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  • Writer's pictureJohn Ennis

Eye on AI - January 21st, 2022

Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!


This week, we’ll be looking at the two important impacts of emerging technologies: virtual reality’s impact on society, and the metaverse’s impact on the food industry.


How VR Could Reshape Society in the Years to Come

While virtual reality (VR) has been evolving within the gaming community for years, new applications have recently emerged that may change the way our society interacts. According to futurist Bernard Marr’s article “The Effects Of Virtual Reality (VR) On Society,” those applications may be broader than one might expect.

Retail, education, travel, and healthcare are just a few industries dipping their toes in new VR applications. Take retail, for instance: right now, you can try on a pair of clothes using augmented reality before buying. Through VR, we may soon be able to have a complete shopping experience, with recommendations from a digital stylist. This kind of potential is putting pressure on brands to integrate VR into their digital shopping experiences.

In education and training, brands like Hilton are already utilizing VR to train workers on numerous tasks through simulation. VR is being adopted by classrooms, museums, travel brands and others to create more immersive experiences. Imagine being led through a remote village half a world away to experience a new culture, or being guided through a historical battle in a 3D space as if you’re a soldier on the battlefield. These types of experiences can be incredibly beneficial, so much so that even the healthcare industry is experimenting with potential VR applications.

“Right now, VR is being used to detect glaucoma, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease,” writes Marr. “It has also begun to establish itself as a useful tool for treating PTSD and anxiety disorders, dementia, and autism. VR can even help people complete their physical rehabilitation after an illness or injury!”

The potential of the metaverse has only amplified VR’s potential further. Imagine being able to test-drive that new car on a mountain race track against other potential buyers, or walking into a virtual doctor’s office for an appointment from the comfort of your home. Experiences like these could be possible in the not-so-distant metaverse, which is why so many brands are already investing in metaverse designers to help create future digital worlds.

Food Brands Shift toward Digital As They Prepare for the Metaverse

It’s not just retail that’s seeing potential in the future metaverse. Food companies are also beginning to adapt to the changing digital future. Future Index consultancy giant EY identified key megatrends that are emerging that will shape the way food companies operate within the metaverse.

“... the channels of engagement that are being opened up by the metaverse –– and already created by the growth of the direct-to-consumer business model –– means food companies need to adapt and ‘resolve how they can create consistency of brand experience between the digital and physical,’ said the EY [Global Consumer Group] analyst. ‘One crucial area where they need to innovate is to make sure their brand is going to be something that consumers are able to enjoy an experience around as well as enjoy the product itself.”

One roadblock to innovation is technology, and the food industry as a whole has been slow to evolve. To compensate, many rely on technology-rich 3rd party sellers, such as Instacart or Amazon or delivery services like DoorDash, to sell their products. The problem with brands relying on these types of vendors is that they monopolize consumer data.

“Data is… key,” writes Food Navigator contributor Oliver Morrison. “Without owning that you won’t truly understand your customer. That makes things like the personalization of products and engagement difficult.”

Realizing the value of consumer data, many food brands are pushing for technological advances that will allow them to be less reliable on 3rd party platforms. This data will allow food brands to gain more insights and create new consumer experiences, flavors, product categories, healthier and more sustainable food production methods, and key in on critical food trends as they emerge.

One trend that’s been particularly impactful to the food industry is the pandemic. Nearly half the people surveyed by EY said that they plan to cook more at home in the year to come, with 45% saying they expect to change how they eat in the long term. That opens the door for new marketing potential for things like recipe tutorials, at-home cooking videos, healthy eating training, etc. Adopting new technologies and matching brand goals with changing consumer interests and behaviors will be critical, in my opinion, to any food brand’s future success in our coming digital future.

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