For centuries, new technology has been used to overcome big challenges in times of pressing need, creating opportunities out of crises, and it seems that history is now repeating itself once again.

With much of the world’s population forced into unfamiliar remote working conditions (for a very good reason, of course) and countless businesses and individuals having to quickly adapt to this as the new norm, digital connectivity is proving to be a real saviour.

Businesses are now hugely reliant on high-speed internet and video chat apps to keep themselves running, and some event organisers are managing to salvage their plans and avoid having to cancel completely by using live streaming and other tech-related solutions.

But what is also starting to become apparent is the level of potential that virtual reality (VR) technology can offer in this space, particularly with conferences.

How can VR help?

The applications of virtual reality have come a long way from being simply a system for solo use. It is now very much a collaborative communication tool as well.

While arranging a VR setup for multiple participants in different locations may require a bit of technical knowhow, remarkable things are now being done with the technology, and the boundaries of what’s possible are regularly being pushed.

Just recently, in February 2020, the organisers of the Educators in VR International Summit successfully hosted the largest ever immersive virtual conference, and it was quite the achievement.

In total, it saw 170 speakers involved in more than 150 events, delivered over five different VR platforms, across six days, and with more than 6,000 virtual attendees taking part.

With more event organisers looking to find new ways to cut their carbon footprints, engage younger and more tech-savvy audiences and get around (wholly unforeseen) challenges like the current Covid-19/coronavirus pandemic that is making traditional mass gatherings of this kind almost impossible, virtual reality is now a workable solution.

Not everyone will be able to do what Educators in VR did – they had a team of 75 volunteers working behind the scenes – but with expert assistance (such as what we provide at VRE), VR events are no longer inconceivable options for corporate gatherings like they were just a few years ago.

Going virtual

There are many more instances out there of conferences hastily reorganising so they can still go ahead, but in an online-only format, such as those arranged by Facebook and Nvidia.

Although they were all originally intended to be held in person, these events have been applauded for showing the world that speakers and attendees don’t all need to jet halfway around the world just to spend a couple of days in an exhibition centre, and have demonstrated other advantages that online event delivery can have over traditional means.

As for taking it a step further and attempting to make it a VR experience, the success of the Educators in VR Summit inspired others, including one of the biggest headset manufacturers, to give it a go.

HTC’s Vive Ecosystem Conference (VEC), which usually takes place in Shenzhen, China, was also held entirely in virtual reality on March 18th. It took place within Engage, a virtual reality training platform, and enabled attendees to experience the event in 6DOF (six degrees of freedom) VR that could be accessed through WebVR, tablet or smartphone. It was also live streamed over YouTube.

With another event successfully pulling off the VR approach it made total sense for a company like HTC to attempt the same feat, and its China President Alvin Wang Graylin pointed out in the build-up how it allowed them to illustrate how the technology is capable of really disrupting this space.

For example, those organisers who can boast big-name keynote speakers wouldn’t need to worry about turning people away when the room reaches capacity as there is no physical space to fill, and attendees could be given the option to replay sessions later on.

Attendees also get a full programme of activities just like you would get at an in-person conference – so that’s a complete line-up of speakers, as well as networking opportunities and teambuilding opportunities.

Grasping the opportunity

Events such as these are showing us what the future of conferences could – and some might say should – look like. But as one of the biggest names in the business has only just been able to hold its first VR conference it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that this kind of thing is not something that just anyone can organise – at least not on this kind of scale.

However, the possibilities that VR can bring to smaller gatherings too is making it much more appealing to regular events companies.

So, if you have an event that is now under threat due to the current situation and you’re considering virtual alternatives, or if you’re just curious about what VR can bring to events, get in touch with us today. We’ll have the answers you need.