Get a real feel for products in a virtual room
Text: Vesa Vainio Photos: Tapio Aulu and Patria.
When you see someone at a defence industry fair swaying about with a strange-looking helmet on their head and holding two flashing batons in their hands, you know something interesting must be going on. Marketing Director Mikko Mäkinen from Patria’s Land business area says that it surely is.
“This is our new virtual stand, where we demonstrate different versions of our products in a virtual room with the aid of new technology.”
It makes for an incredible user experience, once you get over the initial confusion. After a little navigation, you’ll find yourself inside a Patria AMVXP 8x8 armoured wheeled vehicle with your hands on the controls of a Nemo mortar system.
“The instant feedback user interface provides a simple and easy user experience. You can move wherever you want and familiarise yourself with a variety of solutions in detail.”
Virtual reality offers new opportunities for demonstrations, as Patria experts can ‘jump’ inside the virtual room to chat with visitors. And also note down the discussions in detail.
“In practice, we can even hold technical meetings in a virtual room. No matter where you physically are in the world, you are genuinely in the same room as the people you are talking to.”
Mäkinen says that ten minutes in a virtual room is equivalent to a huge pile of PowerPoint presentations and Excel sheets, and also provides a much better understanding of the thing that the visitor is interested in.
Pack your laptop and head for the fair
When Marketing Director Iiro Heikkilä set out for the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) fair in Japan in November, he took two laptops and some accessories. This was enough to create a virtual room experience for visitors. It was the first demonstration of the new system.
“The Japanese are extremely interested in new technology, making them a suitable target group for its first public display. At the fair, the reception from industry professionals was enthusiastically positive.”
Major international defence industry fairs, of which there are few, are very important showcases for Patria’s products and what is actually on offer. These specialist fairs can attract up to tens of thousands of visitors, and have a mix of representatives from user and procurement organisations.
While in Japan, Heikkilä noticed that the activity and movement around his stand helped to attract people.
“Activity provides a good way of starting a conversation, and also leads you to interesting topics.”
Patria has typically taken 1–2 actual vehicles, equipped in different ways, to major international fairs. Usually, there have been max two vehicles plus a Nemo container. Thanks to the virtual room, this arsenal might diminish considerably in the future.
“However, nothing can replace the real feel of steel – the experience of touching and driving the vehicle itself. We always carefully consider whether to take an actual vehicle with us on a case-by-case basis, depending on the target market and location of the fair. Virtual driving is also something we are planning for the future.”
A high-tech company
The virtual room provides a practical and cost-effective way to demonstrate Patria’s product range. It is also an environmentally friendly model, as a smaller amount of physical products displayed at the stand reduces emissions from transport.
Mäkinen highlights how much the virtual room offers: a wide range of uses, marketing activities and technical expertise.
“Patria is a high-tech company and we want to reinforce this image through the use of advanced marketing technology. Innovation and interactivity are strong elements in today’s demonstration models.”
The Land business area is acting as the trailblazer for harnessing virtual technology in marketing. According to Mäkinen, the product specifications, 3D models, animations and videos will also work equally well for product demonstrations in other business areas. The Finnish landscape used in the background is also suitable for all products. Patria does intend to introduce alternative landscapes for customers in various segments.
“Our plan is to bring more products, versions and animations to the virtual room. The models are becoming increasingly more intricate, while remaining below a certain level of detail – for competitive reasons, we can’t show the full details of our designs.”
In addition to demonstrations and meetings, the virtual room can also be used for training. A direct connection to the product design CAD system is still a longer way off. The virtual room uses lightweight game models, and these cannot yet be generated directly from heavy 3D design models at the press of a button.
Extensive technical functionality
Patria began thinking about creating a virtual room in earnest in autumn 2018. Becoming acquainted with virtual reality (VR) technology opened up fresh perspectives. VR means an artificial environment created via computer simulation.
Patria chose to build the content on the glue collaboration platform. The virtual room can be accessed using a variety of mobile devices and operating systems – and has even been successfully used with a 3G connection, although 4G is recommended.
In Japan, Patria alone had a virtual room. Although virtual reality is now standard in the gaming world and at its events, the technology is still new in the defence sector.