This is me. The little robot. I am looking out of its eyes and it feels exactly as if I am teetering on the edge of a wooden platform 1000 feet above Boston. The Charles River is off to my left.
I’m a boring looking robot. I haven’t customized my avatar yet. But I wanted to show you what you’ll look like when you are first “spawned.” That hand up in the air? I’m holding my Oculus Go controller up to make that happen. If I click its trigger, the fingers wave hello. In fact, that’s how folks in social VR often greet each other, with a friendly wave of the hand. Just like real-life. Also, see my head slightly tilted to my right? Our heads move all the time, nodding, gazing, looking up and to the left (or is it the right) when we’re trying to remember something. Again, just like real-life.
Later, I’ll tell you where the stuff around me and behind me (the VR “content”) came from and how I put it together. And I’m sure to mention again the over forty Health Systems Chat in Social VR events I’ve hosted. But first, let’s talk about virtual reality and marketing, including content marketing.
Consider this milestone. Augmented World Expo, the “biggest conference and expo for people involved in Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Wearable Technology,” is celebrating its 10th annual anniversary, and adding it’s first-ever marketing and sales track.
Virtual reality is a form of content. Traditionally, marketing content has been the written word. Ten years ago I started a blog (wareflo.com) about healthcare workflow and workflow technology. It now has almost a third of a million words. I’ve written lots of white papers for vendors (sometimes anonymously). But there are as many kinds of content as there are forms of media, such as images, video, and interactive multimedia. Webinars (which I’ve also given a lot) are another form of popular content in healthcare and IT marketing.
Virtual reality is also content, albeit a special and relatively new form of content, for marketers to understand and leverage. Consider this diagram from A History of Content Management Systems:
Also consider this, from How to Get the Most out of Your Content Tech Stack (and note one my other obsessions, business process management, I’ll explore the VR/workflow connection in a future post)
A bit further below, I’ve appended some great articles on virtual reality and marketing. Here are some phrases from those articles.
- Don’t just create content, create experience
- Emotional journeys
- Sensory impact
- Story living, not storytelling
- 100% of attention
- Flexibility (from 360 photos & videos to game engine-driven interactions)
- Transportive (example: my social VR event aboard the International Space Station)
I hope you can see some opportunities for healthcare and IT marketing in those phrases!
Believe it or not, the VR headset turned 50 years old last year. VR, like other now popular trends in healthcare and health IT, such as artificial intelligence, has had multiple booms and busts. Time will tell whether this is VR’s AI-like moment. But consider these facts (from What is a VR marketing?):
- VR industry to hit $33.90 billion by 2022
- Sold VR headsets to reach 82 million by 2020
- VR users last year: 171 million (up from 200K in 2014)
- 62% consumers feel more engaged with brands sponsoring VR experiences
- 71% consumers perceive brands using VR as “forward-thinking”
Are healthcare and IT consumers and prosumers more or less representative of these numbers? My gut tells me, prosumers yes, perhaps even a bit ahead of the curve, but consumers, no, but not far behind, and perhaps, about to catch up in a big way. Many VR enthusiasts feel that healthcare is the biggest opportunity for VR applications.
Anyway, check out these excellent articles about VR and marketing. They aren’t healthcare or IT specific, but I’m sure what you’ll see many of the same themes of the upcoming Healthcare & Health IT Marketing Conference.
- How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy for Virtual Reality
- Six Reasons Why Marketers And Brands Need VR
- 10 Best Uses Of Virtual Reality VR Marketing (2019)
- What is a VR marketing and how brands are using Virtual Reality in their marketing strategies: 7 Powerful Tips For Getting Started With VR Marketing
- Immersive technologies: a big boost for your marketing strategies
- RSVP this May 8th Webinar: ROI for VR/AR in Advertising and Marketing + Monetization
The following are not about VR and marketing per se, but seemed relevant to me:
- The Role of Immersion and Narrative in Mediated Presence: The Virtual Hospital Experience
- Effects of Social and Spatial Presence on Engagement in a 3D Virtual Reality Environment: An Empirical Investigation
- Empathy and embodied experience in virtual environment: To what extent can virtual reality stimulate empathy and embodied experience?
