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Visions in VR: Guinness tantalise Tesco shoppers with in-store VR tasting experience

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I love Guinness and I have grown rather fond of VR over the last few months (though I personally feel it has yet to hit its stride), so this was always going to be a bit of a home run for me. I'm referring, of course, to the latest collaboration between the international stout giant and R/GA London. This is being touted as a “multi-sensory virtual reality experience” that is being rolled out in-store across Tesco supermarkets as part of a UK wide roadshow to promote the latest Guinness beers; the West Indies Porter, Hop House 13 Lager and Guinness Draft.

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The unique experience immerses users in a bespoke 360 world comprised of colours, shapes and sounds that have been scientifically proven to enhance the flavour profiles of each specific beer. I can't personally vouch for the authenticity of the claims yet, but I'll definitely be hitting up my local Tesco at some point in the near future to try it out! During the experience, the voice of Peter Simpson, the master brewer at The Guinness Open Gate, acts as a guide, instructing viewers when to smell and taste the beers. An intelligent cup with an inbuilt Arduino chip recognises these movements and triggers a range of multi-sensory cues that aim to enhance the flavours or aromas in a way that wouldn't otherwise have been possible.

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The project was developed in collaboration with Professor Charles Spence, an award winning food and flavour scientist and lecturer at Oxford University, whose expertise in this area ensured that the experience combined a range of colours, textures, movements and sounds, all aimed at enhancing the flavour profiles of each beer when tasted. Research provided by Professor Spence helped form the campaign design, establishing that the sight, touch and sound of food and drinks can have large effects on perceived tastes.

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Alex Wills, Managing Director at R/GA London, said: “VR technology is increasingly becoming a viable new media platform for brands and agencies that are looking for powerful ways to impact on branded storytelling. We’re really excited to have partnered with Guinness on a campaign that uses VR not as a gimmick or a ‘first’, but for what the technology was actually designed to do: suspend the senses and transport you to another place” Halie Ritterman, Global Digital and Data lead at Guinness, added: “We are delighted to be able to bring an immersive experience like this to Tesco for the first time, allowing customers to have their senses awakened upon a sip of our unique brews. Partnering with R/GA has enabled us to harness this new technology, merging it with great storytelling and allowing us to reach people in new and profound ways. It also allows us to showcase the brewing experimentation and innovation at Open Gate Dublin in a truly interactive manner.”

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R/GA London collaborated with production company MPC who developed the animated visuals and sonic environment of the virtual reality experience, which will be launching in selected Tesco stores from 22nd May onwards with further global roll outs planned for later in the year. It's certainly an interesting concept, and one that uses VR as more of an enhancement than the sole focal point of the campaign, which is certainly something I'd welcome seeing more of in the near future.

Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK.

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