Businesses can get real value from virtual reality (VR) when they offer customers a "fully immersive virtual environment," according to Fabio Matsui, chief technology officer at Wire Stone, a digital agency that boasts a unique mix of strategists, creatives, programmers and data analysts. The agency has seven offices in the US and an eighth in Geneva, Switzerland.

Virtual reality is becoming a major part of digital experience transformation, Matsui said. It's a topic close to his heart: Matsui leads Wire Stone's technology innovation and execution. 

He provides guidance and technical oversight for the company's complex solutions and key accounts like Apple, Nike, Facebook and Boeing and is an executive sponsor and principle contributor to Wire Stone Labs. Before Wire Stone, he developed industrial process control and computer telephony systems for clients like Pepperidge Farms, Solvay, Dell Computers and IBM.

Matsui will discuss the intersection of digital experience and virtual reality at CMSWire's DX Summit this Nov. 14 through 16 at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago.

CMSWire sat down with him to learn more about the techniques, insights and technologies that have the potential to change the digital ecosystem. Tweet to Fabio Matsui at Wire Stone.

Virtual Reality Meets Digital Experience

Nicastro: What options do brands have for VR technologies? How do they differ?

Matsui: The field of VR is evolving very, very rapidly with new products and solutions being consistently released. From a headset perspective, solutions can be grouped into three main categories: high-end solutions (e.g. Oculus Rift, Sony PlayStation VR, HTC Vive), low-end solutions (e.g Google Cardboard) and middle-of-the-road options (e.g. Samsung Gear VR). The higher-end solutions typically require a powerful workstation but allow for very complex virtual environments. 

Low-end products rely on mobile phones, which limit the fidelity of experiences due to processing power and storage. Middle-of-the-road options also rely on mobile phones but require very specific devices and provide additional input options. Mixed reality, like Microsoft HoloLens, is an emerging technology where virtual 3D objects are overlaid onto real objects.

Nicastro: What are the biggest challenges to effectively using VR as a digital experience tool?

Matsui: Today’s storytellers are familiar with digital 2D delivery. Now, they need to learn how to tell stories where people are transported into a fully immersive virtual environment. Developing such 3D experiences will force content creators to learn new technologies and techniques, very similarly to how print designers learned how to become digital designers.

Nicastro: Are some industries better suited for using VR than others? If so, which ones?

Matsui: Every industry that needs to communicate a message will eventually use VR as a way to tell a story. Any brand that would like to transport people to places and experiences is a potential use case of VR. But like any new technology, there were natural early adopters. Gaming and 360 degree videos are great examples of that. Architecture design is already a particularly interesting and effective application that has been used today. It allows people to visualize and experience spaces before they are built.

Nicastro: What are some examples for how different types of brands can use VR with customers?

Matsui: Google Cardboard is an effective — and simple — technology that has really enabled the delivery of VR to the masses. For example, companies like Coca Cola and McDonald’s allow their customers to build VR goggles from their packaging materials. Companies in the entertainment industry can provide intimate experiences with their artists. New applications in training and product design are been created every day. The possibilities are endless. This is really fascinating technology and we’re just at the cusp.

Nicastro: Where do you think VR will be in five years?

Matsui: VR is picking up so much pace, it’s almost impossible to predict where it will be in five years. But there are a few obvious facets that can be improved. One example is pixel density for VR displays. Although 1080p (a TV with 1080 rows and 1920 columns of pixels) and 4K (a TV with 2160 rows and 3840 columns of pixels)
work great for flat panels, people think the VR image is a little blurred. I foresee improved optics and displays that will be designed specifically for VR.

Some people experience motion sickness. Improvements in motion tracking and experience design will mitigate this issue.

VR today is a very solitary activity: only the person wearing the headset is having the experience. Mixed reality is a natural evolution to VR because it will mix the real and the virtual without completely covering your eyes. It will allow for a more social experience, including eye contact.

Content will evolve. Today’s tools allow us to create great VR experiences now, so it is just a matter of time before the kid next door is going to create the next viral VR experience.

Nicastro: Where do you live and what do you like doing for fun there?

Matsui: I live in Folsom, Calif. — and no, I’m not in prison. I love to bike in and around Folsom because if I want to go on the flat roads, I go west. If I want the hills, I turn east.