Now, about that little robot and the VR content around it…
I used a simple-to-operate VR content editor called Spoke to create a Mozilla Hubs social VR event space. I usually use the AltspaceVR platform, relying on their WYSIWYG “World Editor.” I prefer AltspaceVR because it is a more fully-featured social media platform. I am friends (in the Facebook and Twitter follower sense) with hundreds of other social VR lovers. When I go “in-world” I can see who is home or online, and they can see the same about me. We often stop in to see what each other is up to, which often is creating VR content. Often this is about customizing their worlds to entertain themselves and their friends. If you love cats, you create Cat World, in which to celebrate cats, including animated 3D cats! I spend a lot of time creating worlds in which to hold my every-other-week Health Systems Chat in Social VR events. And folks keep popping in to see what I’m up to. Sometimes they’ve been to a previous HSC-SVR event. Sometimes they just happened to be online and see that I’m online too.
Mozilla Hubs has almost none of the above. You can’t friend people. You can’t see who’s online. You can’t schedule future events. But Mozilla Hubs does several things that AltspaceVR does not do (yet). It works with inexpensive Google Cardboard headsets (as inexpensive as the dozens of 99 cent folding VR goggles I gave away last year). And it works in a non-VR web browser mode (Chrome or Firefox). I’ve occasionally spun up a social VR event space during tweetchats and invited folks to participate, in order to give them a taste of social VR. Some of those folks have gone on to join AltspaceVR for the more fullsome social VR experience.
For the purposes of this blog post, what Hubs and AltspaceVR have in common is VR content creating and sharing it with others in real-time. If you’ll refer back to the photo of me, the robot, around the periphery you’ll notice what is called a “skybox.” This is 360 spherical aerial photo I found of Boston. I am teetering on the edge of what appears to be a wooden floor. I found this floor on the popular 3D object-sharing website called SketchFab. Behind me is a hot air balloon that I also found. To my right and behind me are some images (workflow, 3D-printing, and social VR themed) I uploaded and positioned on the periphery of the platform. I then clicked “Publish,” waited a few moments, and was returned a link, which, if clicked in Chrome or Firefox, takes me into the shareable VR event space. If I have a VR headset, it seems like I am standing there, looking around, down at Boston, up at the hot air balloon. If I send the link to someone or tweet it out and someone joins me, they appear as a robot avatar, toward who I can move and speak. Robots appear in random colors so you can distinguish participants. Whatever name they have chosen for themselves appears floating over their heads. In this case, my name is Chuck-wareFLO-socialVR.
What is it like in social VR? Sometimes a bit chaotic! Just like in real-life. Sometimes everyone speaks at once, and you have to organically self-organize and allow everyone their turn. Just like in real-life. And sometimes weird but fun stuff happens, such as in this short video from a recent HSC-SVR event. You can hear the chaos and self-organization, and then you can see me (blue shirt) fly off to the Sun to take a selfie of everyone beneath me.
I hope you’ll join me in social virtual reality sometime! It’s fun. I’ll introduce you to a bunch of new people. And it just might become another arrow in your quiver of healthcare & IT marketing arrows!
See you at the Healthcare & IT Marketing Conference, online of course! Last year I live-streamed 360 video from the HITMC Awards ceremony. If you watch while wearing a VR headset, you feel as if you are actually present (albeit 9-feet tall standing and between the audience and the stage!).
P.S. Subscribe to Health Systems Chat to find out about all of the social virtual reality events hosted by Chuck Webster, MD, MS (AI), MS (Industrial Engineering), @wareFLO https://twitter.com/wareflo on Twitter. Let’s explore and discuss how our healthcare system is put together and works (or doesn’t!). Its workflows! And how VR can help! Patient? You’re the expert! Bring your personal story to improve healthcare for everyone!