Virtual Reality … Reality with Kym Frank
During the Covid pandemic, we had no choice but to lean into video conferencing platforms like Zoom. The world relied on virtual classrooms, virtual business meetings, virtual health care, and virtual happy hours.
This winter, my population intelligence company, Intermx, planned a virtual holiday-party originally to take place on Zoom. Our team members are scattered around the world, so some planning is involved. Unfortunately, we canceled our holiday celebration because like so many others, several staff contracted Covid.
Instead of rescheduling, leadership purchased and shipped the latest Oculus virtual reality headsets to every member of the team. It has been a game changer. Not only was staff enamored and surprised by such an amusing gift, the VR headsets altered the way we all work together and dramatically changed the energy amongst the team.
While we still use video conferencing as a primary communication platform, we host several meetings in virtual reality every week. We hold all-hands company gatherings in a virtual conference room and document our notes on a virtual white board. Staff have even enjoyed get-togethers hitting a few holes of virtual golf and playing a round of anti-gravity ultimate frisbee. VR brings people together in ways video conferencing simply cannot.
We have concluded that, as a company, having meetings in virtual reality feels more ‘real’ and engaging than meeting in a conference platform. Afterall, who isn’t tired of Zoom-type meetings? It is a challenge to see who people are really looking at or speaking to when everyone is looking forward to a screen (and not their phones). Having attended more video conference meetings than I can count, I feel more connected to my teams in virtual reality than ever before. And I know they do too.
In virtual reality, our avatars engage with each other directly, making ‘eye’ contact and using body language. In fact, meeting by virtual reality can be so realistic that the volume of someone’s voice ‘sitting’ next to you is louder than one across the room. You can even whisper to your avatar colleague who is close by, and others in the VR room may not hear you. And engagement is much higher.
Our Intermx team members are less likely to check emails or phone texts during meetings – because they are wearing a headset and immersed in a virtual world. Our last all staff meeting was held in Greece overlooking the Aegean. The environment appears warm and inviting which lifts everyone’s spirits, especially when it is winter outside.
Of course, there are downsides to virtual reality. Some people may experience motion sickness, headaches, or even accidentally punch a family member in the face while wearing the headset (Guilty as charged!). Still, I think more teams searching for a creative and entrepreneurial edge will adopt virtual reality, especially as prices and the headset weight comes down. We are looking forward to a version that includes a sense of smell so we can all cook together.
Virtual reality also offers untapped marketing and sponsorship opportunities to companies interested in technology. Members of the out of home advertising industry are beginning to test the water. MilkMoney, an OOH marketplace, announced last month it is selling billboards in Paris Hilton’s “Paris World” metaverse, where you can enter her celebrity world, virtually try on outfits, ride a jet ski around a fantasy island or most importantly, view other brand inventory being sold. The UK’s Ocean Outdoor announced it would sell billboard space in the metaverse last December. Even Motley Fool is onboard, recently releasing an article titled, “Why Metaverse Billboards Could Be Big Business in 2022.”
Is virtual reality a passing trend or is it here to stay? Is metaverse advertising the next big play? And if it is, who will own the space? Who will follow MilkMoney in investments on Paris Hilton’s metaverse advertising environment? Will it require agencies to buy and sell metaverse advertising, or will a new virtual marketplace emerge? When will we start seeing virtual ad space available in programmatic exchanges?
After my personal experiences with virtual reality at Intermx, I’m confident it’s here to stay. I look forward to hosting the very first OOH networking event in the metaverse. I hope many of you will join me and begin to experiment with virtual reality inside and outside of the office. And, if anyone is interested in reaching early adopters, please contact me. I have virtual billboard space for rent.
About Kym Frank
Kym Frank is the Global Chief Experience Officer at Intermx™, a population intelligence data and software company and current President of the Market Research Council. Kym has over 25 years of experience in market research and audience measurement, working across all media channels.
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