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If someone hands you two cans of spray paint—and those cans hold an infinite array of colors, shapes, and textures—and grants you permission to graffiti an entire cityscape wall…what would you create? No doubt you’d spray paint your name in fuchsia with plenty of stars and curly cues right?! Not only did I do JUST THAT along a wall over in Chicago’s Fulton Market, but I walked right through each letter and shape, too. My colleagues walked through rainforests and changed tires on cars…Yes this excitement and more captivated our audience of Virtual Reality Enthusiasts at WunderLand’s most recent CIDD Meetup held over at the friendly, welcoming loft of Next/Now, a leader in the digital marketing experiential space here in Chicago’s West Loop.

The response to our VR/AR event’s invitations ranged from immediate “Yes, count me in!” to more tempered, “Eh, it’s just a fad.” However the crowded room clearly showed there is a real interest in how VR/AR can be leveraged beyond gaming to build a brand’s experience and message. The onsite VR experiences Next/Now’s staff graciously provided were educational, immersive, and certainly cool to try out. The crowd was open and raring to learn more from our panelists that included thought leaders in the Virtual and Augmented Reality space including Alan Hughes, Founder of Next/Now; Davinder Kohli, Founder of XentStudios; Rob McCutcheon, Sr. Marketing Manager at Gatorade; and Maureen Boyle Senior Director, Creative Services & Events at Trunk Club. Moderated by WunderLand’s managing director, Kristen Storey, the event included practical use cases of how AR/VR is being integrated into digital, branded experiences across industries such as retail, medical, and education.

image-VR2.jpgNext/Now’s co-founder, Alan Hughes, is a passionate advocate of VR experiences that drive measurable interactions with consumers. His mission is to create VR experiences that drive a company’s messaging and branding through immersive and experiential means. Retailers are leveraging VR to deepen its touch with consumers but issues of practicality stand in the way for VR to become a regular occurrence in retail environments. Current headsets provide deep, immersive experiences but are tied to bulky and powerful processors. The act of strapping on a bulky headset or walking into a green room box may preclude some folks. In the privacy of your own home, or the basement of a fellow gamer, being tied to a powerful processor and looking, well, Space Age with a big black, heavy head set on is more a way to the means of the game experience. How will VR function in the reality of a brightly lit retail environment where large processors aren’t available or there are space limitations? VR needs to provide compelling, elegant, and immersive content to entice shoppers to strap into the technology and build trust and rapport with the brand offering. Designers are fast at work passionately leveraging 3D skills such as  Maya, Cinema 4D, and StudioMax to create cocoon environments whisking you away to a graffiti sidewalk scape, to a rainforest jungle, or to a make-up aisle where consumers can select just the right shade of shadow to fix the smudge the VR headset just made. VR is moving fast to change retail and a consumer’s every day experience. Where will VR take you and your brand next?

Thank you to the welcoming, smart, and innovative folks at Next/Now for graciously opening their doors and technology to WunderLand and our guests. Thank you to our speakers for providing insight into this technology to our interested and vibrant community.

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