When I think about virtual reality (VR), my first assumption is gaming and entertainment. Just imagine next year being able to buy VR seats at the super bowl and truly experiencing it in real-time. We are pretty close to making experiences like that a reality. The basic goal is achieving “Presence”, which is code for tricking enough of our senses that we actually believe we are there, experiencing it in reality. We are likely no more than 3 years away from Holo-decks.
Whenever a new technology arrives, I scramble to understand it’s native use cases and the new types of interactions it enables. By far, the most enjoyable part of marketing for me is tackling a new runtime, platform, or channel for marketing and if I get lucky, finding a client willing to experiment with me on these exciting ideas.
When Facebook bought Oculus in 2014, I wrote a blog post about what the future of marketing will look like with VR. At the time, while my imagination was in tact, my understanding about VR was basic. I was stuck in this “experiential” mode of marketing. So, I immediately latched onto visiting stores and trying products remotely. Which would be cool…but, over the last few weeks I had a brilliant epiphany about the future of lead generation.
I touched on the idea of face to face meetings with doctors and vendors in that original article, but the mistake I made was assuming these interactions would be the CONSUMER USING VR TO INTERACT WITH BRANDS… Instead of the opposite. Vendors interacting with consumers through VR.
Imagine your car is making weird noises and you don’t really want to schlepp out to the mechanics shop. You worry that you won’t be able to trust him not to pitch you 100 other problems you need to fix. Today, your two choices are a)be very educated about car engineering or b)using a mobile mechanic who comes to you. Which of course is expensive and takes time. Now, Imagine you have a 360 video that can live feed to the mechanic. You can dial them on the phone or a VR app, and they put on their goggles and can look around your car from the comfort of their homes, shops, or even by the beach.
Imagine you go to the mechanic and he says you need a new transmission for a few thousand dollars. Getting a second opinion when your car is broken down in this other guys shop is rough. Plus, a second opinion might be a biased competitor trying to win your business. How cool would it be if you could simply VR dial up a mechanic in another city, have them look around your car, and speak to you and the mechanic to discuss what really needs to be done. Did someone say 900 numbers were back in style?
You are looking at a home to buy, but before you put in an offer, you need to speak to a General Contractor to find out how much work you need to do. Now, you need to schedule his time, your time, and the realtors time, and of course you feel obligated to use this guy when you are ready to hire. With VR, you can bring 3 competing GCs to the home through VR and have them submit competing bids. If they can’t be there for the livestream, just send them the 360 video, and let them get back to you.
You want to hire a mover, and get 3 quotes online…all pending an in home estimate. You don’t have time to meet 3 different companies, even though you know you should, so you pick the cheapest online quote, and when they get there and bait and switch you, you just want to move and just accept the higher price as the cost of convenience. With VR, you can get binding quotes the vendors can be happy with, because they saw everything in the 360 video and VR.
Do you see where I am going with this? VR might solve traffic problems, will help us find massive time efficiencies, and drop costs and waste significantly across the board.
I don’t know if immersive VR gaming will take off, or going to ball games in VR will take off. Heck, I don’t even know if consumer VR and augmented reality will ever stick…But, I would be willing to bet that vendors start using VR to provide in home estimates as soon as this winter.
The live streaming VR cameras are a bit too pricey right now, but regular 360 video can be recorded easily enough today.
I see easy scenarios that can launch right now. Homeowner wants to sell home. Calls realtor. Realtor hires “Bob’s-VR-Photography” to do a thorough recording of the property (Did someone say drones?). That video can now be shared with various contractors to get real estimates, real quickly, without anyone rushing across town, or wasting time.
Pretty much everything that requires someone to be somewhere else can be solved by VR. There is so much wasted time in cars in traffic, on the road, from job site to job site, etc… We are pretty darn close to remote live stream monitoring of our homes, work sites, offices, families, etc… to the point where insane amounts of time can be saved.
To be fair, I don’t see people walking around with VR headsets, and I think augmented reality ideas are far from being used in reality, but General Contractors are already sending pictures and videos to their plumbers, etc… for remote estimates. When time is of essence, and considering the ability with VR for a true walkthrough of a property, I see no reason a minimum viable product of this can’t exist today.
There will be a war for the hardware of VR. There will be a war for the messaging platforms for VR interactions. No one seems to be thinking about these wars from the perspective of the consumer.
What do I mean? I mean, chatbots and messaging apps are all about giving businesses the tools to automate the customer interactions. Here’s the problem. The customers don’t trust the chat bots and want to speak to humans. What everyone seems to be missing is that maybe the trick is to automate the customer talking to the business, and let the humans on the business side interact. Instead of me chatting with your customer service bot, maybe my personal assistant bot should be chatting with your customer service person.
What I really mean is that my vision of the future holds a new messaging platform built just for consumers to chat with businesses and manage the relationships. But, these tools need to be built with the consumers in control, not the business and their need for data and automation. Build this platform, and you can own the VR platform that lives on top of it allowing consumers to automate asking vendors to help them in person, through VR.
I am excited for this future and would love to experiment with Virtual In Home Estimates if anyone wants to have some fun and experiment.