From Virtual to Reality

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Ten years ago the virtual reality (VR) concept would render images of cheesy 80’s Sci-Fi’s and nascent gaming technology, appearing more like a fantasy for technologists with little bearing in the real world.

That is, of course, until now. Today, VR is not so much creeping but rather leaping into the mainstream.

Only last year we saw Oculus, Samsung and Sony get seriously big on VR, keenly competing to achieve media share for their latest headsets and this trend shows no sign of abating anytime soon.

But, you may ask, can VR really have a tangible business impact in the KBB world? The answer is irrevocably yes, and for those retailers who aren’t already using it the (not so virtual) reality is that it really is no longer a case of ‘if’ but rather ‘when’…..

More in Store

For the large part, VR allows KBB retainers to create that all-important USP in what, with the dominance of e-commerce, has become a keenly competitive market.

Today’s abundance of online KBB retailers, many of which offer a fast delivery and cheap prices, mean it can be all too tempting for consumers to buy their kitchen or bathroom on the Internet from the comfort of their home.

This, in turn, has put increased pressure on traditional retailers to create a 4D Plus imagetangible differentiation to win business. This is clearly reflected in the latest Mintel report on the bathroom sector which concurs ‘Retailers need to build a wide suite of skills to service the complex requirements of a bathroom make-over – services will become increasingly sophisticated, with branded elements to add reassurance for shoppers.’1

Here, the remit then is about thinking outside the box and applying the use of the technology to a retail advantage: cue the VR revolution.

The integration of VR with design consultancy quite simply takes the customer experience to another level. Virtual Worlds’ 4D CAD technology, for example, delivers high quality, virtual reality and an interactive buying experience via a futuristic headset whereby users can realise a 4D simulation of physically being in their dream kitchen or bathroom design.

Sitting comfortably in their chair complete with an avatar (which is even matched with appearance) they can experience every socket, every stitch, each and every fine detail of their concept and how it may look and feel in real-time. Want to check how much space is between the island unit and the oven? Check. Extend drawers to ensure sufficient storage? Check. Operate functional fittings such as magic corner units? Check.

This digital transformation of blended reality experience with product design takes the ‘try before you buy’ concept to whole new level and it is a very powerful business tool.

From our experience, most consumers will struggle to grasp an overhead, 3D plan or flat render, however realistic it looks, yet our 4D experience negates this problem entirely by allowing designers to express their ideas in a precise way that their clients physically experience. It also enables installers to plan work with confidence, knowing the design will work as ‘real’ products have been tried out in the design.

4d KitchenThe result is the end of ‘buyer remorse’. Given that a new bathroom or kitchen is a huge investment for the average consumer, it is, of course, extremely important that they get it right. In this way, it effectively alleviates the fear factor associated to buying these big ticket items – and given the fact that two thirds2 (63%) of shoppers admit they don’t get the best experience online this makes for a very appealing proposition.

Testament to this, here at Virtual Worlds, our customers have reported an average 50 per cent increase in sales conversions since using our CAD technology – with some reporting a conversion rate of 80%.

Future Gazing 

While VR has certainly come a long way in recent years, it really is just beginning.

Having already launched the industry’s first 4D CAD software in 2016, here at Virtual Worlds we are all geared up for the launch of the next generation of product which will truly blur the lines between virtual and reality like never before. And we have lots more in the pipeline.

Indeed, while good customer service and expert design consultancy will always be the pinnacles of success in the KBB world, the blending lines of VR for consumer and enterprise use cannot be ignored. It is the future and what all retailers should be aspiring to in this age of digital transformation.

 Sources

1 http://store.mintel.com/bathrooms-and-bathroom-accessories-uk-august-2013

2 http://www.information-age.com/industry/uk-industry/123459020/two-thirds-shoppers-unhappy-online-customer-experience

Winner Of ‘SHOWROOM DESIGNER OF THE YEAR’ Award Announced

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The winning designer was Emma Knight of Elliotts Lymington Living Spaces

The winner of the inaugural ‘Sottini Showroom Designer of the Year’ competition has been announced – with the design by Emma Knight of Elliotts Lymington Living Spaces Showroom scooping the £2000 prize after being selected by a judging panel made up of leading industry names. The winning entry was commended for combining style and innovation with excellence and simplistic functionality in its design.

