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GE Doubles Down On Virtual Reality To Deliver Immersive Looks At Science–And Brains

New projects includes a tour of the human brain, an industrial locomotive plant, and an entire VR science channel.

Not long after giving people a drone’s eye view of some of the company’s least accessible facilities where jet engines, locomotives, wind turbines, and industrial machinery are made, GE is launching a collection of virtual reality projects with the same aim of opening up its world to the public in an interesting and entertaining way.

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Last year the brand created a virtual reality experience featuring GE’s subsea oil technology, used to collect and discover gas and oil deposits in the ocean. Now the brand has created VR experiences for all the major platforms, including Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard and YouTube 360. The company says “Neuro”​­­ is the world’s first­ animated VR neuro experience. It acts as a virtual portal into the human brain, bringing you into the imagination and brain of accomplished photographer and DJ Reuben Wu, allowing you to interact and experience how music affects the human brain through Wu’s neurological responses to his thoughts, ideas, fears and memories. “Neuro” debuted in June on Oculus h​eadsets ​at E3 in Los Angeles. In “GE 360,” made with creative studio Reel FX,​­­ viewers get a behind ­the ­scenes look at the making of GE’s Evolution Series Tier 4 Locomotive and its 9HA Gas Turbine, two massive machines engineered in some of the company’s most remote, least accessible locations across the U.S.

Beyond these one-off projects, the brand has also created an entire VR channel for Samsung’s Milk VR platform called Science by GE. The channel will feature new VR experiences each week and showcase GE’s R&D labs, as well as science stories from third ­parties. The content will be available to anyone with a Samsung Gear VR headset.

Katrina Craigwell, GE’s head of content and programming, says the team learned a lot from last year’s subsea VR project and have since really embraced the fact virtual reality is a natural extension of the content work the brand has been doing across multiple platforms.

“After we saw it worked in subsea, we wanted to commit to telling more of our stories in this way,” says Craigwell. “From the work on Instagram, to our YouTube videos, and now VR, we as a brand lean in to visual content because these stories are complex and technical and we’re talking about work, research and manufacturing that’s happening in many areas and industries that are difficult to access. We see VR as something with the potential to go a step further and really bring people to the bottom of the ocean, or into a test facility, or into the brain.”

When thinking about what type of stories and experiences to create, Craigwell says the key question they ask themselves is what type of experience will make people want to put on a headset more than once? Part of that means moving beyond one-time projects. “More than ever, as we develop original content, we’re moving from one-offs to thinking about how we see programming strategy,” says Craigwell. “It’s the old principle in social media, in that the last thing you want to do is show up then go away. But we’re figuring it out as we go. Our channel will be a mix of GE content and third party content that’s been uploaded, and we’re curating into the channel because there is going to be a new creator community that emerges within VR. As the camera technology evolves, as we get things like real-time stitching, these creators will emerge and we love working with creators across platforms, so we’re looking at how that is developing.”

For those without virtual reality hardware, all the GE VR experiences will be available in YouTube 360 by August 8.

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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