The future of virtual reality in superyacht design
Written by Sophie Allen
Last updated: 21/03/2017
As virtual reality becomes increasingly popular in showcasing superyachts, Yachting Pages speaks to VR and superyacht experts about its potential in other realms of the industry, from crew training and bespoke design, to on board entertainment and experiences.
Virtual reality has become increasingly popular at superyacht shows in recent years, with designers, builders and brokers using the technology to add an extra element of excitement and grandeur to the premiere of a new build or concept. So, what is it about the technology that works so well for superyachts?
Ingmar Vroege, co-founder of VR agency Bricks and Goggles and superyacht-specific Ships and Goggles, thinks the need to design vessels to meet an owner’s needs is one reason. “The high number of bespoke designs in the yachting industry makes it extra interesting [sic] to use virtual reality. Showing a client what he’s going to get at an early stage helps to speed up the design process, and reduce the number of changes during build time.”
Sara Gioanola of Dutch shipyard Heesen Yachts, explains how they looked into VR to help busy clients stay on top of their vessel’s progress. “We wanted to do a 360° time-lapse of the interior construction, allowing the client to ‘go back in time’ and see all stages of the yacht before it was finished.”
The yard employed VR technology for its largest launch to date, Galactica Supernova. “For nine days we photographed from dawn until dusk, allowing users to activate day and night mode.”
So, what next for virtual reality and the superyacht set? For Vroege, “Aspects like training, marketing and entertainment are going to be popular.” For design, he foresees a focus on improving the quality of the experience and “adding elements so that shipyards and design agencies can work together with reps and owners on creating their dream project.”
Vroege continued, “We make game-like experiences in which the user can literally walk through his yet-to-build yacht. In the end I think VR can be the stage between a scale model and real-life mock-up of an interior.”
Alev Karagulle, marketing and communications director at Burgess Yachts, a leading superyacht broker, believes that virtual reality offers interesting possibilities for the industry. “While we are not an early adopter of VR, we are keeping a close eye on how the technology develops.
“The ability to offer an immersive experience which simulates a life-size three dimensional walkthrough of a yacht as a preview to a first-hand inspection, could be helpful for brokers.”
Karagulle does express concern however, at how the experience could be presented to a typical superyacht client: “While Google Cardboard can interface with a smartphone, this will not deliver the VR user experience we would expect to bring to an UHNW client.
“Facebook’s Oculus Rift is pricey so there can be no widespread marketing campaign, which restricts the reach to a finite and highly targeted audience; but this could actually suit the strategy for certain projects very well.”
In terms of crew training, it’s all about putting crew in potentially dangerous situations. Vroege says, “We can add elements like how to get to the rescue boats, what to do when there is a leak, how to stop a fire from getting out of hand etc.”
Another VR agency is exploring a different approach to superyacht virtual reality. Alex Smale, founder of Tribemix, developed superyacht experiences for people who may not have had the chance to go on board in real life. “We felt a 3D virtual reality superyacht experience was a perfect fit for one of our projects that works with the elderly to help them relax.
“Our experience puts you aboard a Sunseeker Predator 115 overlooking a coral reef. The sun is shining, waves lap against the hull; it’s very relaxing.”
While working directly with superyacht design isn’t something Tribemix has ventured into yet, Smale certainly sees the potential. “Virtual reality enables people to experience products in a realistic way, wherever they are. They can walk around the superyacht as if they were really on board. The manufacturers which begin with this technology will be those which reap the most benefits.”
Yachting Partners International (YPI) was the first yachting company to partner with a virtual-reality specialist to sell a specific superyacht, the 105m Raptor project premiered using cutting edge VR walk-through technology at the 2016 Monaco Yacht Show.