Pivot Fast - building immersive and virtual platforms for events

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The latest episode of Pivot Fast saw a line-up of experts dive into the benefits of virtual platforms and how these tools create opportunities beyond what the physical world is able to provide. This recap is from VRWorldTech editorial board member Sophia Moshasha, of Brightline Interactive

Pivot Fast is a web series dedicated to helping the community pivot from a live presence to virtual one. In the last episode, we discussed the different types of virtual platforms and how they can be applied to the goals and needs of particular types of events and collaborations.

In the latest episode, we took a deeper dive into the benefits of virtual platforms and how these tools create opportunities beyond what the physical world is able to provide. We were joined in this session by esteemed experts that have been leading the way in providing virtual solutions to the masses.

Featured guests

Rori Duboff, Managing Director, Innovation and Strategy, Accenture Interactive

Rori Duboff, Managing Director, Innovation and Strategy, Accenture Interactive

Accenture Interactive has helped clients to pivot and understand how virtual spaces play a role in collaboration, how employees work best when distanced, how companies sell products when stores are closed, and even how events can take place when there is no physical presence.

As its clients navigate how to best pivot considering the current issues they face, Accenture has been assessing how to make the best use of virtual platforms in order to offer the best solutions for their clients’ specific needs.

Pivot Fast: building immersive and virtual platforms for events - Ron Martin, Creative and Technical Director of Business Development for Film, Unity Technologies

Ron Martin, Creative and Technical Director of Business Development for Film, Unity Technologies

Unity Technologies is a popular development platform that has been traditionally used to create games, but is now increasingly seen as the ultimate “creation engine” to develop pretty much anything in virtual. Unity plays a key role in assessing the needs of industries and enabling companies with tools as they develop an understanding on how to leverage virtual platforms in the way to best optimise their businesses.

Pivot Fast: building immersive and virtual platforms for events - Leslie Shannon, Head of Ecosystem and Trend Scouting, Nokia

Leslie Shannon, Head of Ecosystem and Trend Scouting, Nokia

Nokia is responsible for providing the infrastructure and networks that are needed to support immersive technology. The trend it is seeing is a lot of networks having to go back to the basics of network infrastructure as there are many “holes” being discovered when attempting to bridge the connectivity gap between the network and people’s homes for “work for home” efficiencies.

Nokia is having to think about how it can provide the infrastructure support that allows people to continue to conduct their work and lives in will become the new normal of distributed working.

Pivot Fast: building immersive and virtual platforms for events - Sadie Van Buren, Business Development Manager, Mixed Reality, Microsoft

Sadie Van Buren, Business Development Manager, Mixed Reality, Microsoft

Microsoft, as expected, is on the leading edge of virtual solutions with its MR platform and suite of both software and hardware products. The company is doing a lot to innovate and inspire its staff and community during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Some of these initiatives include using AI to track progress against Covid-19 worldwide and its launch of an internal giving campaign that has allowed employees to take time off of work to give to their community and make an impact.

In terms of supporting the effort towards the transition to virtual spaces, Microsoft is prioritising and optimising all its collaboration technology, including Remote Assist (now offering a six month trial!), which is a MR application that helps people connect remotely and see through the eyes of someone in the field so an expert can help them.

Live v virtual trends

We are seeing the changing trend of how storytelling is accomplished, as well as how purpose is intentionally woven into immersive technology. There are many different ways to tie together the physical and virtual, especially when incorporating premium access for event ticketing.

A prime example of this is how Microsoft took advantage of blending the physical and virtual spaces by sending out cups to the attendees of the Business Applications Summit. The item an attendee received in the mail would unlock access to immersive premium content, such as a full-scale AR volumetric capture keynote address.

With virtual technologies, we have the opportunity to bring additional value to an event, and potentially even more than what a physical presence can currently provide.

There are many challenges to overcome in translating live presences to virtual spaces. There are many in the business who are reacting frantically to meet this challenge. You can also see the thought leaders who fully understand the future implications and opportunities of moving their internal and external operations virtually.

While we are anxious and optimistic about the power of moving to immersive technologies of VR and AR, we have to understand the current limitations and be realistic about access to hardware. When creating virtual platforms, it is important to be mindful of the intended audience having ubiquitous access to the platform and content.  

