Virtual reality in Singapore: Technology brought to life with VizioFly
Like a dream come to life, VizioFly brings Virtual Reality to the masses with its services and we find out more from the Chief Business Officer
Virtual Reality is no longer the unrealistic dream that only lives in sci-fi movies. Instead, the concept has taken off around the world and many seem to have embraced it by including it capturing important moments or even to reach out to their target audience. We speak to Irwin Loh of VizioFly to find out more about their growing business and what it entails.
Could you share with us more about how VizioFly first came about?
4 years ago, my partner, Faizal, had begun as a hobbyist within the Virtual Reality (VR) space. Back then, Virtual Reality was only discussed in university research labs and had no traction in the wider commercial space.
However, in 2015, people started to approach Faizal for the execution of Virtual Reality projects and from then on, the pipeline of projects led to the inevitable. A hobby evolved into a company.
As a Chief Business Officer, what is your role in the company?
In the company, I take charge of the business strategy and direction of the firm. While carrying out business development work, I analyse the current state of the industry and areas where our firm can meaningful compete and lead. At the same time, due to my background as a Chartered Accountant, I care for the Finance functions of the firm.
We know that VizioFly is a media production company. Could you elaborate more on what VizioFly does?
While the Virtual Reality hardware arena is dominated by the big boys such as HTC, Oculus, Sony and Samsung, there is a distinct lack of virtual reality content. Sophisticated corporates are realizing the potential of Virtual Reality to achieve their business objectives, yet are unable to find relevant content. In such instances, they approach VizioFly for customized content.
VizioFly specializes in the creation of Virtual Reality content. Through the course of numerous client projects, we have developed the expertise to hold the hand of a client and bring him through the end-to-end process of creating their own content. This means that clients can look to us for conceptualizing, VR production and creating a mobile application for distributing the content.
In parallel, we also delve into Augmented Reality and have done projects for clients. Such projects typically involve smartphones interacting with physical objects. For example, a user would scan his smartphone camera over a floor plan and a 3D modelled blueprint emerges.
How did you get involved with the technological industry?
I had been involved in deep tech start-ups before VizioFly. One was in the realm of electrochemistry, another was in biomimetic sensors. In those start-ups, I assumed the role of leading business and operations.
Being already in deep tech, I was very much attracted to VizioFly’s work in Virtual Reality and after witnessing the quality of its technical work, I was honoured to be able to lead their business operations.
Could you describe augmented reality? And what is the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality?
Where Augmented Reality (AR) enhances the real world that we live in, VR transports a user out of the real world into a new, virtual world. This difference is in the level of ‘immersion’. In AR we can interact with an object via our computers or mobile devices. We remain very much in our own ‘world’; in VR we experience a total immersion into the new ‘virtual’ world.
For examples that can be easily related to, AR is exemplified by Pokémon Go where you catch Pokémons while still being in touch with the real world. VR can be exemplified by the immersive roller coaster rides where users lose sense of the real world.
How do you foresee augmented reality and 360 Virtual Reality videos being the next “big thing” in digital marketing?
We are particularly excited about 360 Virtual Reality videos. Its advantages lie within the novelty and authenticity of the experience. Many people are excited by being able to feel immersed within an experience instead of viewing it on a flat 2D screen, such immersion tugs at the emotional heartstrings. By giving users the autonomy to decide where they wish to look within the 360 film, it strongly enhances the authenticity. Users feel like they are there “live” and that the experience is raw and un-staged.
All this helps in explaining why studies have shown that 360 VR videos increase emotional and behavioural engagement levels. For the next 12 months, we foresee VR taking precedence over AR in the digital marketing space.
As for AR, we observe companies riding the Pokémon craze and using AR to move customers from the passive pit into the active arena. We are frequently in discussions with companies on how customers can use their smartphones to “interact” with the brand or its products, instead of merely watching advertisements. Such interactions can involve scanning a magazine advertisement and then have the product appear in 3D on the smartphone. Users can then engage with the product and manipulate it on their smartphone.
With the industry constantly undergoing changes, how does VizioFly keep up with the trends?
Of course, reading the news emerging from Silicon Valley and other VR hotspots is a must. So are industry conferences.
A critical way to keep up and even create local trends is by having conversations with potential customers. Virtual Reality is now a frontier market and new applications are being developed every day. Most will fizzle out, however, some will solve a key pain point and get established as a trend. Conversations are one of the best ways to find such pain points and see if VR can be the panacea.
Do you think virtual reality content has helped to attract the attention of consumers faster than traditional media forms such as advertisements?
This depends largely on how the virtual reality content is delivered to the public. Aside from having it showcased at public booths or walk-in offices, we have been recommending clients to encapsulate the content within mobile applications so as to allow easy dissemination. Even if the end user does not have VR hardware, he can still download the mobile application and view it on his mobile by toggling the non-VR mode. The public thus does not need to go to a booth or an office to try out the virtual experience.
By overcoming the distribution barriers, VR is able to leverage on its full potential and gain attention very quickly.
Tell us about your most memorable project to date.
It is a tussle between filming a wedding in virtual reality and filming the activities within an exotic palm oil plantation. We would go with the wedding.
This is the most memorable due to the glow of pleasure we saw in the couple when they could allow their guests to re-live their wedding in Virtual Reality. All viewers could experience the wedding as though they were literally there — they could see how the parents reacted as the bride and groom marched in, see the groom’s buddies shout and clap as he kissed the bride.
After the wedding experience was placed within the mobile application, the guests could watch it again in the Google Cardboard headsets that were earlier handed out as wedding gifts.
This was the most memorable due to the clear personal impact created. When we think of how one day, the blissful couple’s children can be immersed in their parents’ wedding, it does bring a tinge of prideful satisfaction.
What are the challenges or limitations that consumers are unaware of with virtual reality content and software development?
One challenge is that consumers are unaware of the strenuous difficulties in ensuring that a 360, VR video is well stitched and produced. Many imagine that it is just placing cameras, pressing the “record” button and then delivering the recorded footage to the client. They are unaware of the hours and days spent in editing, stitching, color grading and refinements. We thus have had to devote considerable time in helping customers to understand the workflow.
Another limitation of virtual reality is the current resolution of the films. In simple terms, we are able to capture the film in high resolution but when showing the content, current display technologies are unable to deliver such high resolutions. It is somewhat like taking a photo with a high-end DSLR and showing the photo on an iPhone 5. The picture quality will not be very high due to the limitations of the display screen. While the quality is reasonably clear, consumers who expect cinematic experiences within VR will be a little surprised and have to have their expectations set accordingly.
When you are not working with clients and exploring new ways to reach a target audience, what do you like to do in your free time?
Reading and experimenting on how to best transition the business from an entrepreneurship into a professionally managed business.