Future, Risks, and Pitfalls of VR: Interview with VR Marketing Expert
Today virtual reality doesn't seem so exotic any more. Many companies start eyeing this technology and look for possible application of VR solutions in their activities. We talked to Sergio Salenko, Sigma Software VR marketing expert, and asked about his views on the future, risks, and pitfalls of virtual reality.
How did you get into VR?
My name is Sergio Salenko. I have over 20 years of practical experience in IT sales, market research, branding, marketing strategy development, and IT project management. Three years ago, I joined Sigma Software as a Business Development Manager and I am currently the head of the initiative group focused on AR/VR development.
My first encounter with VR was when I watched The Lawnmower Man, based on a novel by Stephen King. What amazes me is that it has taken only 25 years to bring what was once sci-fi stuff into everyday life: helmets, gloves, platforms, and, most important, software products, which enable creating virtual worlds. The next impressive movie related to virtual reality was, for me, the Matrix. Now I am looking forward to watch Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One Movie.
When I joined Sigma Software, it became quite obvious that there was a lot of interest in AR/VR projects development here. Vlad Beck (the co-founder and board member of the company) was the first one who encouraged the purchase and testing of a range of AR/VR glasses and helmets and starting a series of related projects. Speaking of the devices, our pool has been recently supplemented with The Meta 2 AR Headset, which has better characteristics compared to Microsoft HoloLens.
Apart from buying hardware, our experts also test software platforms and solutions, on the basis of which the apps are developed. Within a week of Apple's ARKit launch, our colleague, Unity developer Egor Antipov installed it and created the first application.
Our previous R&D activities together with hands-on experience have formed a solid basis for successful start of commercial projects in 2017. One project especially worth noting was launched for Hollywood-based company VRenetic.
What is your company’s core expertise and why?
Sigma Software provides top-quality software development services to customers in many sectors. These include government, telecommunications, media & advertising, aviation, automotive, gaming industry, banking and financial services, real estate, tourism, and entertainment.
We’ve devised an effective work approach for our three major customer types: enterprises, startups and product houses offering software product development, support and maintenance, and custom software creation, including mobile development and IT consulting. We have advanced skills in many different solutions, like e-commerce platforms, document management, business support systems, and processes automation.
Do you offer any type of satisfaction guarantee or revisions of completed work?
At the beginning of a project, it often happens that the customer does not know what they will get at the output. They typically have some vision, although there is no clear understanding about how the product should function, what technology to choose, which features are crucial and which are not, etc. The process of defining all these details is not an easy task. It can result in rethinking and reworking of the whole concept.
To make sure customers will receive exactly what they want, we go all the way of requirement clarification together with them. At every stage, we provide customers with statuses and demos, so they can understand why we suggest using this or that technology, why we offer to apply this or that approach. The whole process becomes transparent; the customers understand our motivation and know that the result will satisfy them.
Speaking about AR/VR, we start with consulting, recommend devices that will fit requirements the best, and suggest business scenarios and technologies.
Can you explain to me why anyone should invest in a VR marketing campaign?
First of all, VR is not a cutting edge technology, but a common thing already. Look at Ikea, they have been using VR in their sales since 2012, and they are quite successful in that. It’s not science fiction anymore, it is a part of our everyday life.
Whether to invest or not you should decide yourself. You don’t have to, it’s not a must. But think about how your business can benefit from VR technology. Take a closer look at your business processes, your needs, and goals. Can you achieve new heights with VR that could not be reached otherwise? If yes, then investing in VR would be a good idea.
In my opinion, virtual reality will soon change the whole way we live and affect all areas of human activity. Healthcare, education, aviation, automotive, agriculture, entertainment, security, tourism… I can continue, but it will take a while. Every single lifetime activity may become a relevant use case for VR adoption.
Some might say VR would limit our communication with real people. They said the same about social networks. In fact, do they limit us? I’d say they rather give us additional channels for communication. Without changing our everyday habits, we can now talk with any person at any country in just a few clicks exactly when we need it.
New technologies offer wider opportunities. It depends on us how we use these opportunities.
What is the future of VR marketing?
I think the future of VR is in close interaction with the human brain and strengthening of its capabilities. In fact, the main task of virtual reality is boosting our imagination. Technology cannot replace the brain, it can only enhance the effect. When you are reading a book, do you need VR technology to imagine yourself inside of the story? No. What VR does is help us plunge deeper into that story. It also makes it easier for those people who have a less developed imagination.
VR is a no doubt powerful tool, but the industry is young. What are the risks and pitfalls with VR marketing?
Well, a technology that can give us a better reality than the one we live in, may play a low-down trick on us. When you live in a perfect world, you don’t need to develop – mentally or physically. This leads to degradation in every sense. We should think of certain steps to avoid this risk.
I can also see issues that may affect people’s privacy. Imagine that everyone who knows you may recreate a copy of you in their imaginary world, and you will behave in a way this person wants you to behave. Will you like it? Don’t think so.
I also believe that what is a taboo in real life should be prohibited in a virtual environment too. I mean crimes, personal infringements and so on. VR opens new edges of our everyday life. There will be some unexpected legal issues that must be taken into account.
What is it about VR that gets you excited?
What we are doing today will change the life of the human kind in just 10-20 years. You know, when Apple introduced smartphones, they were probably thinking how this new device would change the society. I don’t think though they realized it would happen so fast. Yes, nine out of ten people use smartphones to post likes of cute cat pictures on Instagram and only one really understands all the benefits of mobile technologies. So what? Thanks to those Instagram cats, today everyone carries a small data center in their pocket, and its capabilities become bigger with every new generation of devices.
The same may happen with VR. Most people will use it to like virtual cats. However, the increased demand for VR devices will boost their mass production making them more affordable and strengthening their influence on the industries where VR can really make difference.
What VR experience do you fantasize about experiencing in your lifetime?
I would like to have a VR experience that is indistinguishable from reality. Current technologies don’t yet allow you to fully immerse yourself in the virtual world, you still know and feel the reality around you. It would be exciting to try VR that would allow you to plunge in another world just like if you were teleported there.
We spend most of our lives at work and only have 10 to 20 days a year to travel and visit new places. Wouldn’t it be great to have an opportunity to go to every corner of the world, see and experience everything just like you really were there, and it would take only a few hours?
Moreover, you could experience something you’d never be able to experience in reality. Let’s say, you dream of conquering Everest. To make it happen in real life, you’ll need months of training and acclimatization, you’ll have to spend a huge sum and put yourself at high risk. Using VR, you reach the top of any mountain when you want it and feel exactly the same as you’d feel in reality.
Think of the possibilities. You can travel not only in space, but in time also, visiting ancient cities and learning how people lived thousands of years ago. Or you may master skills that you know you’ll never be able to master otherwise. You want to play the piano, be an artist or a professional dancer? You can try it and make it happen.