When global superstar Marshmello was invited to headline at the UEFA Champions League 2021 final Opening Ceremony, the DJ hitmaker wanted to give the 380 million fans watching, a show the likeness of which they had never seen before; and so he turned to virtual reality (VR).
From VFX and game engine technology to 3D cameras and real-time virtual production, Marshmello’s 6-minute VR set was designed to “bend reality” - and it did. Fans looked on as a giant Marshmello walked through the streets of Europe’s capitals and danced with an army of fellow Marshmellos; he played guitar while fireworks went off behind him, and raised the volume as the stadium filled up with water.
It was an electrifying virtual event experience.
Marshmello’s incredible performance is just one of the many ways in which the events industry has embraced the transformational potential of virtual reality—and rightly so. VR offers a remarkably sensory experience to boost engagement and entertainment for any event. It can attract greater participation and deliver better experiences than a presentation or discussion.
VR at virtual events: what you can do
Ever since Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR, some of the biggest names in tech, such as Google and Samsung, have already entered the VR tech market. So, this futuristic technology is becoming increasingly accessible for the events industry.
Brands and event organizers worldwide are already creatively using VR technology to supercharge their virtual events. Let’s look at how you can too.
For knowledge sharing—conferences, seminars, training
In a world where businesses aspire to focus more on showing than telling, VR is the perfect tool for organizers to create immersive and educational experiences for attendees. Instead of keynote pontifications and dull powerpoint presentations, organizers can easily bring a subject alive through a VR experience. For instance, learning about a new and innovative piece of medical equipment is so much more impactful if you can ‘watch’ it being used in surgery rather than just hear it being described.
That’s precisely what AltSpace achieved through its VR-powered conference, vMed20. Participants could attend this conference virtually through the organizer’s free VR social tool, AltSpace—to learn about the multiple use cases of VR in the healthcare industry; an excellent demonstration of the game-changing potential of immersive technology in the healthcare sector
For marketing—product launches and demos
A basic presentation will no longer cut the bill when you’re launching a new product and want to keep your audience hooked and wowed. Showing off your products at a virtual event can be best accomplished with VR technology that lets your attendees appreciate it from 360 degrees.
And that’s exactly what OnePlus pulled off with its first-ever VR product launch.Speaking about the decision to use VR, Carl Pei, Co-Founder of OnePlus said “ In our industry, product launches tend to be the same. An auditorium, a keynote, and a seated audience. For the OnePlus 2 launch, we didn’t want that barrier between us and you; we wanted to invite you into our world, because you’re a major part of it. That is why we decided to unveil the OnePlus 2 to the world completely in VR.”
To this end, the event was shot entirely with 360° filming technology ahead of launch. In it, users were welcomed into the OnePlus office, leading to the unveiling of the product. Attendees could tour the office, meet the team and other fans. On the day of the launch, fans were able to watch the launch on their Android app or on Youtube. Those using the app were able to see detailed specifications of the new smartphone and interact with its features.
And it’s clear that the strategy paid off with 45,000+ concurrent viewers in 170 countries tuning in during the launch, and the VR event racking up 750,000+ views in the first 24 hours.
For entertainment—live games and concerts
For the entertainment industry, VR offers organizers a way to replicate the excitement and energy of in-person events at a virtual one. Putting on a headset can transport the wearer to the front row of a musical festival - an experience that you can’t really get from watching a Youtube video for instance.
A great example of this in action is FOX Sports VR-powered broadcasts of NBA games. Attendees wearing Oculus headsets can experience the thrill of watching basketball greats live in action.
Halestorm’s virtual reality concert is another great example of how the entertainment industry is adopting this technology.
For charity—fundraisers and charity events
VR lets non-profit organizers bring their causes to life. Through 360-degree video, donors can step into the shoes of those who need their aid. It’s a form of emotional storytelling that can prompt a donor to make a financial contribution more than powerpoint presentations and data can do.
The Royal Trinity Hospice, for instance, created a VR video tour that takes viewers through the entire grounds of the hospice, and highlights its services. Through this, potential donors can understand the impact their aid will have. This movie is displayed in several of the organization’s virtual events, including its annual celebrations and fairs.
Challenges in using VR for virtual events - and how to tackle them
As can be seen, VR has played a significant role in virtual events across industries, but some organizers are still hesitant in embracing this innovative technology for their events. Here’s how to tackle some of the challenges that come with VR.
Keeping costs low: While the tech required to produce VR and for your fans to access your videos can seem daunting, the good news is that VR technology keeps getting better, and less expensive. Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 headset at $299 has already significantly lowered the entry price point for VR devices. And with a $15 price tag, Google Cardboard allows users to experience VR with just a smartphone
Accessible to everyone: VR technology does provide a way for audiences to access new experiences, but it still has a long way to go in terms of accessibility. This high-powered technology is not feasible for users living in low connectivity areas. But this is easily addressed by partnering with venues that have the requisite bandwidth and power, or opting to use more accessible technology like smartphones.
Sharing is caring: Unlike the universe of ‘Ready, Player One’, at the moment, users cannot enter virtual reality with anyone else - for the moment atleast. But, if you have the budget, you can create group VR experiences. When Jaguar launched its electric I-PACE concept car for instance, it was through a shared virtual reality experience. Groups of attendees sat together at round tables, wearing their helmets to take a virtual ride in the driver’s seat. They could see the hand controllers of attendees to their right and left, and hear the comments and reactions of everyone else, contributing to the group experience feeling.
To sum up...
Like any technology, VR continues to change and evolve, and so organizers using the tech need to be as equally avant-garde in their creativity in its use. While the brands and the events they held can serve as inspiration, be sure to think about how you can use it to further the goals of your event.