Virtual reality (VR), once the work of science fiction, is quickly becoming a part of everyday life for tech-savvy consumers around the world. In fact, market analysts Topology Research Institute (TRI) estimated that as many as 14 million VR units will be shipped out in 2016.  

But despite its sudden surge in popularity, virtual reality has been around in one form for a few decades now, with the term for the technology first being coined in 1987, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica.  

However, thanks to recent advances in the VR world, industry giants such as Microsoft, Sony, Valve and Facebook have been able to take the technology to new heights, unlocking a world of possibilities for organisations looking for creative and innovative products to supplement their trade show exhibit.  

Just a few days ago, Microsoft unveiled the latest iteration of its VR product, the HoloLens, an untethered holographic computer that blends the virtual world with reality.  

You can see the HoloLens in action in the CNET YouTube video below:  

What will virtual reality be used for?  

As demonstrated in the video above, the potential for the gaming industry is huge. In fact, according to Jason Tsai, wearable device analyst at TRI's parent company TrendForce, it's one of the driving forces behind the growing adoption of VR.  

"Since VR device's strongest feature is providing users with an immersive audiovisual experience, its early application will be related to gaming."  

While gaming might be the most obvious use of VR, the tech is certainly not limited to entertainment. In the automotive sector, Ford is using VR to help vehicle designers evaluate cars that are still in the development phase. This has opened the door for global collaboration, as workers no longer have to be in the same physical region to experience the nuances of the vehicle. You can see the technology in action in the following YouTube video from Ford Asia Pacific:  

Besides the entertainment and automotive industries, Tech Republic noted seven other sectors that are already making use of VR:  

  • Military and law enforcement  
  • Healthcare  
  • Trades  
  • Space  
  • Education  
  • Tourism  
  • Advertising  

How can you use VR to boost brand engagement?  

As noted, there are myriad industries already making use of VR to improve their work processes. While bettering the internal workings of a company is always a good thing, VR might be just as valuable as a brand engagement tool. After all, it does provide users with a truly unique and memorable experience that few other devices can offer. The advantages are clear, but how might you integrate the technology into your exhibit's design?  

Well, given the versatility of VR, there are near countless ways your organisation you could use it a trade show or expo. Generally speaking, you'll focus on allowing prospects to experience first hand a simulation of your product or service.

At Proj-X, we've put this philosophy into practice with our Building Information Model (BIMx), which allows our clients to explore a three dimensional virtual representation of their branded environments, without relying on expensive third-party software. Effectively, our clients are able to 'walk' around the project and gain a better understanding of how their prospects will experience the space.  

While there are many advantages to integrating VR into your next display booth, you do need to have the tech clearly on display so that event-goers are aware of your point of difference. Ensure you have large screens alongside the VR headsets to display to onlookers what the users are seeing and feeling. This is sure to attract a crowd and give your booth staff the opportunity to strike up a rapport with potential clients.  

A real world example  

Air New Zealand put VR to effective use in late 2014 during an exhibition at Te Papa, an interactive museum located in Wellington. Visitors sat in a mock-up cabin and donned Oculus Rift headsets, which transformed the space into a digital tapestry of luxurious locations that the airline flies to – a Fijian beach, the Shanghai waterfront and lush New Zealand forests, to name but a few.  

Air New Zealand Head of Global Brand Jodi Williams explained how it could be used to create bespoke experiences for customers.  

"We've already seen how fast digital is evolving. For me the

[exciting] thing is the ability to control your own space, having more ability to tailor your experience," said Ms Williams, as quoted by  

You might not see the technology on your flights any time soon, but organisations who can make use of virtual reality in their trade show displays may be able to attract attention and increase their brand's exposure.