Making it more real: virtual expansion of exhibition stands

Are immersive media the future of B2B communication? NürnbergMesse showcased a virtual reality pilot project at FENSTERBAU FRONTALE 2018 /// by 

Image source: istockphoto.com/mustafagull

Wearing some kind of box in front of their eyes, taking tentative steps and cautiously pressing buttons – anyone using virtual reality (VR) to immerse themselves in an alternative world presents a rather comic picture to onlookers. And yet you’ll always find long queues wherever there’s a chance to test out some VR glasses, because people are always curious about new technologies.

This was a phenomenon that could be observed at FENSTERBAU FRONTALE 2018, because the virtual expansion of exhibition stands is a typical application scenario for VR. Immersive media like virtual and augmented reality (AR) offer a special means of presenting visual content and tapping into new opportunities for product marketing. “Immersion” is the technical term for delving into a virtual world that’s experienced as very real, because it enables interaction with a computer-generated environment.

Virtual and augmented reality technologies have a long development history. The term “virtual reality” was coined in the 1980s when the first VR projects were realised. Immersive media are currently gaining ground. But are they also going to become a key niche technology for the industries of the future, and if so, how can companies begin to exploit them today?

Particularly in the consulting and design phases, AR and VR can open up new sales channels. As an enhanced form of presentation at trade fairs, they provide insights that would otherwise scarcely be possible at the exhibition stand: for example, a closer look at a plant’s production line or the tiniest of technological processes and product specifics that aren’t visible to the naked eye. A consultant at the stand can explain details or run a demonstration that answers many questions. From the marketing perspective, it’s crucial for companies to use technologies like this appeal to their customers on an emotional level. This is a very effective approach to conveying brand messages. Another benefit for market research and product development is that important insights can be gained by observing users and their behaviour: What preferences does the customer exhibit? And what potential weaknesses might the product still have?

One obstacle to the integration of VR is the significant investment risk. That’s why large companies in particular are the frontrunners in this field. In addition, the initial creation of a virtual showroom is technologically complex, and in-depth consultation on the market is needed prior to investing in one. Companies should draw on the expertise of specialist service providers to avoid buying expensive technologies and development services that they may not benefit from as much as expected. Which is why companies first of all have to ask themselves the most important question: What’s in it for me?

NürnbergMesse presented its first own virtual reality application at FENSTERBAU FRONTALE from 21 to 24 March 2018. In collaboration with Nuremberg-based technology company nous, a virtual world was developed where visitors could have fun interacting with virtual reality in 3D spaces based on the theme of windows. One of the goals was to implement a technically sophisticated solution and showcase state-of-the-art VR technology. Visitors also learned how VR could be used at their own companies. For immersive media as for any other marketing tool, increasing relevance and added value by providing appropriate content are extremely important.

Following the successful completion of the pilot project, NürnbergMesse aims to position itself in future as a partner to exhibitors for integrating of VR into their stand configurations. If you’d like to know more about this now, please contact our project team at NürnbergMesse: Ms Corinna Karl, corinna.karl@nuernbergmesse.de.

Explanation of terms: virtual reality (VR) vs. augmented reality (AR)
From a marketing perspective, VR and AR have comparable benefits. When using a VR headset system, the user is completely immersed in a virtual world. AR glasses, on the other hand, enable a view of the real environment that’s augment with virtual objects (also known as “mixed reality”). For example, in the design phase a door manufacturer can project its products into existing rooms that the potential customer can then view in close-up and even “walk through.”

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