculus experience. This experience drew quite a crowd as onlookers wanted to catch a glimpse of PC gaming + Oculus.

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Another 3rd party that caught my attention was Sixense’s STEM System. This was a Full-Body Presence VR system vs. just an Oculus Visual experience. The system provides motion controls, haptic feedback and additional spatial awareness in the VR experience to create a full-body controlled experience in game. The demo featured a lightsaber duel, think Microsoft Kinect in terms of open-space, body-controlled motion but with a fully immersive Oculus Rift visual experience.

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We are inching closer to mass consumer availability and I have been impressed how much has been developed within a single year. I still have my doubts as to whether or not Facebook’s Oculus Rift based experiences as they exist today will appeal to the mainstream consumer. We are still at the nascent stage of the technology and I do believe that augmented, virtual reality and digital overlays will become a part of our lives as some point in the next 10 years – it just may not be a bulky headset, it may be something as simple as a bionic contact lens.

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I definitely enjoyed playing with the new hardware and look forward to what the future may bring at SXSW 2016.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360