Diving into virtual reality

Businesses, schools and universities are benefitting from cutting edge immersive technology.
By Asen NedyalkovР

Dr. Ani Atanasova PhD, MSc is CEO and co-founder of Pixelhunters and has a multi-faceted background in science, culture and management. She is a Li-Fi expert who specialises in the field of Quantum and Optoelectronics, having worked on several patented EU projects. She has created and implemented many gamification and VR projects and is a certified MBTI and STRONG Interest Inventory practitioner. Dr. Atanasova is a speaker at international conferences, a member of the advisory board of leading universities and colleges in the UAE and a judge of the International Business Awards, Stevie Awards and “A Design” Awards. Based in Dubai, Pixelhunters develops VR/AR games and apps and 3D content for the government and private sectors. The company has a strong background in educational projects and gamification and has delivered more than 300 projects worldwide, winning more than 60 international industry awards.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are usually related to gaming and entertainment. Can they be used for business?
It is true that Virtual and Augmented Reality is associated with entertainment. In fact it can be applied to businesses too. They are always looking for innovative ways to promote their brands and attract new customers. As consumers, we are so overloaded by advertising in all its forms that it becomes harder to catch and sustain our attention. Emerging technologies definitely come into play when someone is looking for an innovative and immersive way of delivering marketing messages. Branded games for retailtainment are becoming especially popular. VR games can transform any small space into entertaining space – which has recently worked well in the relationship between shopping malls and brands.

How do technologies such as VR/AR apply to education and training?
The immersive way of delivering information makes VR/AR excellent for education and training. Notably, VR allows the creation of simulators at a very reasonable cost. There is no longer a need for expensive hardware and support – all that can be now bought off the shelf.
What makes them even more attractive is that by 2020 probably every child will have a VR set at home or somewhere nearby. An increasing number of schools have started implementing VR technologies and the VR hardware manufacturers have started to produce more affordable VR glass set solutions. VR/AR will play a more significant role in the education of the future.

What is gamification?
Gamification is the application of typical elements of games (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to non-game related activities to encourage engagement with a product or service. It can transform boring training into something fun. It can help bring a positive interaction with your brand. And the best of it is that you can measure the level of engagement.

 

 

How do I start with these technologies and how do I decide if they are good for my brand and business?
First, I would recommend evaluating all your previous marketing and educational efforts and try to understand where they have succeeded or failed. Have a clear idea of your current goal, what do you want to achieve by using new immersive technologies? Find an expert who has experience in developing similar applications and make sure the expert understands your line of business. An application that is successful for one kind of business will not necessarily work for yours. Your business is unique, your clients are unique, so find the emerging technology that will most benefit your brand and create an interaction that your target audience will enjoy and appreciate.

Can you give some examples of your successful VR/AR applications?
We have developed VR and gamified applications in very serious sectors here, in the majority of cases for local government and big corporations. We have a VR project for career guidance, currently in implementation in all UAE schools, we have created a VR gamified Hazard Perception, we have created a VR gamified cyber security test and team building application; we also developed the first VR game of its kind for content copyrights protection, currently Kidzania, and many others. The biggest advantage of all these new technologies is that they are all Digital – whatever you do can be tracked, measured, analyzed and thus show the path for improvement.

What is AI and what is its current place in business?
Artificial Intelligence is the simulation of human intelligence by machines. You don’t need to start looking at implementing it just because it is a hot topic right now, again you need to analyse where exactly it will benefit your business. Researching best practices in AI and case studies of applications into sectors similar to yours is essential. AI still has a long way to go and if not properly implemented it may damage your customer experience and your reputation. For example, you have all probably experienced AI in customer service – all you want is a simple answer and you just want to speak to a call centre agent – instead you spend five times longer listening to different questions and replying to a machine. And your patience may run out before you get the answer you are looking for. All the same, AI is great for understanding customers behaviour, especially in e-commerce portals.
Whatever technology you decide on – use it smartly and efficiently towards a better product, service or experience for your clients.

 

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