Luxury bathroom brand Sottini ran the competition to find the nation’s pride of showroom design, in partnership with Virtual Worlds, the UK’s leader in CAD technology for the KBB sector. Entrants had to submit their design proposals in a 3D CAD format, using a software package such as Virtual Worlds, to include all key elements of the bathroom and with an ethos on creating a showroom that was inspiring and innovative, but also realistic.

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Judges got to experience the designs in virtual reality using Virtual Worlds 4D Theatre
 It received a great response from the Designer community across the UK, with a final shortlist of 20 entries considered by judges. The judging panel was made up of industry experts from Barratt Homes, Potton Homes, Millwood Designer Homes, Colemore Tang and Conran Design, as well as Virtual Worlds, Ideal Standard and EKBB magazine. The judging took place at The Bathroom Showroom in London with the judges initially looking at the designs on paper before getting to experience the rooms in Virtual Worlds 4D Theatre software. The unique design presentation from Virtual Worlds allowed the judges to explore the rooms in virtual reality to fully appreciate the design, before finally choosing their winner.

Such was the quality of entries in fact, a further two entries received a highly commended accolade: Ben Mellor of Oakland’s (Leicester) and Dean Saoud-Easton of Just Add Water (Kings Cross, London).

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Winner, Emma Knight, with highly commended designers Ben Mellor of Oakland’s (left) and Dean Saoud-Easton of Just Add Water.

Steve Breen, Sottini Sales Director, comments:  “The aim of this competition was to reward and acknowledge the talents of the UK’s finest KBB designers who continue to go the extra mile when it comes to creating truly stunning showrooms which excite, entice and inspire customers.

“We received a fantastic response and I’d like to say thank you to everyone who entered and congratulate the winner, but also add that the standard of designs submitted was testament to the talent and hard work of the designers who dedicate thousands of hours to creating truly stunning showrooms destined to ‘wow’ customers – and in doing so demonstrated the multitude of combinations that our Sottini collection offers.”

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Virtual World’s MD Nathan Maclean presenting the award.

Nathan Maclean, managing director at Virtual Worlds, adds:  “We really do have some of the most hardworking, talented KBB designers here in the UK, so it is great to have an opportunity to give them the credit they deserve.”

Winning bathroom designer, Emma Knight, said: “I love doing what I do, so I am absolutely thrilled to have won this award and really enjoyed creating the design for the competition.

“The split levels allow the stylish products to stand out against a stunning back drop, as well as increasing the sense of space – I can imagine relaxing for hours in this bathroom!

“My manager, Andrew, gives me great support and I’ve learnt so much from him. Winning this award has given me inspiration and increased confidence to do more fabulous designs for our customers at Elliotts Living Spaces.”

Virtual Worlds and Sottini Take Up Residence at Potton Homes!

Virtual Worlds and Sottini are teaming up to break new ground by installing the latest 4D Theatre CAD technology system in a Potton show home on site at its St Neots development in Cambridgeshire.

As part of this industry first, Virtual Worlds will provide access to a wide range of bathroom layouts from Sottini, the timeless bathroom brand built on a heritage of quality and innovation in design, which customers can then tailor for the home they are interested in designing while visiting the Potton show home. This innovative technology allows the homeowner to virtually walk around and sample their bathroom before they order.

In what is akin to a show home of the future, Virtual Worlds’ market-leading 4D Bathroomsoftware uses a 4D headset to enable customers to enter the designed space, experiencing it in full virtual reality and having the opportunity to walk around the space, just as they would in the real world.

The software replicates the dimensions and layout of the room exactly, with customers even able to interact with objects around the room just as they would in real life, such as by opening and closing drawers, cupboards and doors.

