Virtual Reality is Here — And Not as Cost Prohibitive as You Think
Peter Panda

Last week I sat in the front seat of my car and parasailed off a cliff in Hawaii. Then, I took a tour of Virginia Tech that included a ride on a drone so I could overlook the athletic complex from above.

Virtual reality is here, and it’s amazing.

My pal Kelly Queijo was showing me the app, which works with the Oculus Rift-type glasses and a smartphone, developed by her partner GoJourni. Kelly runs SmartCollegeVisit and is connecting college admissions, alumni and athletic departments with virtual reality tours to help increase their ability to attract recruits and donors.

The experience was quite immersive and far more technologically advanced than I’d anticipated. I felt like I was there. Selecting the next scene or part of campus to tour was simple. While I could immediately see how the experience might be improved, I was quite literally fooled into thinking I was standing on the beach in Hawaii, watching the sunset, surfing a killer wave or walking by the pylons on Virginia Tech’s campus.

For a business, even a small business, virtual reality can extend your customer experience and help convince people to come to you. It’s perfect for college admissions, as Kelly will tell you. But it’s also excellent for destinations, tourism and travel, restaurants and entertainment … any business that has an experience as part of its product can leverage virtual reality.

The good news is that technology is far enough along that it’s actually not that cost prohibitive. A simple tour or VR experience can run you as little as $15,000. While that’s a lot of money to many businesses, tapping into something cutting edge to make your brand stand out typically costs tens of thousands of dollars more.

The bad news is that most people still don’t have access to virtual reality headsets. But c’mon people! Bed Bath & Beyond sells them!

Virtual reality is one of those bells and whistles that has always seemed “nice to have” but impractical for me. Now that I’ve experienced it, I only want to experience it more, which is a sign that businesses should wise up and explore that option.

For the record, SmartCollegeVisit is an emerging company that helps college admissions offices market their campuses to high school seniors and conversely helps high school seniors determine what colleges to visit, going so far as to help them plan their trip, hotel, restaurants and the like. I serve on its board of advisors at Kelly’s request. She’s been a long-time member of my tribe of readers and friends online, and she asked me to serve last year.

Peter Panda

Pioneering social media panda bear Tagawa “Peter” Panda was born on a Chinese game reserve in 1969. He emigrated to the United States in 1987 speaking no English, with only the fur on his back and $97 stored in a Jansport fanny-pack wrapped around his waist.

In 2003 while searching for food on the campus of Washington University, he discovered a computer lab where he would ultimately teach himself web development, graphic design, and immerse himself into the growing digital media evolution that was erupting at the time.

With his trademark surly demeanor developed during beatings on his boat ride from China to the U.S., as well as having a penchant for eating vast quantities of bamboo, and enjoying Scotch and cigars, Peter is broadly recognized for coining the phrase “social media” in 2004. He joined Elasticity in late 2009 as the agency’s director of social media strategy and wildlife relations. Friend him on Facebook here.

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