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A Virtual Reality Journey Through the Skin

Beiersdorf A virtual journey through the skin - Sven and Thorsten on screen

Wandering across the skin as if it were a plain surrounded by a sparse wood of shafts of hair that begin to sway when touched: This is how the virtual experience begins, which the most recent coup of the Beiersdorf Research & Development Department creates before the eyes of the users. The name of the application: Beiersdorf VR Skin Exploration. This mixed reality tool makes care experiential and provides knowledge about skin in emotional and unforgettable ways. The application shows the effect of ingredients before the eyes of the users enlarged by 2,500 times and has already been used in press events. In the future a mobile setup for both internal and external presentations of dermatological relations and new products all around the globe will be implemented. In addition to the team of Sven Clemann, Team Leader of Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things in Biophysics as Beiersdorf, the Hamburg based VR Nerds and other startups from the tech industry also participated in the development. “We are always looking for new ways to make our competence visible and experiential. Beiersdorf is one of the first companies in Germany to use the new VR technology for an emotional transfer of knowledge and to communicate product features,” says Sven Clemann.

An Emotional Voyage of Discovery

The animated skin model, which was developed over the course of six months, is brought alive by HTC Vive VR glasses and two controllers, which serve as an interface between the worlds from within a green box. While moving through the 3D space the user can touch details, playfully interact or call up information. At the touch of a button the function of the sweat glands is explained, all the while the explorer – shrunk down to 1/10th of millimeter – finds him or herself in the middle of the action able to choose the point of view or move around in the various layers of the skin. Noises that replicate the body’s functions – for example, a soft heart beat – increase the impression that he or she has been completely immersed in this new environment. The skin details are furnished with dermatological facts, which when touched with the controller are described by a narrator. Exploring the complex skin model at all levels – interacting with the surface, epidermis and dermis opens new fluid spaces, which are connected by hair, glands and blood vessels – takes several minutes depending on experience and is one thing above all: a lot of fun! Diving into the dermis is deceptively real for the person wearing the VR glasses – very much as if he or she were actually moving down in an elevator. “We observed that people of all age groups and independent of how much the know beforehand are thrilled and explore the world of the skin with great joy and curiosity. Once they dive in they’d prefer to just stay for a long time and marvel,” says Sven Clemann. This makes it possible for above average retention of what they’ve learned. In addition to the new kind of emotional experience, the intuitive apprehension of complex relationships by simultaneously hearing, seeing and interacting makes a lasting impression. “Experience is the richest kind of information that we can imagine because the feeling and memory are authentic,” says Clemann.

Experience Complex Processes Up Close

In addition to the virtual tour through the layers of skin there is an opportunity to experience the effectiveness of the products and active ingredients. The first Beiersdorf product to become available in the VR application is the NIVEA Rich Body Milk with deep care serum. The user first experiences dry skin and can observe the loss of moisture and interact with the detaching flakes of skin on the surface that is in need of care. Then the NIVEA Rich 48-hour Body Milk is applied to the skin virtually with the help of the controller. Finally the effect begins: the user can follow up close how the active ingredients penetrate the epidermis and there for example, bind moisture, improve the outer skin layer and become a witness to the before-and-after effect. “In the future it will be possible to add other products and processes to the virtual skin pattern.” He calculates the development time for product-related tours to be about three months. “Because the matrix and the virtual skin world was programmed in great complexity, additions can be integrated relatively quickly,” says Project Leader Thorsten Bretschneider. In order to orient the Beiersdorf VR Skin Exploration optimally for use by groups – as trade fairs, press and team events – the person wearing the VR glasses is visualized within the virtual Skin. This Mixed Reality concept enables the spectators to experience the journey of the user live on screens and to follow the explanations of the physiognomy of the organ and the processes of the ingredients. Clemann adds: “Starting in the fall a mobile setup for an international rollout of the virtual skin world will also be available so that Beiersdorf teams all over the world can work with it."

Catarina Neumann

About the author: Catarina Neumann

Since 2014, Catarina has been responsible for Beiersdorf's digital corporate presence, from social media and our corporate blog to the global corporate websites. As a communications strategist with a focus on digital, she also works on lots of buzzwords such as #digitalstorytelling, #influencerrelations and the #digitalization at Beiersdorf. Prior to that, she has been responsible since 2008 for various financial, HR and scientific communications topics as well as global brands PR.