With travel bans, quarantine enforcements, and not a place to drink or party, the experience economy is taking a massive hit due to the Coronavirus pandemic. A scroll through my Facebook feed reveals traditional brick-and-mortar establishments like yoga and dance studios teaching classes online, as well as bartenders demonstrating how to make popular cocktails for customers at home to replicate. While these steps have partially enabled consumers to participate in the experience economy, sipping a mojito solo on your coach (even if it tastes the same), will never beat enjoying the same cocktail at the funky bar down the street. But there is a way for customers to simultaneously dance salsa in quarantine and at the club: it’s called virtual reality.
It’s the aesthetic, the ambiance, the “vibe” that contributes to the roaring strength of the experience economy. As a result of the pandemic, this “vibe” has died; however, it can be revived––with virtual and augmented reality.
Let’s take a look at how the VR market has been doing (information courtesy of MarketWatch):
The global VR market is anticipated to reach $120.5 billion by 2026
Anticipated CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 42.4% between 2019 and 2026
North America leads the VR market, with 40% of the global VR share
Leading companies in the global VR market include: Google, Microsoft, Oculus VR, Samsung Electronics, Sony, and Autodesk Inc
Now getting back to the main contention: VR could potentially help a number of businesses in the experience economy get back on track. Let’s take a look at some use cases:
VR and Travel Apps: apps like Culture Trip, Cool Cousin (which I interned at, fun fact!), which provide customers with travel tips/advice via input from locals/natives, could utilize VR tech to create virtual tour experiences with set itineraries as if a real tour guide would take you there in real life. These apps could even integrate “post-pandemic” planning features that could enable customers to use VR as another tool to plan post-COVID19 adventures.
Instruction Studios: VR can make customers feel like their dancing in a studio, painting with an instructor, and doing stretches in a proper yoga room. This is probably the easiest application of VR, as these businesses have already taken the first step towards transforming their experiences into digital format (Facebook Live, Zoom conferences, etc).
Dining Experiences: can be augmented with VR to make beer drinkers feel like they’re in a bar and make customers eating food at home feel like they’re inside of a restaurant.
Exhibits and Showcases: museums and tech conferences, for example, can create fully online renditions of themselves, and have people explore cool new technologies and science exhibits by plugging into VR headsets.
Live Entertainment: celebrities, local bands, artists, and the like, can continue to perform their greatest hits at home, and enable fans to enjoy these shows front and center with virtual reality.
The above list provides a mere sample of the mass use case applicability that the VR industry brings to the experience economy at this particular time. That in-person “vibe” that we crave so deeply right now does not have to disappear––it needs to be reborn, and virtual reality can potentially help us get there.