February 1, 2016
Will 2016 (finally) be the year of virtual reality? As consumer uses from gaming to Google Cardboard proliferate, it just might be. But for Bloomberg’s Global Commercial Creative Director Allan Wai and his brand-focused team, VR has already arrived.
That’s because Wai’s team used VR as an integral part of their design process for the only sponsored “green room” in cable business news, which launched this morning. Here’s an inside look at what they learned about using VR along the way.
Top: 3-D schematic of the green room. Middle: left, prototype rendering; right, under the goggles. Bottom: the green room on launch day.
VR feeds creativity. “The first time I put the goggles on, I was like, oh, yup!” Wai said. “You could play with scale, you could be really conscious of how things would read on camera, you could take a few steps forward and your perspective would shift.”
For the brief, Wai and his team needed to completely re-imagine the green room for Bloomberg’s flagship program Bloomberg <GO> as a first-to-market experience for Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), which was creating a new brand identity after separating from HP. The redesigned space would host a daily flow of newsmakers (recent Bloomberg <GO> guests include Disney Chairman & CEO Bob Iger, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Patriots QB Tom Brady, and many more). It would also furnish the environment for a new, HPE-sponsored, digital-only series called “Inspire <GO>,” capturing behind-the-scenes insight from guests after their TV studio appearances.
All that added up to what Bloomberg Media’s Chief Revenue and Client Partnerships Officer Paul Caine called a “truly groundbreaking” collaboration. No pressure. VR offered a game-changing tool: “HPE gave us a lot of freedom, and it was really exciting to be involved with the brand as it was launching. We tried a lot of things. Sometimes we went too far,” Wai said. “VR helped us make the right decisions.”
When the headset goes on, the focus changes. Instead of decks or presentation boards, the Bloomberg team took VR goggles to meetings with HPE. That took the focus off specific design details and reoriented it toward the big picture. VR “brings that sense of wonder into it,” Wai said. “You’re not solely looking at the design; you’re understanding the whole space.”
Starting from scratch with a room Wai described as “cavernous,” the team worked to learn the HPE brand and refine the vision, rebuilding in 3-D what had been designed 2-D. Aiming for the feel of an executive lounge that would be unmistakably HPE, VR was a perfect tool for pre-visualization. No need to order furniture or build walls to find out how it would change the feel of the room.
Being able to share an immersive experience also fostered communication, bringing everyone into the green room design process. “It was a great opportunity for two technology companies to speak to each other,” Wai said. “They really understood the space as we did, and we were aligned in terms of the broader vision. It was a real ‘a-ha’ moment.”
VR boosts teamwork. When it came time to move from the virtual to the real in constructing the space, VR left little room for miscommunication. When you can virtually walk through a room and turn 360 and look up and down, you know where things are supposed to go. Wai’s team mobilized departments across the organization with VR, too: goggles replaced meetings in conversations with Bloomberg <GO> producers, broadcast operations, facilities and fabricators. The end result, pictured above, includes HPE-created artwork and looping motion graphics, screen-tested colors and patterns, high-end Italian-made furnishings and a custom carpet, among other design elements.
And, there’s more to come. As Wai’s team worked to create the virtual green room, they also explored a more complicated, dynamic VR space — one that would allow viewers to virtually pick up and move furniture, for example, or touch a button to see different artwork options. “It’s very possible to keep pushing those limits to see how we can bring even more value to design,” Wai said. He can’t wait.