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Make virtual experiences tangible with immersive technology

Darshan Shankhavaram
20 Jun 2022

An immersive experience doesn’t have to be all about the metaverse, for which the many potential use cases are only just emerging. Rather, an immersive experience today is the precursor of the metaverse.

From immersive e-gaming to digital collectables, we’re seeing more and more interaction between the virtual and physical worlds. The potential for disruption across multiple sectors is huge, especially as young people who were born digital increase their buying power and see the metaverse as simply “normal.”

But slow down! Let’s not run before we can walk. An immersive experience doesn’t have to be all about the metaverse, for which the many potential use cases are only just emerging. Rather, an immersive experience today is the precursor of the metaverse. It is where established customer experience models are being upended with the aid of flat, natural, and extended-reality interfaces and sensor technologies – think virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR).

A differentiating experience

In our new paper The Future of Experiences is Immersive, we look at the business case for creating an immersive experience in a number of sectors. This is largely built on differentiation in a crowded market where current customer experience initiatives have become stale. Beyond this differentiation, other benefits include lower service costs and the reduction of costly returns due to customers being able to immerse themselves in a product (see below) before they buy. Further, as we note in our paper, research by Apple has found customers are 11 times more likely to buy furniture if they can see it in a home environment via AR.

The following points offer a flavor of the immersive use cases described in our paper. They embrace both extended reality and escapes, the two “superpowers” of immersive experiences.

  • Try before you buy (extended reality): Capgemini worked with a specialist denim retailer to create an experience that allowed people to choose a body type from a wide range of models who had been photographed from multiple angles. With their body type avatar, the customer could virtually try on every item in the store and see how it looked before they made their purchase.
  • Take a seat (extended reality): You want to buy a new chair, but will it fit your home space and décor? IKEA was at the forefront of retail technology when it launched its IKEA Place app so that customers could place digital furniture anywhere. They’ve gone even further since, offering customers a broader “planner” capability through which they can visualize entire rooms.
  • Make an exhibition of yourself (escapes): The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art worked with frog, part of the Capgemini Group, to create an immersive experience for its exhibition of surrealist artist René Magritte’s work. This enabled visitor interaction as well as a deeper understanding of both Magritte’s work and his process. The solution challenged the perception of reality, for example with a visitor’s own image appearing in a Magritte painting as they walked past.
  • Distraction therapy (escapes): frog partnered with a burn ward in San Francisco to develop a new VR-enabled therapy for severe burn victims, for whom the process of daily bandage changing is a necessary yet extremely painful ordeal. It provided a clear use case for the distracting power of VR.
  • The perfect coffee blend (escapes): Beyond customer engagement, an escape experience can be hugely effective in training and equipping employees for future work situations. For example, Capgemini built a training environment for a leading coffee chain utilizing AR. It not only replicated coffee machines and the store layouts but also created hundreds of scenarios – even down to difficult (or, let’s say, caffeine-starved) customers, enabling new baristas to learn their trade without the added pressure of live customers.

Our paper offers several more use cases for the power of an immersive experience in the workplace. It argues that immersive plays an important role in the employee experience across the full product lifecycle: engineering, design and prototyping, simulation, assembly and quality control operations, maintenance remote expertise, after-sales, and customer services.

Whether for employees or customers, more brands are leveraging technology to create natural and intuitive experiences at various touchpoints. The result is engagement that is not only personalized but also goes above and beyond in terms of convenience and sensory appeal.