Among other interesting internet trends that showcase the growing adoption of immersive technologies, Sandvine released a report showing, for the first time, a VR platform (Oculus) placed in the top 10 of gaming platforms. This provides great optimism in how the world is shifting to embrace immersive technologies. Right now, though, the goal is to create a hybrid approach that combines the best of the physical and the virtual worlds.

We know we need to pivot, but how? 

Recreating a real space in virtual is different to doing so in another physical space, because the two aren’t used in the same way and there are limitations in physical spaces. For instance, in a convention centre there are a set number of spaces and rooms to meet. There are hours these spaces and rooms are open and closed. And to get to these spaces we need to walk, drive and fly to them. In virtual spaces, none of these same rules apply because there are no rules.

As such, our tendency to try and recreate something with limitations is not the right approach. We need to, instead, throw away the limitations of physical events and embrace the positives, such as networking and sharing information. With that lens, it will change the strategy on how you engage with attendees virtually.

A computer-based game, Fornite, surpassed the current understanding of virtual concerts when it  hosted live animated and gamified concerts by the DJ, Marshmallow, and more recently, rapper Travis Scott. More than 27.7 million unique gamers attended the digital gig 45.8 million times, a capacity that only a virtual space could accommodate.

There are so many platforms to utilise when attempting to create an experience in a virtual space. These are some examples of virtual event platforms that are quickly gaining traction: 

Altspace

Rumi

Sharepoint Spaces

Mozilla Hubs

VR Chat

Spatial

Arthur 

Rec Room

Breakroom

Teooh

VirBELA

Ability to create anything on virtual platforms

Many developers of  virtual spaces have been using AR to be impactful for health, the environment and business practices. More and more, people are starting to truly understand the true value of gaming or ‘creation’ engines and that they can have an impact beyond the games industry.

The concept of being able to create anything is reaching the mass market and many are realising that in the virtual world, anything is possible and we are no longer held to the limitations of physical space. Only time and creativity will tell where we stretch those limitations with the capabilities of virtual platforms.

There are many innovations in immersive technology that combine immersive content with the platforms we currently use. For example, instead of downloading an application from your phone, you can just go to a website to access immersive-style content such as WebXR and WebAR.

This is important, because this immersive web capability is giving businesses the ability to easily incorporate more engaging content and introduce immersion to masses that are already accessing the web. The Real Estate band is an excellent example of utilising AR to bring content alive.

Virtual’s endless capacity

Many events have finite dates and times because of restrictions and limitations such as capacity expectations, content scheduling and expensive space rentals. In the virtual, time and space are no longer an issue. The virtual gives you the ability to change the format of events and to maximise time and space, in order to accommodate people’s schedules, such as being able to release content episodically, or allow guests to view content on-demand.

An example of this is how a particular conference spread its content over one-hour time segments, every day, for two weeks during lunch hours. Given this type of flexibility in event format, there naturally comes a shift in how budget is spent. The virtual space is evergreen and can be redesigned over time. Instead of allocating a budget based on number and size of events, new budget decisions are based on what features to add to the event platform as it evolves over time.

As we are freed from the constraints of physical space, there inherently becomes more pressure to optimise the experience for the event’s immediate accessibility to a global community. This includes considerations of feature additions, such as optimising avatars to bring emotion and intent, as well as incorporating language translation services.

In this new era of pivoting fast to virtual spaces, a desire to invent new products and experiences has been borne. These new opportunities to engage have, in some instances, proven to be more meaningful than what we could have experienced in person.

The level of innovation that is happening right now is inspiring, as companies are rethinking the way they do business and evaluating the true importance of different procedures and engagements. This is the basis for pivoting and shifting investments and focus to virtual platforms.

About the author
VRWorldTech editorial board member Sophia Moshasha, of Brightline Interactive

An evangelist in immersive technology, Sophia Moshasha spends her time educating the community on applications of virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR). She is currently director of immersive platforms at Brightline Interactive, an immersive technology company that produces custom interactive technology, to include VR and AR experiences, for brands, agencies and government entities. Sophia is also vice president of the VR/AR Association Washington DC chapter, co-chairs the association’s marketing and defence committees, and co-hosts the association’s podcast, Everything VR & AR.

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Main image: Episode 2 of Pivot Fast. Credit: Brightline Interactive

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