The exceptional Sottini collection will be displayed in exquisite detail through the Virtual Worlds software, with customers able to experience the beautiful design possibilities of the range to its fullest. The result will be a stand out showroom which will help Potton’s partner Cambridge Kitchen & Bathrooms to drive sales and improve customer experience.

The scheme will see the system installed at the Potton Self Build Show Centre for a period of six months. It will be the first time 4D CAD technology has ever been used in a show home environment.

Nathan Maclean, managing director of Virtual Worlds, commented: “We’re delighted to be partnering with Potton and Sottini to deliver a unique experience for self-builders.

“Designing and building a bespoke home is the biggest transaction most people will make in their lifetime. Our software will help to enhance the buying experience as well as provide the peace of mind that comes from virtually sampling the room and their chosen products before investing, ultimately resulting in a product they are happy with. It’s the ultimate try before you buy experience.”

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Fae Perkins at Potton, said: “We’re always looking for new ways of improving the experience for individuals designing their dream home with us. We’re sure Virtual Worlds will prove to be a popular addition to our show centre and will help to ensure that customers are 100 per cent happy with their completed property.”

Steve Breen, Sottini Sales Director, added: “This is a unique opportunity for buyers to experience their dream bathroom before even a single tile has been laid and bathroom suite has been installed. A bathroom is a huge investment but this show home gives individuals purchasing through Potton  the perfect chance to ensure their room will be money well spent.”

For further information please visit www.virtualworlds.co.uk

Maximise The Millennial Movement…

With a new report highlighting the millennial generation as the UK’s most active renovators and decorators, Virtual Worlds is reminding retailers of the importance of selling on the benefits of CAD technology to this captive audience.

According to a new report by Houzz, over half (57%) of millennial homeowners (aged 25 to 34) renovated their home in 2015, which was in line other age categories. However, millennials far outpaced other generations when it’s comes to delving into decorating – with 79% having recently redecorated compared with 71% of those aged 35 to 54 and 68% of those 55 and over.

Nathan Maclean, managing director of Virtual Worlds comments: “It is interesting to see this distinctive market shift as the younger catchment group begin to enter the housing market and invest in customising their new home. More so, with the report showing that the kitchen is the second most prevalent home improvement focus, shortly followed by the bathroom, it certainly reflects a buoyant opportunity for the KBB retailer.” 4D Bathroom

To help retailers take stock of this opportunity, Virtual Worlds’ innovative 4D CAD technology, the first of its kind in the UK, enables would-be buyers an incredibly realistic 4D simulation of physically being in their dream design. Users are able to immerse themselves in the room as an avatar; allowing them to get a feel for the space, how the designs works and even try out functions such as opening drawers.

Nathan adds: “As a generation already well accustomed to the marvels of modern day technology, millennials are a natural audience for 4D simulations; and in fact, from our experience, many actively seek it as part of their buying process.

“For the retailer looking to tap into this opportunity then, we’d recommend it as a way to attract business, create standout and driving sales – after all, once a customer has had the experience of walking around their dream kitchen or bathroom design it is very likely that they will be sold.”

Visit us on stand G100 at KBB 2016…

In designing this year’s stand at KBB Birmingham, Virtual Worlds have decided to create a friendly, open space that reflects the creativity, innovation and confidence that has become associated with the brand. Managing Director, Nathan Maclean, comments “Our objective for the exhibition is to provide all visitors with an informative, thought provoking and memorable experience, which encourages the industry to think about CAD in a new way.” 4D Bathroom

Nathan goes on to say “Unlike traditional 2D CAD which is hindered by the delay in editing in 2D and visualising the 3D image, Virtual Worlds boasts the fluid real time editing of the 3D environment. We have now taken that a step further with our fully immersive, 4D development”.

In an industry first, Virtual Worlds launched ‘4D Showroom’ which sees the end consumer wear virtual reality technology to immerse themselves in a fully interactive simulation of their future room. People visiting the stand will be able to experience the game changing power of Virtual Worlds 4D in person.

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As well as test driving the new “4D Showroom” technology, activities on the stand will include seminars that explain the benefits and features of all integrated modules, such as pricing, reporting and various web tools that make up the ‘all inclusive’ Virtual Worlds ONE package. There will also be group training classes for existing users and private demonstrations throughout the duration of the exhibition.

