April 2016

Virtual reality (VR) may feel distant and gimmicky...

But it’s growing fast. VR’s already being used to sell real estate. Hospitals marketing elective service lines or new technology to the people they serve would do well to learn how VR can help them engage with their audiences.

VR tours are part of a larger trend toward experiencing places and events electronically and with a sense of “real world” immediacy.

A video passes quickly over highlights, but a virtual tour lets your viewer look around and linger as long as they want. In some cases, they can even zoom in for a closer look.

Consider birthing centers marketing comfort and a home-like atmosphere to expectant mothers. VR puts expectant moms in right in your rooms so they can engage more deeply and feel more in control of their experience than with regular photos or videos.

Internet Media Are Pushing Us Toward VR

VR tours are part of a larger trend toward experiencing places and events electronically and with a sense of “real world” immediacy. YouTube and Google Street View are two examples. YouTube includes videos shot live by ordinary people, and Google shows us automatic images of actual places “as they really are.”

Since college or before, young women have been using online sources for an immediate, unvarnished look at things whenever they want. These women may not expect a virtual tour today, but many will in the near future.

VR: More Than One Thing

Right now, three different experiences are lumped into the VR category:

  • Online 360-degree photographs and videos that let you look all the way around using a mouse or your finger
  • Video that use a special smartphone viewer to make you feel like you’re in the video
  • True VR goggles that put you in a real time, computer-generated environment

True VR creates the illusion of a world that isn’t really there. Obviously that’s not a virtual tour of an actual place. The other technologies are the ones to consider.

Online 360 Degree Images and Videos

360 degree images are inexpensive and easy to produce. With these on your website, expectant moms can take a self-guided tour that lets them see all around each location and take a closer look at anything that interests them. They can visit a birthing suite, a postpartum room, the special care nursery, any place moms want to see. A mouse or a finger are all they need to take the tour.

Online 360 degree videos are still a little rough. Currently, you can watch them only in Google’s Chrome browser. To try one, go to #360video on YouTube and click on any video. 360 degree video will be a great medium for virtual tours when the quality improves, but it’s not there yet.

Smartphone VR

In 2014, Google released a cardboard VR viewer that uses almost any smart phone. Versions of this viewer are available for less than 10 dollars. National news organizations, including ABC, the New York Times and Gannett produce smartphone VR videos. Google Cardboard hasn’t caught on big yet, but it’s growing quickly.

It may be hard to imagine an expectant mother putting on cardboard goggles to take a virtual tour of your birthing center. But as the quality of this VR experience becomes better known, smartphone VR will become a good way to give your viewers a more intimate, immersive experience.

When to Make a VR Tour

VR tours aren’t common yet. You won’t fall behind if you don’t do one this year. However, if you’re thinking of doing a video tour, consider a series of 360 degree images to go with it. It’s a low-cost way to combine the warmth of a video message with the freedom to explore freely.

Now may not be the time for a VR tour, but keep it in mind. Being first in your market can give your viewers a memorable virtual experience as well as project leadership and technological expertise.

Featured Recipe

Easy Stir Fry


Stir fry is a state of mind, so experiment. The only watch out is fish sauce. You need some, but unless you like fishy fish flavor, go easy.

The recipe looks hard. It’s not. It’s just a bunch of chopping and throwing things in at certain times. Cooking goes really fast.

About fish sauce: it’s cheap and keeps forever. Stop in at the Asian market and get the good stuff. It makes a difference.

1/4 cup Sesame oil
5 Garlic cloves
1 pound Meat (see note below)
1 Onion
4-5 cups Vegetables chopped (see note below)
2 tablespoons Rice vinegar (not cider, wine, malt or white vinegar)
3 tablespoons Soy sauce
2 teaspoons Fish sauce (essential for flavor)
2 teaspoons Ginger paste
1 1/4 cup Bouillon (match the meat)
4 teaspoons Lime juice
2 tablespoons Corn starch in 1/2 cup cold water

Chicken, turkey, any cut of pork, and cuts of beef that aren’t really tough work fine. Shellfish are fine, but I’d avoid fish because it’ll fall apart. Meat goes in once to sear, comes out, then goes in again after the vegetables to cook through in the sauce.

One portion each of six or seven vegetables will get you the quantity you need. Start small and adjust upward. Most any vegetable will go in a stir fry. The challenge is to get the time right, as you’ll see in the cooking instructions. These vegetables work well and are in order by cooking time, longest first:
      Green beans
      Pea pods
      Bok choy

For this much stir fry, cook 2 cups of dry white rice. Follow package instructions. Or use a rice cooker and 4 cups of water.

There’s no salt in this recipe. Soy sauce, fish sauce and bouillon provide plenty of salt.

Mince the garlic.
Slice the meat into 1-inch strips about 1/8 inch thick.
Chop the vegetables into bite-size pieces.
    Thickness matters because you're balancing cooking times.
    Examples: Slice mushrooms and zucchini 1/4 inch. Slice carrots thinner.
    Cut tomatoes a half inch on a side.
Dissolve the corn starch in a quarter cup of cold water.
Line up ingredients in separate bowls before you heat the wok.

Keep heat on medium high.
Toss the vegetables often, at least once a minute. Don’t scorch.
Cover the wok when you’re not stirring the food.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil until a bit of garlic thrown in sizzles.
Add the garlic and toast for 1 minute.
Add Add the meat. Toss until lightly browned. Don’t cook it through.
Remove the meat and garlic.
Heat 2 more tablespoons of oil.
Add the carrots. Toss and fry 1 minute, until the edges are slightly soft.
Add green beans. Toss and fry 1 minute.
Add the onion. Toss and fry 2 minutes.
Continue adding vegetables in order of cooking time (see the list above). With each addition, toss and fry the vegetables for 1 minute. You can add some in groups: Radishes through mushrooms is a group. Peppers through scallions is a group. Don’t fry tomato or spinach.
Add vinegar, toss and cover 1 minute.
Add soy sauce, fish sauce and ginger, toss and cover 1 minute.
Add tomatoes, toss and cover 1 minute.
Add broth, lime juice and browned meat. Stir and cover.
Bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes.
Stir corn starch in the cup until it’s all dissolved again.
Stir the corn starch into the stir fry and turn off the heat.
Continue stirring until the sauce thickens.

Stir fry doesn’t refrigerate well. When you reheat it, the meat gets tough, the vegetables get mushy and the sauce is gloppy. It’s okay for lunch in a Tupperware, but it probably won’t be good for the table again.