Having worked with Virtual Reality and its predecessor technologies for over a decade, it’s clear to me that there is an issue with the way it is perceived by global brands and marketers, who see it as too advanced and out of reach. There was a time where this was a genuine concern, but the truth now is somewhat different.
As VR hardware and software have advanced, its realism and capabilities have sky-rocketed, to a point where this channel is now accessible to brands and businesses it would not have been an option for five years ago. Numerous assets can be pulled together to create VR content, but one of the most overlooked resources is the one that many businesses already hold, and that is CAD 3D.
CAD assets are the perfect starting point to deliver a fully immersive VR experience, as they allow you not only to experience your product, but also to interact with it, so you can visualise the product in the context of where and how it will be used.
VR is created from 3D CGI assets (your CAD files) and taking the first step into interactive applications for VR ‘newbies’ can be easier than you think, but you have to set out with the possibilities in your mind. You can begin this journey with CGI imagery for a product launch, for example, producing content that uses your 3D assets (CAD) and expanding these resources into VR as the business expands.
Continuing with the product launch example, the chances are that most companies unveiling a new product will have some CAD-based content, either from the design process or for marketing purposes, and this provides the basis for a VR experience. With the CAD textured to photoreal, hyperreal or stylised as desired, the CAD file could be used to generate image renders or animated to create animations, or touchscreen interactive presentations. At this point, CAD could also be optimised to run seamlessly in real-time engines and used in app-based AR or VR applications to deliver a completely immersive experience.
Put simply, VR makes use of a CAD-based resource that, in its basic form, may not be suitable for external marketing purposes. A single optimised CAD file can be used across product pitches and marketing campaigns, with the potential development of the presentation ranging from a basic CGI animation to an interactive app and even a full-blown real-time presentation, combining AR and VR for a fully optimised experience.
The materials that result from this process are not only a great marketing tool, conveying messages to the end user in a more experiential and engaging way, they can also transform the way a business works and markets itself, both internally and externally. Teams can see the products they are developing and manufacturing in a far more professional and interactive style, which will boost their enthusiasm for product development and marketing. In addition, if a common strategy is devised, the process can also offer synergy throughout the business, with products presented in a uniform way across product development, marketing, training and other departments.
What we are talking about is a quiet revolution in the way businesses approach and leverage their existing CAD-based assets. This is a big change, but it doesn’t need to cost the earth, and the potential returns far outweigh the upfront investment. This is the process that I outlined in my talk at the Virtual Reality Show in London, by taking my audience on the journey of a typical Render client from the first meeting to delivery of the completed project.
Optimising CAD for real-time presentations can benefit every part of a business, from product design and innovation to sales, marketing, training and CSR. It’s also important to point out that you don’t need VR experience to adapt your existing CAD assets. Much as you get someone in to set up your IT systems, an experienced VR agency can make the process almost completely pain-free. It’s complex under the bonnet, but gloriously simple for the user.
From a single CAD file, great things can happen and, once they have seen what can be achieved from an existing, under-utilised resource, clients will keep coming back for more. We just need to get the message out there that VR achievable. It’s about taking the right steps and thinking long term as the potential value is huge.
Mark Miles is the founder and MD of Render. He is a a BAFTA-winning VR and CGI practitioner, who is hugely passionate about what digital technology can deliver.