For further details please visit www.virtualworlds.co.uk or call 01908 663848

 

Thinking inside the box….

 

For a moment, imagine that you sell houses and for some reason you never let your prospective clients inside. Instead, you tell them to walk around the outside and look in through the windows. If you were to sell houses this way, what opportunities would be lost and what level of buyer remorse will factor in those you close?

Okay, you design and sell kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms: all being rooms within a home, but do you currently ask your prospective clients to look in through the window in order to make a purchasing decision? The window, in this case, is the monitor of your CAD presentation.

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If this is how you currently sell, it will pay you to take time out this week to discover how your competitors are opening the door to success and to speak to your Virtual Worlds representative.

Experience what Virtual Worlds 4D is all about and discover how the  Virtual Worlds ONE suite of software solutions can give your business a powerful competitive advantage. Integration with business management systems deliver reliable information and increased sales process efficiencies.  4D Bathroom

Make your business stand out from the crowd and invite your customers to step inside their future room before they buy.

 

  • Evolve your business to generate increased showroom footfall.
  • Provide your customers with an enhanced buying experience.
  • Offer your customers spatial awareness and peace of mind.

For further details, please contact sales@virtualworlds.co.uk                          or call 01908 663848 

Version 5.10 released

We’re pleased to announce the launch of Virtual Worlds version 5.10 which is available to download now from the user centre.

This new version improves the display of the Virtual Worlds homepage, allowing you to easily define your own text fields, view social media feeds and improve how templates are defined. You can also take advantage of the updated Tile Catalogue Browser interface and the new advanced moulding features which allow for faster application of architraves, skirtings and covings. For those of you using the Virtual Worlds 4D Showroom or the Design Viewer, there are new buttons available to simplify and speed up the process.

 

First Impressions of the New 4D CAD Experience for Showrooms

A new CAD consumer experience is being rolled-out by Logicom, which could significantly change the way retailers sell.   Launched at the May Design Series, Virtual Worlds 4D proved a popular attraction for visitors who queued up to don the futuristic headset and experience a 4D world. One or two sceptics suggested it was a techie gimmick, whereas most thought it could transform the showroom experience and prove an exciting new selling tool.  The first installations are completed and the early indications are that this latest innovation could be a game changer.

The technology

Virtual Worlds 4D is an adjunct to the popular Virtual Worlds Professional 3D interactive CAD software. Key to the technology is the Virtual Worlds unique interactive platform and the advanced, simulating headset. When worn by the customer, it places them centre stage, in the designed space. Look down and the customer sees an avatar of themselves, sitting in their new room.

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Designs in Virtual Worlds 4D appear with exceptionally realistic depth, scale and parallax, made possible by Virtual Worlds’ unique 3D modelling. Users of 4D have access to all the current product catalogues of a vast choice of KBB manufacturers’ brands. Each manufacturer has worked closely with Virtual Worlds to ensure their product collections are accurately replicated in 3D format and update their catalogues regularly.

In 4D the 110 degree viewing angle places the customer directly in the room rather than looking in through a screen. The response to eye movement is immediate, facilitating 360 degree head-tracking and interaction with moving elements of the room, including opening cupboards, looking inside drawers and stepping into showers.

A first for the KBB sector, Virtual Worlds 4D claims to deliver a ground-breaking, virtual reality and interactive buying experience, which is compelling and optimises the sales potential of excellent design.

Subscription based

Under a subscription known as Virtual Worlds One, Virtual Worlds 4D is bundled together with Virtual Worlds Professional interactive 3D CAD software, its Viewer App, 2D Planning and Pricing Module. The software specialist Logicom is behind Virtual Worlds and it is understood that more innovations are currently in development, which will be made available to all subscribers.

