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BlackRhino VR co-founder Brian Afande.

Kenyan firm blazes the trail in virtual reality content making

December 15, 2016 • East Africa, Social Media

Brands like Samsung, Nokia, HTC, Google and Oculus have showcased their latest innovations in the sector, tapping into the visual display that brings videos to life.

A Kenyan company, Blackrhino VR, is now looking to commercialise the potential that VR holds, creating 360-degree videos for corporates which they can use for marketing, advertising and training.

Brian Afande, Michael Ilako and Dan Nduati formed the company one-and-a-half years ago after identifying a niche in the ultra-competitive marketing and advertising sector which has always been on the lookout for new ideas.

Mr Afande previously worked as a brand manager for apparel firm Converse for six years, while Mr Ilako is a trained film director who has been producing documentaries for NGOs.

Mr Nduati handles Blackrhino’s business strategy and development, on top of his work as the managing director of creative agency Brand 2D.

The three partners started the company with a capital of Sh3.5 million, majority of which went towards purchase of specialist cameras and back office support computers. They now have five employees working in video shooting, editing and marketing.

“VR is an expensive venture to get into, but luckily we were able to raise capital for the business and now we are one of the few companies in Africa venturing into cinematic VR. There is an uptake for this business from corporates because it is a unique form of communication, especially as a marketing tool,” said Mr Afande in an interview with the Business Daily.

“We put in Sh1.2 million for the special cameras that shoot VR, with additional investment going towards the sound system and a number specialised virtual reality sets which include an Oculus Rift that costs Sh100,000.”

The 360° videos give a viewer a sense of depth, where they can explore different angles by physically moving around like they would do in real life.

VR hardware offers visual and sometimes audio immersion via a head-mounted display that shows a stereo image in 3D.

Sensors in the headset track the user’s movement and change the user’s view accordingly. It allows one to explore a room from all angles, a turn of the head brings up a different view just like you would if physically there.

For instance, a VR production by Blackrhino for Vivo Energy gives the viewer a tour of a petrol station, following around a customer as she has her tank filled up, takes her car to the service area and eventually to the convenience store and restaurant.

Other than Vivo Energy, they have made productions for Safaricom under the Blaze campaign for the youth, BAT Kenya in a promo for its Sportsman brand of cigarettes and real estate firm PRC to market their projects. They have also created a virtual reality tour for Rhino Watch Lodge in Nyeri.

Mr Afande said that the firm also does VR productions for social programmes, for which they do not charge.

By CHARLES MWANIKI

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