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Virtual Reality is the future of factory tours

During my trips to different factories, I always hear the same thing from production managers: customer is more likely to buy from them when they see how the product is made. Therefore, traditionally factory tours have been an important customer engagement method. However, they are not without their problems. They can cause production interruptions, accidents, increase the risk for infections among other things. Not to mention that often factories are located so far away that travelling isn’t really an option. 

How can you engage your customer as efficiently as before with physical factory tours but without risk and time-consuming travelling?

Here comes virtual reality

One of the biggest benefits of virtual reality (VR) is the feeling of physical presence. You don’t just see it, you experience it. This is also the reason why memory retention after a VR experience is higher when compared to video or text-based learning materials. 

With the help of virtual reality, the visitor can be directly transported to company’s production facilities through 360° stereoscopic images and videos. Stereoscopy is a technique used to enable a three-dimensional effect, adding an illusion of depth to a flat image. This means that the visitor sees different environments as he would in real life: a table that is located two meters away from him will also look like that. The feeling of physical presence can also be enhanced by adding noises from the factory. 

360° stereoscopic photos are captured with a round camera. The device is familiar to many from the Google Street View car. 

Safety first

Physical factory tours will always have some element of risk attached to them. There are a lot of moving pieces, and something can always go wrong. Whereas virtual reality is completely risk-free and safe. You can’t slip on an oil spill or get your fingers pinched in a door in virtual reality, but you will nevertheless get the same engaging visiting experience as you would normally. In fact, sometimes the experience is even better because you can go to places that normally would be inaccessible. 

A great example of this is the Virtual Punkaharju Factory Tour we made for Metsä Group where the visitor is transported e.g. next to a huge saw grapple. In addition, the visiting experience can be enhanced with a professional voice-over and hotspots that contain additional information about environment. With the use of an intuitive menu, visitors can easily navigate inside the factory and view things that interest them.

A screenshot taken from Metsä Group’s Punkaharju Factory Tour. This photo has been taken on top of a lathe and hotpots have added to give additional information about the machine to the visitor. 

The only limit is your imagination

The possibilities with VR Tours are endless. On top of interactive 360° stereoscopic photos and videos, you can add a lot of cool elements that make the tour a lot more engaging and fun. One of these elements is the virtual lobby. Within the virtual lobby the visitor can freely move around and, for example, look at statistics about the company. 

Screenshot from the Metsä Group’s virtual lobby. Unlike with stereoscopic photos you can freely move within the space and look at things from different angles enhancing the visiting experience even further. In this virtual lobby you can find a 3D map with all Metsä Group’s locations, company logos and tour instructions. 

On top of virtual spaces, company’s operations and machinery can also be modelled and animated. This gives the visitor a detailed view on how things work within the factory. For example, the operating principle of a machine can be revealed by dissembling it with the use of 3D-animation. Or the visitors can be given the control of a machine, really giving them an unforgettable visiting experience.

What is VR like?

There are still a lot of misconceptions regarding virtual reality. Many think it’s a gimmick and you will just end up feeling nauseous afterwards. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Almost everyone who is brave enough to try virtual reality is immediately convinced about the technology’s capabilities. According to an American study consumers are more likely to buy from brands that utilize VR. In addition, virtual reality was shown to lift brand equity, brand engagement, purchase intent and created an emotional reaction within the respondents. 91% of the respondents said that the informational video shown to them in VR was a positive experience. 

Emotions connected to VR.

How to utilize virtual reality?

Metsä Group decided to put their Virtual Tour in the lobby of their Helsinki headquarters where visitors can familiarize themselves with the Punkaharju factory at their own pace. Moreover, the company’s sales people have been using the solution as an engagement tool for potential clients and some of our customers use it in exhibitions. There are many ways to utilize VR!

Interested? Contact today!