How VR can add value to C&E

Maninder Sahota

Technology and how it might impact the C&E sector is a key focus for QHotels Event Profs Panel after working with world-renowned futurologist Professor Ian Pearson, at the end of 2016.

One of the most fascinating discussions was about the possibilities that Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) offer the events industry.

So we sent panel member Maninder Sahota to VR World, Europe's largest event dedicated to augmented, mixed and virtual reality, to uncover some of the latest trends and meet some of people behind the technology that could change our industry.

Here's what she discovered.

"Technology has always interested me and it is fascinating to see how our phones have evolved to become an extra limb. The world of AR, MR and VR is also evolving and is now slowly becoming part of our lives without us even realising.

"So attending VR World has really helped me gain a better understanding of how we can blend it into our day-to-day life.

"I have to admit that my knowledge prior to attending was relatively limited. I understood a little about AR because of Pokemon Go and Snapchat but beyond that, I didn't know how it would work for the events industry. VR, in my head, was reserved for the gaming industry, wearing a headset and being virtually transported somewhere else.

"VR World has taught me the depth of this technology, and it isn't just about fancy simulations, we can solve real life problems in incredibly exciting ways."

While Maninder was at the show we asked her to think about how what she was seeing might apply to the MICE sectors.

"Communications agencies seem to use a lot of VR to bring their client's visions to life, but we need to realise that it isn't always about selling to the consumer, it can also be used in areas such as internal training.

"For example, if you're organising a staff training day for a client, then you can explore VR as a way of making employees more invested in your company. If you have developed a new product why not showcase it to your staff through VR, rather than a presentation?

"Death by PowerPoint is always a concern, so should we be asking speakers to explore ways of delivering talks with more immersive technology?

"Also, our industry should consider utilising AR when designing event apps.  A Pokemon Go style model could work quite well in an exhibition, increasing engagement with delegates, while helping to maximise footfall and engagement.

"I am particularly excited about the possibilities around VR headsets, as they have the ability to transport you to anywhere in the world and into any space. The growth of these headsets could allow event organisers to conduct multiple site visits, without actually leaving the office. I thought this was a really fascinating concept.

"Maybe venues should be investing in this technology, so when event organisers attend large expos, like the Meetings Show and Confex, they can visit a stand and rather than being handed a brochure they can actually visit the venue, there and then, in the virtual world.

"However, we also need to look at the impact that this technology could have on the events industry. Will the need for smaller events diminish if we have effective time saving technologies? If a global organisation can connect all of their employees without them having to travel, would they need an event organiser?

"After attending VR World and exploring all of these ideas, my understanding has grown and I don't consider this is a risk.

"This technology isn't about taking away a function, it is all about enhancement. How do we enhance a delegate's experience? How do we, as event organisers, save time and in turn save our client's money?

"And that's where VR and AR can immediately add value and enhance the industry. Conducting a site visit will always be important to event organisers, but actually being able to quickly see multiple venues will allow you to create a shortlist in a more efficient and cost effective way.  That could change how many of us currently work.

"I left VR world feeling pretty inspired and with a lot of ideas about how I wanted to research this technology to, not only influence my personal life, but actually, how I can enhance my professional life as well. "        

So what were the businesses that Maninder felt could have an impact on the MICE industry in the near future?

 

Presenceware - http://presenceware.com/

Presenceware

Who are they?

A VR headset developer.

What do they do?

Developed a VR Headset for real estate agencies that allows those purchasing a home to visit that property without actually having to leave the estate agent's office.

Who is it aimed at?

Currently, real estate agents.

How could it improve the conference and events industry?

Presenceware could easily move over to the conference events industry to really develop the way venues sell space. Utilising a headset when conducting supplier visits can ensure that event management companies and venue finding companies can see the space, and really get a feel for it, without having to travel to the venue.

 

blueprint - https://blueprintpartners.com/

blueprint

 

Who are they?

A communications agency that specialises in events management, video content and internal communications and training through digital solutions.

What do they do?

They use VR to increase engagement and improve the recall of content as experiencing something in VR is more engaging than traditional formats. This includes developing solutions that help to train people more effectively as they are exposed to the same message and receive a consistent experience.  The services also help to overcome geographical issues, by being able to train people from all across the world without them having to travel.

Who is it aimed at?

Anyone that has a communication need, whether it is to a customer or its own staff. 

It is not just larger companies that look into this technology, Blueprint created a VR spine for a chiropractor's clinic, which allowed patients to see their damaged spine alongside a healthy spine. The chiropractor could also manipulate the image to show how, if left untreated, the spine would look and the impact that would have on posture.

How could it improve the conference and events industry?

It could dramatically improve audience engagement by taking audiences from being presented to, to experiencing being in a presentation.

A big application is for training, particularly when subject matter is complex and geographically constrained.

 

astrivis - https://www.astrivis.com/

astrivis

Who are they?

A VR/MR app that uses the camera in your phone to record and retrieve 3D information in order to create content anywhere.

What they do?

Allow you to scan objects in 3D onto your phone. For an example you could use pictures of yourself to build a personal 3D avatar or an artist could easily create 3D objects, without the need for additional technology or equipment.

For businesses, the app is licensed and then integrated to meet their requirements e.g. a medical body is using the app to create custom insoles. You use the app to scan your foot and then a bespoke insole is created using that 3D image.

Who is it aimed at?

Anyone who has the need to create 3D images of objects when they are mobile or on the move.

How could it improve the conference and events industry?

It could help the design, build and staging of conferences and events, allowing you to visualise stands and venue dressings easily, using your mobile phone.

It can help you to scan a space or venue quickly and easily, to help build a VR/AR experience with no additional hardware.

Click here to see VR in action. 

 

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