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Virtual Reality is no longer just science fiction. Sony’s PlayStation VR headset has sold more than 1 million units since its launch, according to a report by CNBC. As virtual reality continues to grow, however, will it disrupt the digital signage industry? Is it possible that every 4K display will be replaced with a headset?

Lyle Bunn, dynamic media analyst and advisor, sees VR as an extension of digital signage.

“VR is ideally applied for individual engagement and so is a natural extension to digital signage, which best messages and engages audiences of many or a few. Each applies digital content in different ways and it is useful to promote a VR experience using digital signage or offer a user’s view to other members of the party or bystanders,” Bunn said in an email.

VR also doesn’t have to involve a headset. NEC Display Solutions recently teamed up with nine companies to create an immersive VR experience. The VR experience simulated an ocean with a shark, Mount Everest and Mars. It used a curved LCD video wall and directional audio that changed depending on if the customer was outside or inside.

Rich Ventura, vice president of business development and solutions at NEC Display Solutions, believes that the future of VR is not so much a one to one relationship but a one to many relationship. For example, if a customer is wearing a headset, they are the only ones who is experiencing the VR, but an immersive environment can affect many customers.

“If I walked into a Nordstrom, and someone said to me put this headset on, odds are pretty good I’m not gonna to do it,” Ventura said in an interview. However, if he walked into a Nordstrom and was instantly met with an immersive experience with 3D audio and immersive visuals, he would be more drawn in.

Ventura believes VR headsets may cause a minor threat to digital signage, but he doesn’t believe it has much of an application outside of gaming and amusement parks. For example, an amusement park could give people headsets to use during a ride to enhance the experience.

VR combined with digital signage, however, can create a variety of unique customer experiences. One example would be a virtual dressing room that lets customers try out different colors and styles of outfits. Bunn mentions that retailers could use VR to test out various store designs on customers to see which one they like the best. Ventura also points out the example of a war museum that could use VR digital signage to simulate the sounds and images of a battlefield as soon as the visitor walks into the exhibit.

“VR as a highly immersive experiencing will grow in the digital signage industry in areas of area and product visualization, gamification, education and brand engagement,” Bunn said. “VR adds a fun and wow factor that can disrupt, involve and delight patrons.”

VR digital signage also presents an interesting opportunity for customer specific content. Ventura mentions a few key possibilities, such as changing the content based on the way the customer is facing. Another example would be to identify the customer’s key demographical information and change the content based on that.

Ventura argues this presents a key value statement for retailers, since few retailers can cause something in their environment to change so quickly to instantly attract a customer.

Bunn emphasizes that retailers can use VR to test customer response to various store designs, so that they can create the best possible customer experience.

Image courtesy NEC Display Solutions
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