China has gone crazy for Virtual Reality. When President Xi spoke of the power of VR technology in 2016 at the Hangzhou G20 Summit, the revenue of the VR industry in China was only at 3.5 billion RMB. Currently, the figure is over 10 billion RMB and is estimated to skyrocket to 79 billion RMB by 2021(Statista). Companies are jumping at the bit to get involved, with thousands of VR arcades already in play (Polygon), and even an enormous VR theme park in Guiyang (VR Focus). Though now, VR is going beyond gaming and recreational entertainment.
VR tours have emerged as a recent phenomenon--from perusing Parisian streets to exploring university campuses, various segments in China, including the government and big tech, have embraced the upward trend of VR.
Currently, there are over 28 million VR headsets in China, and is forecasted to grow to over 105 million headsets by 2021 (Statista). In 2016, ⅔ of Chinese people from 15-39 years old indicated that they were very interested in VR technology (Fung Business Intelligence).
Nonetheless, institutions are still skeptical over whether or not they want to expend resources to build a VR campus tour, citing the slow adaptability of VR tours and the high cost of VR headsets.
Student testimonial: “VR is an important factor in my decision-making process because I can’t visit a physical campus in the US with my schedule” - Jiawei He, Guiyang
While VR headsets are not completely ubiquitous, they are not actually required for a VR tour, which can actually be enabled on a smartphone. Cardboard VR goggles easily substitute for tech-heavy headsets and be customized to reflect a brand. For the purposes of a VR campus tour, VR headsets or VR goggles both achieve the same outcome for the user as they are still experiencing immersive 360 media.
While most schools have virtual tours, they are videos and are filmed to be watched, rather than experienced. Given that most of these were filmed in the mid-2000’s, they have become outdated. Savvy universities have invested in immersive VR tours to stand out and keep up with the times. University admissions officers can attract substantially more attention by incorporating a VR tour at recruitment events.
The Virtual Reality market is expanding rapidly across the world, especially in China. With the increasing amount of Chinese students looking for study abroad opportunities, VR campus tours offer admissions departments an excellent pathway to spike interest with students who lack the ability to physically visit but maintain an interest in applying. As VR tours become increasingly expected by prospective students in China and beyond, colleges and universities will feel more pressure to adapt to the times. For these students, a university’s VR tour can make or break their decision to apply.