Following on from our Managing Director’s recent feature in our Meet the Team series, and his comments on virtual reality holding a vital place in the future of events, we thought we should elaborate a little. Virtual reality (VR) is like something that used to feature in sci-fi films of the 70s and 80s, which perhaps adds an element of novelty and nostalgia to the technology. However, unlike other novelty technologies we’ve seen come and go, we think this one is here to stay and will seriously shake up not only the events industry but many industries across the globe.
Whether you’re looking at bringing VR to your next event or are just interested in seeing where the industry could head, read on to see our thoughts on this largely under-utilised technology.
What is Virtual Reality?
With a long and diverse history, Virtual Reality’s inception can be traced back to the mid-1930s with the publication of Pygmalion’s Spectacles, a short story by Stanley Weinbaum. The story, albeit loosely, describes a professor that has created a pair of spectacles that allow the wearer to experience sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, and presents a story in which you are the subject.
Since then there have been various attempts, some more successful than others, to create VR, in one way or another - whether this is a chamber that you enter, such as a flight simulator, or head-mounted equipment like the devices we see today. Ultimately, by definition, Virtual Reality is the simulation of an experience that is either similar or completely different from the real world. VR is characterised by the ability to control, interact with or change the environment in which you experience, either through the use of real-world controls and movement or with simulated controls.
There have been peaks and troughs in the interest in VR, with a noticeable lull in the late 2000s. However, after the development of Oculus Rift in 2010, and the following sale of the company for $2 billion to Facebook, interest in VR technology has been renewed, with tech companies from different sectors either releasing or working on their own version of VR.
How Does it Work at Events Currently?
As with many new technologies, there are pockets of the events industry that have been sharp to pick up on VR. Organisers are always looking to bring the newest and shiniest toys to events for visitors, VR has been slowly creeping up the priority list for both organisers and attendees alike. There have been a few trailblazers over the last couple of years, creating innovative, immersive and engaging experiences for users. These include:
Volvo XC90 Experience
Volvo created the XC90 experience to allow an infinite number of people to get up close and personal with their new car model. The team created an app that could be downloaded from either Google Play or the Apple App Store and encouraged users to use Google’s Cardboard, a DIY cardboard headset, to experience the car as if they were driving it. The app was designed to take users on a virtual car journey so that they could not only experience the scenery but also understand how the car looks and performs. From sat inside the vehicle, it was possible to look around in 360 degrees to see the features of the car and everything happening outside.
Merrell – Trailscape
American outdoor footwear brand Merrell created an immersive live experience that allowed guests to walk along crumbling cliffs and climb mountains, all while using a small piece of custom-built walkway. The activation used motion capture combined with VR to adjust what people would see depending on the direction in which they looked, creating a breathtaking and terrifying experience. After donning the goggles, people were directed to walk along the walkway while wind blew into them and the environment changed based on where they walked.
How Could it Work in the Future?
The opportunities for VR at events in the future are infinite. With the continuing development of both hardware and software, the technology will only become more immersive, more detailed and present users even higher quality experiences. Here, we’ve pulled out some of the ways that we think VR can become more ingrained in the events industry:
VR images can be created in two ways; the first and perhaps more common is using computer-generated imaging (CGI). The second is using real-life video and image capture, which is where virtual attendance could come in. Often, events miss out on a large portion of possible paying attendees due to unavoidable factors such as geographic location or venue capacity. By offering virtual attendance, people that would have previously missed out could experience the event from wherever they are in the world. With technology similar to that of Google’s Street View, venues could be mapped and recorded before or after visiting attendees to allow people to experience the event without the fuss of wading through crowds and still get to see everything that was on show.
Similar to Volvo’s experience, creating a virtual replica of your product to allow people to see it in front of them would reduce the requirement for having physical products at the event. Granted, for smaller items such as phones and other tech, having the physical product is just as easy. Still, for larger items, such as cars or even homes, these environments could be replicated for attendees to experience as if they were seeing it with their own eyes.
With VR being the up and coming technology, visitors to events want to be wowed by its potential. Incorporating new and immersive experiences into event displays can be a great way to add brand value and to leave your customers speechless. It also shows that you are leading the field in terms of quality of marketing and customer appreciation, both of which are vital for the continued success of a company.
If you’re in the planning stages for your next event, why not get in touch with us to take care of your crewing requirements? Whether you need set builders, electricians, drivers or technical crew, let us know, and our skilled event crew can deliver for you. You can also find out more about our work on our blog here!