Virtual Reality Becomes Areva Marketing’s Powerful New Asset
French energy equipment manufacturer, AREVA T&D, has been working with Virtalis to create a stereoscopic 3D virtual show room for its sales and marketing team and believes it has yielded real dividends.
Roger Critchley, Marketing Director of AREVA T&D’s Power Electronics Business, explained: “Our stereo 3D presentations, that we now give at larger exhibitions and conferences all over the world, are always the star turn. Our stand reliably attracts queues and has a real buzz. After the show, we find potential customers have found us both memorable and impressive. I believe too that our brand has been enhanced by being linked with something as eye-catching and innovative as Virtual Reality (VR). The other marvellous thing is that we were simply able to reuse the CAD data we already had for our products to create the virtual models, but while not everyone can “read” a CAD diagram, VR is self-explanatory. Not only do you get a real sense of scale, but you can “explore”, so potential customers can, for example, “fly” down wires, look round the virtual control room and even enter the valve hall where the large power electronics converters are housed. In the past, this would not have been possible without arduous foreign travel by sales teams and customers alike.”
For over a hundred years, AREVA has been in the business of designing and manufacturing equipment to transmit and distribute electricity, ensuring the reliability, quality and safety of energy flows, as well as operating efficient networks through information management. It is one of the world’s leading transmission and distribution companies, employing over 25,000 people in more than 30 countries, with a dedicated sales force serving customers in over 100 countries.
In consultation with AREVA T&D, Virtalis’ Development Team designed and built a virtual showroom showing the Company’s entire product range. Drawing on effects from Star Trek’s teleportation system, the Team designed the showroom so the various pieces of equipment can be beamed in and interrogated at their actual scale. Literature mounted on the walls of the showroom can be read, giving a background to each product. Virtalis then moved on to create a series of virtual AREVA installations for potential customers to explore. These include electricity sub-stations in an urban setting, a wind farm in its landscape and a series of different systems set on islands. VR is also used to demonstrate innovations in AREVA technology, such as its surge arresters and stations that convert power into different forms, like stations whose output is electricity for trains. The Virtalis team has worked hard to add realism to its virtual models for AREVA, by concentrating on making all the shadows and reflections accurate. In addition to the extensive software development carried out by Virtalis in virtual models development, AREVA has bought a Virtalis ActiveWall system for large-scale stereo projection and a Virtalis Baby Active system for smaller scale stereo projection.
No two AREVA installations are the same, but they are comprised of standard modules. The Team has called the models that show whole AREVA offerings “Mega Models” and they are among the biggest VR models Virtalis has ever created. Jason Riley is AREVA’s New Media Specialist and has been involved in the creation of the virtual showroom and the virtual presentation at every stage. He commented: “Before we discovered VR, we used to travel to exhibitions with several fragile plastic and wooden models. These were unwieldy, soon became shabby and looked old fashioned. Looking back, it was like the Dark Ages. The dream had always been to do this in an exciting and more cost effective way and Virtalis made this possible. Being able to view a configuration of our equipment in a landscape quickly shows what impact it will have. More importantly, now we can interrogate our products and solutions at a really technical level, we can easily illustrate the major technical advantages that AREVA has to offer over its competitors. We have sometimes worried that people are more interested in the VR than us, but it has proved the hook that has drawn them in as customers. There are definitely contracts we have won that we can attribute to the persuasive power of VR.”
AREVA T&D Website