A unique showroom experience

Reese James is one of the first retailers to install 4D. Owned and managed by Nigel Mason, the company has a showroom located in Shirley, near Solihull. A hot spot for kitchen and bathroom showrooms, Reese James has three competitors within a five minute walk. Working in such close proximity to other kitchen and bathroom businesses is a key reason Mason was eager to sign up to the 4D package, as he explains.

“Our whole approach is to offer the consumer a unique and outstanding experience from beginning to end. Having seen the 4D demo, I was sold hook, line and sinker. I knew our customers would be wowed and I wanted it immediately for our showroom. This is a major, major way that we are different from the guys down the road.

Nigel Mason of Reese James with customer using Virtual Worlds 4D lr

On the day the software was installed Mason and his staff demonstrated its capabilities to a steady stream of staff from neighbouring businesses, intrigued by the experience. “It was comical, we’d complete one demo and another person would pop in saying they’d heard our goggles were amazing and could they have a go. We were the talk of the area and the experience spread by word of mouth, within hours. It made us begin to realise what a powerful marketing tool this was going to be.”

The showroom is split 50:50 between bathroom and kitchen settings with Rotpunkt, Dornbracht and Laufen products on prominent display. Mason considers the technologically advanced 4D is in keeping with these brands and the company’s upmarket and forward-looking image: “I want customers to enter our showroom and be so impressed with what they see and the shopping experience we promise that they commit without delay. For us 4D is instrumental in achieving this”.

Like Mason, Derek Waddington owner of Broadway Bathrooms in Putney, London was immediately excited by the whole concept of 4D: “I’ve used Virtual Worlds for five years now and love it. When I saw the 4D demonstration, I immediately thought it was for us. It’s an additional investment but our showroom is not that large and needs to work hard for us – I feel 4D will really help”.

Pre-empts installation issues

It is early days for 4D and Mason is the first to admit that he and his staff are still honing their sales pitch, when it comes to introducing consumers to it. His commitment to the technology is such that all potential customers are given a brief demonstration of the ability of the “goggles”, as he refers to the headset, at preliminary discussions and visits to the showroom. “We show them how their kitchen or bathroom design will be visualised, how it will appear through the goggles and the outstanding level of detail they will be able to experience. So far each one has been amazed.  You can hear some of them leaving the showroom still excitedly talking about it. This is a major, major tool for us. We plan to use 4D with as many people as possible.”

Resolves spacial awareness

One of the key features of the technology is that the customer experiences their kitchen or bathroom as though they were walking through it in real life. The realism is impressive, so much so that both Waddington and Mason report that 4D provides the spacial awareness which so many customers lack.

Customer using 4D at James Reese lr

“Most customers struggle to grasp an overhead, 3D plan or flat render – however smart it looks. We find the 4D experience overcomes this problem entirely. They feel physically in the room and so they can see exactly how much space there is between the island units and the oven or the drawers fully extended and whether there is sufficient space for their requirements. It avoids all sorts of potential problems”, explains Mason.

Waddington agrees: “We use Virtual Worlds a lot in the showroom as it is real time and in 3D. Customers can relate to what they are seeing − they really get involved with the design. I anticipate 4D is gong to be that much better”.

As the customer physically experiences the room via the headset in 4D, the designer views the same design on a screen, only in 3D format. If required, adjustments to the design can be made and the customer can view the changes immediately. There is no additional work involved for the designer to go from standard 3D interactive stage to showing the customer the design in 4D.

Waddington thinks the consumer experience of 4D could negate the requirement for producing high resolution renders entirely: “High quality rendering is slow and dated; I think there will be no need once the consumer has seen their design through the goggles – we’ll be talking to them at an entirely different level”.

Design consultation fee potential

Installation of the new CAD technology has also made both retailers start to re-evaluate their approach to charging for design consultations. Like so many kitchen and bathroom retailers, Reese James does not currently charge for designs and Broadway Bathrooms do so rarely, both nervous of deterring potential clients. However, the introduction of the 4D experience is making them question this approach. Mason explains his thinking: “If you can bolt together an impressive showroom with strong design, personal service and add the wow factor of Virtual Worlds 4D experience, I am beginning to think a consultation fee could be feasible”.

Now that would be a game changer.

