Virtual Reality Customer Experience:
Are you ready to be immersed?

Imagine you are standing over 300 feet-up in the air, at the corner of a NY skyscraper... Are you brave enough to take the next step ?

Screenshot from the case study video of Backlight Studio
Screenshot from the case study video 'Diesel Perfumes' of Backlight Studio

This is the kind of Virtual Reality (VR) experience that brands are using now to create a special bond with their customers and sell more, such as Diesel Perfumes here.

Video published by Backlight Studio on YouTube 
(Category Film & Animation – Standard YouTube License) 

“VR storyliving enables companies to make customers feel intense emotions to their clients associated with their products and brand. It creates a strong interactivity and a longstanding impact that is not possible with other medium, such as TV, board advertising or even the Internet”, explains Priscilla KouKoui, chief XR officer in Sydney for Backlight Studio (the French company which realised this VR campaign).

By playing with perceptions, VR succeeds to generate a ‘real’ strong emotion, influencing judgment and decision-making. It does impact the brain in a significant way but not as Reality does.


Video published by The Science Verse on YouTube
(Category Science & Technology – Standard YouTube License)

Do we have to be scared of it ? Actually, until now, nobody knows, because the VR experience in our everyday life is still underway, like the TV in the 60’s, with all the fears – and may be hopes – around this new device.

But it is seems obvious that, as well as for TV and advertising, private industry sees the potential benefit in VR to sell more. The case of Diesel Perfumes seems relevant, with a claimed raise in sales of 120 % on average.

Playing with emotions is profitable

More than just creating an emotional bond, brands seek for offering an adventure over the routine to their clients.

The Diesel experience for instance, by playing with our common fear of heights, gives an opportunity to overcome this deep primary emotion and feel stronger if we succeed the initiation. Then, as the ultimate step consists in reaching the perfume’s bottle and being pictured for this heroic action by a virtual photographer in helicopter, yes, being brave enough to take the leap is an uplifting achievement.

Buying the perfume ‘Only The Brave’ makes sense, as an award and part of the full story, the natural way to end up; a tribute to this memorable moment.

“Brands want to be lovable and build up a significant and intimate relationship with their customers”, says Koukoui. VR immersion seems ideal for this: by erasing the personal boundaries, the process is directly connected to perceptions and emotions. People are invited to live a rewarding and positive experience, aimed to be highly profitable for brands too.

A forecast exponential market up to 2022

Do you think that you will escape to this new trend? It seems hardly believable: statistics predict that the global VR/AR (Augmented Reality) market, estimated at around 27 billion US dollars in 2018 might reach around 210 billion in 2022.

Moreover, TechCrunch is betting that even if VR is going to be significant, the mobile AR might be the driven force of the global market with an estimation around 83 billion US dollars in 2021 – versus 25 for VR technology.

Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft have already strongly invested on it, considering that AR predominance should be the result of mobile phones’ ubiquity and the various possibilities of application available in users’ life.

“In Virtual Reality, you are immersed in another world ; in Augmented Reality, you overlay a digital content (video, comment, picture) on top of the physical world”, comments Koukoui. The success of the game Pokemon Go – and the buzz on it – enabled to make the concept more popular, even for non-gamers.

Augmented Reality: how to be immersed in a moving painting just with a phone

Image of the Desperados labels to scan with the App. Screenshot from a private image by Priscilla Kouikoui, used with permission.
Desperados label to scan with the App  (Screenshot from a private image by Priscilla Kouikoui, used with permission)

Of course, brands are already testing AR technology in their relationships with customers.

For example, Backlight Studio recently created an AR experience for a beer, Desperados, in association with a street artist, Theo Lopez. The concept is simple: by scanning the bottle label with an app on your phone (via Apple or Google), you can experience here a psychedelic ‘triangle’ 3D-painting journey within the image.

According to Matt Adcock, researcher engineer and experimental scientist at CSIRO Data 61, “AR has the potential to change many aspects of the way we interact with digital systems in our work and at home”, and especially with the Internet of Things (IoT).

It is also easy to imagine tomorrow having an app on our phone (or even glasses), allowing to view AR suggestions while looking at products in a supermarket, or even today, to choose where to place furniture at home.

However, nothing is done yet, since some technical and social issues are still unsolved, such as visual clutter or privacy and security policies. Moreover, new digital innovations might appear, challenging this ongoing moving market.

Next steps: Hyper Reality and Mixed Reality

Other new trends are still emerging. Experiences of 5D multi-sensory VR do already exist.

“The challenge here is to immerse and totally engage the consumers by mobilising all their senses, and make them live a unique sensorial experience through what we call Hyper Reality” says Koukoui.

In this purpose, adding to 360 stereoscopic video a binaural 360 sound, haptic feedback vests, subsonic transducer-driven seats, bespoke wind and scent boxes are essential to create a ‘multisensorial bubble’ surrounding the consumers, such as in this 5D-VR experience proposed again by Diesel in its new flagship store in London.

But the Big One which makes the buzz these days, funded by among others Google and AliBaba, is the company Magic Leap and its CEO, Rony Abovitz.

At the end of 2017, they just have revealed their first product – not yet on the market –  the Magic Leap One. These glasses can allow you to extend your online information and other virtual images in your real space and interact with them, as if they came out of the screen of your phone, laptop or TV.

This is what they call “Mixed-Reality”, or hybrid AR, and it looks like science-fiction becoming Reality.


Video published by Magic Leap on YouTube
(Category People & Blogs – Standard YouTube License) 

Do we have to be scared or amazed by all these new technologies?

Could this constant manipulation between Reality and Virtuality be without any impact on our lives? As already shown before, it seems impossible… But, actually, would it be the only element that modifies them in our everyday modern life ?

The tricky thing here might be this hidden part of manipulation, the ‘invisible hand’, still made it easier through VR/AR, “altering our behaviours and thinkings” in a more unconscious way, as emphasizes Elissa Redmiles, researcher in computer science.

It could be compared to the ‘Filter Bubble’ effect on the Internet, with even more intensity because now you are not even sure that what you see and feel is what you really get, as Dr David Evans Bailey, researcher in Virtual Reality, says. And the need for ethic rules and guidelines seem even more crucial than before.

However, if manipulation of our environment and brain can be for worse, the better is still possible too, such as for healing addictions, medical training and Education.

This is what explains Benjamin Egliston, teacher and researcher at the University of Sydney, familiar with the use of VR for teaching purposes.


Video published by Clotilde Rohart on Vimeo



About Clotilde Rohart 5 Articles
Clotilde Rohart is a Masters student at the University of Sydney, in Digital Communication and Culture. Fascinated - but also concerned- by the impact of Digital Technologies, she tries to explore the new trends and decode them to make sense in everyday life. Happy to share with you !

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