I love it when I hear the question, “is that even possible?” I get asked this question a lot, whether from a coworker, a client, or even my friends. This question, to me, incites a challenge–one that I am always more than ready to accept! With enough time, YouTube, and energy drinks, anything is possible.
At OGK, we are constantly pushing the boundary of what’s possible, and finding new ways to add that “wow” factor to our work. Specifically, in the user experience realm, we are always experimenting with new ways to immerse our clients and their customers in experiences that they won’t want to walk away from. Our big experiment during lockdown was using game engines to create detailed interactive experiences for our clients across a number of platforms. Once we were back in the office, we went a step further. We’ve been using Unreal Engine and the Oculus Quest to dive into the world of Virtual Reality.
Our Arsenal: Unreal Engine and Unity
We started creating immersive 3D experiences for our clients using Unreal Engine and Unity in 2020 to show off interior concepts, put new brands in context in interactive environments, and to create other interactive experiences. We found that presenting these experiences on a big screen with a mouse and keyboard was a great way to show off a space or an interior concept, but was lacking for things like products and smaller packaging. Up to this point, we had been creating photo-realistic renderings for presentations and using Unreal Engine to allow clients to move around their products on the big screen to get an idea of our vision, but this wasn’t dynamic enough. We wanted our clients to be able to pick up their product, hold it up to their face, move it around in the light, and see the different materials and treatments in real time. A rendered animation or visualization on a screen just didn’t cut it.
Up to the challenge: Virtual Reality Experiences
In February, we were challenged to create a template environment for OGK where the client could pick up their product or packaging, hold it up to their face, play with it, or throw it across the room if they wanted to, all before it went into production. To us, just showing images of new branded packaging wasn’t good enough, so we were quickly swept into the world of VR. Every member of our team spent some part of the day with an Oculus strapped to their head, pawing at the air as they played with every iteration of the developing environment. After a couple weeks, we had a result that we were excited enough to demo on our newest client, FROPRO. The environment that we created was a dreamy version of our conference room, since that is where we would be jacking the client into the matrix, and we wanted the dimensions of the space in VR to match the space in real life. We built our template so that we could drop any 3D model into the room and quickly set up it’s interactivity.
For FROPRO, we built a scale model of their Whole Foods display in 3D and dropped it into the map. We filled the display with their boxes exactly the way that they are laid out in the store and created a collision structure that would mimic their actual display boxes so it really felt like you were lifting the product up out of its box. You could even drop it right back in when you were done (or throw it across the room which for some reason was more popular). Finally, all of this was skinned with the new packaging that was designed by the creative team, textured and mapped to show every little detail of the print treatments that we were proposing.
Ultimately, our experiment was a success, resulting in the FROPRO co-founder’s signature catchphrase “THIS IS AWESOME” as he maneuvered our conference room with the Oculus strapped to his head. The entire FROPRO team was excited to take a turn picking up their new packaging, turning it around, looking at how the foil shined in the light, throwing boxes across the room, and wreaking general havoc. One of the key factors of VR is that it’s not only a great visual tool, it’s fun too! You get to pick up your product and play with it, which keeps the meeting light, keeps the client entertained, and ultimately helps to sell your concepts.
Where are we going next with 3D?
Virtual Reality is an impressive tool that we believe everyone interested in user experience should get involved in. As we continue to create video game inspired webGL experiences and archviz interior walkthroughs, we are finding more and more ways to utilize VR for our clients. We are excited about the opportunities to integrate VR into web interactions as the technology becomes more household-common. Our next adventure is mobile-ready augmented reality, and building AR experiences into mobile websites. The goal is to have a hologram of our founders give a tour of our office for newcomers in augmented reality. The guests will scan a QR code in our elevator which will open the experience in the browser on their mobile device. Per usual, we get asked “is that even possible?” We don’t know if or how this will be possible yet, but we’re certain that with a little more caffeine, we’ll figure it out. Now let’s get back to work!