Reebok commissioned a creative marketing agency to produce a virtual reality ice hockey experience and was "blown away" by the results – and so was our reporter.

There has been a great deal of excitement about VR in recent months, with the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear and HTC Vive making headlines.

The industry could be worth $150 billion by 2020, according to some estimates, with the tech tipped to go mobile by the end of the year.

Sportswear manufacturer Reebok asked Leeds-based Savvy to help it embrace the new technology.

“At Reebok, we’re constantly looking to innovate and embrace new technology, especially when it comes to engaging with our consumers,” senior brand strategy manager Danielle Larouco told BusinessCloud.

“So, when we discovered the potential of virtual reality, we wanted to explore this further and see what we can do.”

It was this curiosity, as with many businesses, that lead to them trying a 360 movie test project - a film experience that lets the viewer look around the scene as if they were physically present.

“We were blown away by the immersive nature of the content,” says Larouco.

“It gets the viewer straight to the heart of the action, giving you the feeling you only get when watching sport in person or interacting with friends.

“We never thought we could have that powerful connection with our brand’s fans. Now we know we can.”

Savvy digital development director Ben Stoney added a note of caution, saying that VR won’t be right for every firm.

So how did BusinessCloud writer Katherine Lofthouse find her stint in the NHL?

After meeting with Flipbook’s creative director Ben Haworth – whose company designed the graphics for Savvy – she found herself “cursing” him after donning the Samsung Gear headset.

“Strapped in like RoboCop, I was given a vibrating backpack, a pair of headphones and a headset for the experience,” she explains.

“It sounds hardware-heavy, but once the graphics revved up it was easy to focus on the experience instead.

“This was partly, at least, because I was busy freefalling eyeballs-first onto an ice hockey pitch.

“I was immediately bombarded on all sides; huge, athletic men and hockey pucks flew at me as I flailed about and tried to dodge the things that were moving toward my face at speed.” 

Katherine with Ben Haworth of Flipbook Studio

Flipbook Studio, which describes itself as ‘a collective of directors, producers, designers, writers and artists who specialise in story telling through the medium of animation and visual effects’, then gave her another VR experience.

“After a few minutes of being more graceful on ice than I’ll ever hope to be in real life, I was dropped into a garage, circling a car that I'm reliably told is a BMW i8,” she continues.

“All I knew at the time was that it was so fancy I was relieved that I had no possibility of damaging it. 

“The simulation moved me into the driver's seat and I was able to look around, pressing my nose up?against the virtual window.

“Virtual reality can give you experiences you would never otherwise have.”

Haworth added that most people usually either become completely transfixed or start freaking out with excitement during the simulations – and Katherine says she experienced both sensations. 

VR is giving many businesses real opportunities : office and retail space provider Bruntwood, for example, is driving up viewings by using VR to show off its properties.

And Virtalis technical director Andy Connell told BusinessCloud that the power of VR can convert even the biggest sceptic into a believer as they realise how the technology can improve their bottom line.

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