TECHNOLOGY

Can Virtual Reality Increase Revenues in Southeast Asia?

It’s not just for fun and games

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BY Ezra Ferraz - 04 May 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Though virtual reality may be most closely associated with gaming, the technology has many applications beyond leisure. Chibot, based out of the Philippines, is bringing VR to the real estate market, for example. It began with the experiences of CEO Delfin Joseph “DJ” Baylon.

At the time, he felt the traditional way of rendering architectural visualizations was too slow and inefficient at making clients “feel” the space. Baylon realized that game engines could enhance this process of visualization.

“Rather than having the audience view flat renderings that require a great deal of time to produce, the viewers can actually interact and immerse themselves in it if you use a game engine just as you would when playing games,” Baylon says.

From there, Baylon made a demo and recruited CG artists, programmers, and Jay Jaboneta, the founder of Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, to head Chibot’s marketing. Though some may assume the biggest challenge of a start-up like Chibot is the technology, it’s actually market education, given the industry is still in its infancy.

“We feel that in the Philippines, the market is still looking at proof-of-concept (POC) studies and not really incorporating VR in their operational and marketing budgets. Right now, we are building strong relationships with creative, media, and advertising agencies to help us educate the market about the potential of VR technology,” Baylon says.

The use cases of Chibot would seem to have a direct impact on a company’s bottom line. For instance, property developers could enable customers to experience their pre-built properties - be it a condominium or apartment - with virtual reality. Such visualizations could be much more persuasive than an artist’s rendering in a brochure.

“We had this project with Profriends, one of the leading property developers in the Philippines, wherein they were able to sell overseas by letting buyers experience their properties in VR,” he says, adding that the technology not only increased leads, but actual sales.  

 

Market expansion

Chibot now offers a suite of services, everything from retail, storytelling, and virtual reality to game development and product visualization. “Eventually, we targeted other industries too such as banking, training, healthcare, and others when we realized that the applications of VR are endless,” Baylon says.

Baylon says that the biggest concern for prospective clients is the price. “Building something on this technology requires skilled CG artists and coders on top of project managers. Programming and content development is also quite different to standard production workflows so it not only takes really good talent to create the VR content but it also takes some time to produce,” he says.

He hopes to eventually bring down Chibot’s prices through scale. As more companies engage them and as the virtual reality technology progresses, they can more easily lower their asking rates. This task is of course easier said than done.

Baylon says that the biggest challenge remains finding organizations that would be willing to experiment with Chibot. “Most of the companies we approach are still hesitant to invest in VR and that is a big challenge for us. That’s why we’re doing a lot of market education and showcasing examples from abroad too. We’re also part of VR Philippines, an association of VR industry players in the country,” he says.

Despite these challenges, Baylon remains faithful that virtual reality will not just be a fixture for consumers, but for enterprises as well. He believes VR will enable a deeper connection between people and brands, allow for a greater level of personalization, and democratize experiences.

“And what does better experience mean for companies?” he asks. “It means more business and brings you closer to your customers.”