(Published in KBB Review, September 2015 edition, page 49.)

Virtual Worlds New App Brings Design into the Home

 

Virtual Worlds, the popular KBB CAD software from Logicom, has launched the Viewer App for designers to share their 3D interactive designs with customers.

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Compatible with Apple or Android mobile devices, the Viewer App allows designers to create conceptual designs using Virtual Worlds Professional and then upload them for viewing three dimensionally in the App. Likewise, designers can email a link to a customer for them to access proposed designs or a gallery of previous projects, at their convenience.

The Viewer App has multiple interfaces, including touch screen swipe and on-screen navigation.  Quick and responsive, the Virtual Worlds App brings to life designers’ plans, demonstrating them in an interactive format. Customers can walk through their room, on-screen, and view it from any angle; open cupboards and doors, look inside a shower, take a close-up of the tiling format, all on their tablet or Smartphone.

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Nathan MacLean, Acting Managing Director at Logicom sees the Viewer App as an exciting, additional selling tool:  “The Viewer App provides retailers with a powerful, portable sales tool, which shortens the sales process and showcases their designs in a customer friendly, engaging way. The concept of a customer, ipad in hand, standing in their actual kitchen as they tap their way around photo realistic visuals of their new layout, is now an exciting reality”.

The Viewer App has been developed by Logicom, creators of Virtual Worlds. The hosting service, available on an annual subscription, is provided through the Virtual Worlds’ cloud and is therefore secure, controlled and confidential. Once uploaded, plans can be accessed for a time managed period by invited customers only, even if the retailer or designer is off-line.

April – New Catalogues Releases & Updates

It’s been a busy month here at Virtual Worlds with many updates and new catalogue releases from our top manufacturers.  Our latest updates are all now available to download from the Virtual Worlds User Centre so don’t delay and download them today and improve your customer offering.
 

New Catalogues


TOTO’s impressive portfolio is featured in this new catalogue including a wide selection of products from TOTO’s ranges of sanitary ware, baths, furniture, taps, showers and accessories.

“TOTO is very pleased to be included in the Virtual Worlds catalogue of products. This is a valuable resource for our retail partners and their designers, helping them to create the perfect TOTO bathroom for each client.”
Mr Sohei Nishida, UK General Manager, TOTO Europe GmbH

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New Product Launch – Don’t just have a bath –  love it… view our new collection of luxury contemporary freestanding baths – lovingly handcrafted using innovative manufacturing techniques and using the finest materials – specified by architects and interior designs and available only through an elite collection of exclusive bathroom retailers.

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The standard catalogue for theshowerlab sees parametrics used for the first time in Virtual Worlds.  This new catalogue includes all of the standard shower enclosures, trays and customisable components in theshowerlab’s product range. Bespoke theshowerlab product catalogues will be available in the future.

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New Versions

Laufen are signed up to the Virtual Worlds subscription service which means their catalogues will be updated regularly on new product releases. Download this update, the first of many, for the complete range of items from the LAUFEN pro, ILBAGNOALESSI one and palace ranges of baths, furniture, sanitaryware, taps, shower fittings, enclosures and trays. 

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Includes many new collections of tiles from the Dune tile range giving you a greater selection of choice when designing. Additional Dune product updates will be available in the future.

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Featuring the Drayton, Mozzano and Radford ranges of sanitaryware and baths.  This newly updated version also includes the Staffordshire range of taps and brassware and adds new items to the Tubo range of taps and brassware.
 

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Generic Bathrooms
A great selection of generic sanitaryware, furniture, radiators, taps, showers and accessories including some new and more modern additions.  This catalogue provides everything needed to quickly test your bathroom design concepts before replacing the generic items with branded products.  The sanitaryware has most items in both traditional and contemporary styles, with every product type available in all configurations!
You can find it in the Generic section within the Catalogues in the Virtual Worlds User Centre.

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For updates on all of our latest releases keep an eye on our website news section at www.virtualworlds.co.uk or on Twitter and Facebook.

Virtual Worlds Support Team
Helping you design better!