Posted on September 6, 2019 by staff

VR tech has found footing in real-world collaborations


‘Out-of-home’ virtual reality installations can be more than novelty by extending the experience of real world experiences and attractions.

That’s the view of Martin Higginson, CEO and co-founder of listed UK company Immotion.

The firm, which develops virtual reality experiences for brands and attractions, uses VR headsets alongside custom-built housings to provide a multi-sensory immersive experience.

It has developed a range of VR entertainment zones at major venues include The O2 in London and is increasingly installing its technology as additions to existing attractions including zoos, aquariums, and science centers.

Higginson said that his approach avoids ‘technology for technology’s sake’, and instead its team of writers, producers, directors, strategists and marketing experts build experiences around its expected audience.

“We’re not selling VR, we’re selling you an experience,” he told BusinessCloud.

The firm, which is currently in the process creation an immersive Apollo 11 launch, recently finished an immersive diving experience allowing users to virtually dive with whales.

“Aquariums are under tremendous pressure not to keep large sea mammals or fish in tanks. So what would you put in an aquarium?” he said.

“We can go and film things with whales, tiger sharks, with great white sharks and hammerhead sharks. You’re seeing them up close and personal. You’re never going to see them in a tank ever again.”

To capture and create the experience, the Immotion team sent a free diving videographer into the sea off the shores of Tonga. The diver, who could hold his breath four or five minutes, was able to film the animals while keeping within rules around using oxygen tanks near the endangered species.

“And in doing so, we managed to film these whales giving birth to their calves.

“By putting motion into that as well, you feel as though you’re actually under the water. You can feel the waves. We’ve actually managed to enhance the experience.”

Getting up close to land animals is possible too with the Immotion, he said. Future experiences could allow visitors to get close to dangerous animals such as lions in VR, improving and complimenting their real-life experience in zoos without the need to a lion to be present and in view.

In July 2019 it announced its strategy to predominantly focus on the roll out of its Partnership Model into high footfall locations.

The Manchester-based firm floated on the stock exchange in July 2018 with a valuation of £20m.

Recently it has partnered with Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, has added a ‘Jurassic World VR Expedition’ to its portfolio of content for its VR cinema pods.

It also has installed its VR experiences at Madame Tussauds, Washington DC; two Legoland Discovery Centres; and two Al Hokair sites in the Middle East.

For the venues and attractions introducing Immotion’s technology, Higginson said experiential installations are about more than just enhancing a visitor’s time at an attraction.

“Venues have got something that actually enhances the consumer journey and introduces really solid incremental revenues,” he said.

Immotion is on target to have 400 headsets in use by the end of the year, with a gaol to have 1,000 in operation by the end of 2020.

The company’s business model allows it to install the complete experience into venues free of charge to its owners. It then takes a share of the incremental revenue earned by the experience.

Higginson said that as public understanding and acceptance of VR increases, alongside recognition of the Immotion brand, the company is beginning to see repeat visitors.

Those visitors, Higginson said, could suggest a future in which the maturing technology not only enhances existing experiences but attracts a footfall all of its own.