Viewing business through a VR lens
BELFAST virtual reality specialists Immersonal is planning a major restructuring of the company after a year of rapid growth.
The firm was set up two years ago as a sister company of Sentireal, a UK leader in virtual and augmented reality software development.
And now both companies are to operate under the Immersonal banner as they expand their teams to meet demand from local, national and international clients.
Immersonal has secured multiple six figure contracts in this its second year of trading thanks to its unique software platform which allows non-tech people to create their own virtual reality experiences, as simply as a Powerpoint presentation, that can then be used for everything from staff and customer training to marketing.
In April, the company secured a contract with the Scottish government for a ground-breaking application which allows victims of crime to have a virtual walk-through of a court before the trial, helping to minimise the trauma of giving evidence.
The technology is currently being rolled out to all 52 Scottish courts.
Many of the firm’s contracts are confidential, as organisations across the globe seek to gain a competitive advantage using the company’s unique platform.
Immersonal is at the cutting edge of virtual reality development after creating a unique platform which has made the technology more affordable and accessible to any business.
Chief executive Tom Houston says: “Three to four years ago people were talking about how virtual reality was going to be the next big thing, but it was a bit of a false dawn.
“While the cost of VR headsets like the Oculus Quest fell to an affordable level, the development of applications remained high because it required a team of trained developers and 3D modellers to create what the customer wanted.
“We created Immersonal so that non-technical subject matter experts could create their own VR experiences and make them available.
“Our benchmark was Microsoft’s Powerpoint, and at every stage we asked ourselves were we making Immersonal as easy to use.”
He adds: “We believe we succeeded, and now have a range of people using Immersonal who a few months ago would never have dreamt they could create their own VR application.
“The VR headset market is dominated by some of the biggest companies in the world like Meta, Bytedance (who own TikTok), HP, HTC and now with Apple entering the market it’s fair to say VR has gone mainstream.
“Gaming gets a lot of attention in our industry, but it’s actually in corporate training where the biggest impact of VR is being felt.
“The ability to attend a training course then immediately put what you’ve learnt into practice increases the knowledge retention, and therefore the training benefit, by a factor of 10.
“Those using a blended learning method of traditional training combined with VR to back it up, are the organisations leading their industries and I don’t think that’s an accident.
“The creation of VR applications has traditionally been seen as an expensive black art, Immersonal blows that away and simplifies it so that anyone with basic computer skills can now create custom VR experiences.”
What Immersonal has done with VR, says Tom, is a game-changer and he expressed pride in his team which has pioneered it, opening up huge opportunities for the local firm in the US, South America and Europe.
Tom says: “As we have expanded this year, it made sense for us to merge the two companies, allowing us to pool our expertise.
“It is part of our ethos that we employ local people, and we have a team of highly skilled software developers who have all come through local universities.”
In addition to expanding its Northern Ireland workforce, in response to demand from mainland UK, Immersonal has now opened a new office in Scotland.
“AR and VR is having its day now and we are delighted that a small company like ours in Belfast is right at the cusp of the wave, creating incredible opportunities for businesses.”
The company is also currently redesigning its website (Immersonal.com) which it hopes will go live at the end of October in advance of another major announcement scheduled for December.