Close this search box.

NDTO News Article

Virtual Reality for the Exporter

As an exporter, you’re always looking for ways to build a personal connection to your international customer. Differentiating your product and overcoming communication barriers can at times prove difficult. This is where exporters could take advantage of the growing industry of virtual reality. No longer just a gaming platform, virtual reality (VR) is making its way into education, event planning, medicine and trade. North Dakota exporters have a variety of options if they’re inclined to begin using this new sales tool.

Attending international trade shows are a must for the international exporter. During an initial encounter with potential customers, what if they could instantly travel to your manufacturing facility for a tour, or be transplanted to the field where your crops are growing? This would be possible by first capturing your facility or crop field using VR cameras. In simplistic terms, one camera or multiple cameras are rigged in some fashion – tripod, monopod, drone, or attached to a person – as they record 360° views in motion. The footage is then downloaded and processed for viewing. Customers are then able to visit your virtual reality facility or farm by using a headset paired with a smartphone or PC.

Headsets such as Samsung’s Gear VR are reasonably priced at under $100, though they’re only compatible with a Samsung Galaxy smartphone. The Samsung Gear 360 camera is also affordable, starting at $350. Flashier cameras will run you more, such as the Matterport Pro 3D camera at nearly $5,000. A mid-range alternative would be the VUZE VR camera for $800 that comes with a free VR headset and uses any Android or iOS smartphone to view the VR movie. Or you could skip the camera and hire a VR company to create the content.

There are a number of companies that are already using VR to draw customers. Volvo now gives customers virtual test drives at trade shows and GE uses VR to give clients an inside look at their jet engine technology. Events DC and Meet L.A. are two city tourism departments that are already using virtual reality to give tours of their spaces to prospective clients. Virgin Holidays experimentally used VR to let customers experience a resort in Mexico and said the sales results were “phenomenal.” VR could also be used to allow clients a look at your product in situations that are otherwise inaccessible, such as an offshore drilling rig.

Future of Virtual Reality

The heavy hitters of technology are all developing their own virtual reality sets including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, HTC and Samsung. Facebook’s 2014 purchase of Oculus Rift for $2 billion – a VR company that was started by a 17-year-old in his parents’ garage – is an indication of just how valuable VR has become. The industry will become more mainstream as competition grows and better, cheaper commercial VR products are released. A recent report by BCC Research has estimated that the virtual and augmented reality market will grow to $105.2 billion by 2020. That’s a nearly 2,500% increase from the $4.5 billion market in 2015.

Microsoft is focusing on the augmented reality (AR) market, which takes a computer-generated image and imposes it on a person’s real life view (think Pokémon Go). Microsoft is developing a type of AR that they call “holoportation,” a process that allows a person to see, hear, and interact in real-time with a 3D hologram of a remote participant from anywhere in the world. During holoporation each person wears a HoloLens headset and can see the other as though they are in the same room. Holoporation requires multiple cameras and is still in development, but the demonstration is impressive. Within the conceivable future, buyers and sellers across oceans will be able to meet in such a way. Perhaps equally as meaningful will be the ability to play back the entire meeting in 3D from any perspective.

The future is bright for VR as global businesses figure out how to use the technology to their advantage. Early adoption of VR technology may set you apart from your competitors, if you’re willing to invest your time and creativity into this emerging sales tool.