The Igloo has landed – British business takes ‘shared VR experience’ to the US

Igloo Vision, the Shropshire based shared virtual reality company, has opened operations in both the New York area and Los Angeles to increase sales in the US commercial VR market – which its founder says is at least three years behind the UK in terms of content and commercial application.

Igloo Vision makes 360o projection environments dubbed ‘Igloos’ that let groups share an immersive VR experience without the isolation of a headset. The company plans to use its early innovator position to build a bigger share of the global VR and AR market which is due to grow from $11.4bn in 2017 to $215bn by 2021. The US currently leads on VR spending globally.

With its shared VR approach costing up to 80% less than other solutions, Igloo Vision is seeing increased demand for its projection dome technology in the US region which already accounts for more than 50% of its revenue. Key to its US operations will be East and West coast demo facilities so that US customers can ‘experience before they buy’. Among Igloo’s customers are BP, the British MoD, Ford, Welsh Water, Vodafone and Marriott International.

Founder and MD of Igloo Vision Colin Yellowley, who will head up the US operations, said: “While the headset market is perfect for consumers and individuals, the commercial VR market needs something different and is changing rapidly from being an awkward and isolated experience to one where a business’ potential customers, partners or employees can sit relaxed or stand together and view and interact with it.

“Shared experience makes VR more engaging and more powerful – especially in commercial environments. We have a real opportunity here to be a home grown UK business who exports innovation and takes a leadership position in an exploding global market.”

Igloo Vision has gained competitive and price advantage using the principles of ‘frugal innovation’. By using off-the-shelf components to build its simple, reusable igloos, rather than taking a top down approach to creating bespoke 360o VR projection environment with expensive projectors and screens, it can massively reduce the entry level cost of using shared VR to from £millions to less than £100,000.

Igloo serves three key commercial VR applications – Simulation to immerse teams in any scenario; Experiences to engage, inspire or entertain; and Visualisation to bring design concepts to life. It has helped architects, construction companies and property developers to create virtual skyscrapers for future tenants to view or to understand how people will interact with the space before it’s built. Consumer and retail brands have employed Igloo Vision to transport customers to a virtual world where products and brands can be experienced. And the armed forces and oil companies use Igloos to run simulations and training for personnel.

MD Yellowley continued, “We’re continuing to see strong growth in the US market and the new offices will enable us to serve existing and new customers better.

US customers are now putting big budgets into creating 360o and 3D VR content, whereas the UK remains more cautious in its adoption. Yet the UK is still creating the world’s best VR content and the skills to do so remain here, at least for the time being.

“While many companies are just starting to understand how VR can work in a commercial environment, they do realise that it isn’t just the preserve of the gaming industry any more.”

Igloo Vision’s CEO, Dennis Wright, believes that the UK is at risk of losing its technological lead in VR. “The US market is investing heavily into VR technology, and as a leading supplier of VR projection technology we need to ensure that we’re at the heart of that investment. The UK has the best skills and content developers in the world. As a nation we need to adopt a US mentality and attitude to growth and success or risk losing out as the VR market develops further State side.”

Igloo’s US operations will also provide its growing base of US customers with technical support and on-going innovation for those who want to use shared VR.

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