ISSUE #67 – Virtual reality is altering how we interact with content, reshaping experiences in both B2B and B2C markets. Rebecca Assice (pictured below), Owner and Director of Virtual Room Asia Pacific, shares with us about the VR technologies, development journey, rates of adoption in Singapore, and what lies in the future, in this special on “The Rise of Immersive Experiences“.
Do tell us about the VR technology you are working with.
Virtual Room is one of the world’s first collaborative or multi-player VR experiences that provides a full 45-minute immersive adventure where you can move around your own dedicated game space. The Virtual Room experience is possible thanks to advancements in VR hardware as well as the game software we developed in-house.
From the hardware side, we use the HTC Vive – launched onto the market in 2016, this was the first consumer VR headset that provided players with free range movement. Players wear the headset in their own dedicated 3m x 3m room where they move around, bend down, pick up objects, throw objects etc. It’s this range of full motion which enables players to truly feel immersed in the virtual world – as whatever actions they are doing in the real world are replicated in the virtual world.
On the software side, there are many readily available VR experiences today. However, they usually lack two things:
- Multiplayer capability – most are single player or maximum two player experiences
- A full-length experience – most are short experiences lasting 5-10 minutes, whereas Virtual Room’s software is a 45-minute adventure
When developing the Virtual Room software, our team played all the existing multiplayer VR experiences and found their graphics were quite poor quality and often caused nausea and dizziness. The team at Virtual Room decided to create a far more superior product, with stunning visuals of places like ancient Egypt and the moon – where you really feel like you are physically in those locations and not in a computer game. The software also allows sophisticated collaboration between players i.e. they can pass objects to each other, work together to solve challenges and fully communicate as they would in the real world.
How has the development journey been and what do you make of rate of adoption in Singapore?
We launched Virtual Room in Singapore last October and one of our biggest challenges was that awareness of VR as an experience was virtually non-existent. Our experience also targets the mass market – i.e. friends, families (ages 10+) and corporate team building. It’s not actually designed for gamers (although they do still enjoy it). But it was very difficult to effectively convince the mass market to try VR which is seen as very high tech and the domain of hardcore gamers.
Traditional advertising was not very effective as people didn’t know what the experience was about –it’s very difficult to explain such an immersive experience via a few static images in an ad. Word of mouth is by far our most effective marketing tool – so it was critical for us to get people through the door and ensure they reviewed us on places like TripAdvisor and Google. Business slowly gained traction, but it wasn’t until we had a few competitors launch in Singapore that we really got a lot more popular. There are now three of us offering a multi-player VR experience in Singapore – so the market has developed quite quickly given we were the only ones to exist last October. All three businesses are getting more and more popular – even though we are still at the bottom end of the adoption curve, it’s quickly gaining momentum. Of course, once people get a taste for high quality VR they are very eager to come back and try all the options out there.
What lies in the future for Virtual Room?
We launched the business with only a single adventure (Time Travel Chapter 1) and this was a big limitation for us as there was no reason for our customers to return (although a surprising number did since they loved it so much and/or wanted to show it to other friends). Just last month we launched Time Travel Chapter 2 – which has received phenomenal feedback and meant a lot of our original customers are now returning.
Our future plans are therefore twofold:
- Developing more adventures, while ensuring we are at the forefront of high quality, collaborative VR experiences
- Expanding our footprint to become one of the leading providers of VR entertainment globally – the Asian based business has locations in Sydney and Singapore currently and will expand around the Asia Pacific region as fast as we can
Read also: The Rise of Immersive Experiences: An Interview with Manzalab
Interview with Rebecca Assice, Owner and Director of Virtual Room Asia Pacific
Published in FOCUS Magazine — Issue #3 2018 “The Innovation Issue”