Ready or not, VR is here today
By now, most of us agree that virtual reality technology isn’t going to upend human communication all together. But it does introduce a whole new way for people to experience games, videos, and other content — meaning it’s a key technology for meeting professionals and event planners to understand.
We’ve outlined what event professionals need to understand about VR games and content, the technology to deliver that content, and how they can use VR to engage audiences and achieve the goals of their meetings or corporate events.
Why is VR for events so powerful?
What makes virtual reality different from other media formats is that it immerses your senses, fooling your brain into processing the experience as if it were really happening. Compared to traditional video media, VR content can be more engaging, more memorable, more persuasive, and more interactive.
For example, taking a stroll on Mt. Everest in the “Everest” VR game wraps you in sounds of chilly wind swirling around your ears. Or, when you walk on a shaky piece of plywood in the popular “Walk the Plank” VR game, the creaking sound of the board hanging off a skyscraper truly makes you feel like you’re hundreds of stories up, about to fall off.
How is virtual reality used at events?
You may be surprised that your company or client might already have content that could be experienced on even the most basic VR setup. Immersive content can be as simple as a 360-degree video to give a tour of your event space.
There are also thousands of applications currently available for free or minimal cost in the Oculus store, ranging from simple games to world-building apps. With some creative thinking, you may be able to find one that reflects your business or event theme.
Here’s a small sample VR applications we’ve seen at recent meetings and events:
360 degree and interactive tours and demonstration
VR meeting and collaboration spaces
Games and branded experiences
Immersive medical demonstration and education
Immersive simulation and training
Interactive arcades for tech focused events
Planning Virtual Reality at Your Event
Many of the predictions about VR from Silicon Valley haven’t panned out yet — most American homes don’t have a VR headset just chilling on their kitchen table. Virtual reality remains a special-occasion experience, making it a unique tool for events and meetings.
Perhaps the biggest barrier to broad adoption is the cost and general goofiness of the equipment needed for VR. Until the immersive contact lens comes out, quality VR requires a relatively powerful computer, a pair of bulky goggles, and handheld controllers. The good news for meeting pros is that VR headsets, kiosks, and booths are becoming increasingly available to rent.
Here are a few currently available options for VR at events:
Exit Reality Wing: This all-in-one VR booth definitely turns heads and immerses your audience in another world. The monitor on the side shows your audience exactly what the player is seeing as they play. It measures 8.5’ x 8.5’ and you can add your logos, colors, or other branding to it.
Virtual Reality Kiosks: A kiosk is a perfect middle ground for event planners who don’t have the space or budget for an enormous booth, but want to make a bigger splash than a headset on a table. The monitor shows your audience exactly what the player is seeing. It’s ideal for trade shows and setting up VR stations, and you can either use the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive with this kiosk. (FYI- You can only rent this one at Meeting Tomorrow.)
Virtual Reality Headsets: Headsets are ideal for smaller spaces. You can set-up a virtual reality experience anywhere. While they’re not as eye-catching as a kiosk or booth, a VR headset still peaks people’s curiosity like nothing else.
Looking for a (very) low-cost solution? Google Cardboard is a cardboard headset that pairs with most smartphones. You can also capture your own VR images with the Cardboard Camera iOS and Android app. Headsets can cost less than $10. Of course, it’s not going to be as fully immersive as the higher-end models, but Google Cardboard can be a fun place to enter into the world of VR. (For a great example of how these cardboard goggles were used at an event, check out how Citi Group sponsored a concert and live streamed it in a VR format.)
What are the benefits of VR?
Avoid using VR tech purely as a gimmick. Instead, provide real value to attendees and stakeholders.The most important part of adopting any technology is the impact it will have on your strategic goals. Did renting VR equipment help you attract and meet more contacts at your trade show booth? Did it set you apart from other exhibitors? Did it provide your audience with a more immersive way to experience your videos, photos, or games? Do your employees have a deeper understanding of what they were trained on?
Ask yourself what the goal of your event is first — and then see how you can leverage VR to help get you there.