Should you invest in virtual reality?

By Gina Sin on 20/04/2017

Before a wave of consumer-friendly virtual reality devices were made available to the public, events have already started to capitalise on virtual reality (VR) before it became mainstream.

VR may be all the hype now at trade shows and events with an ultimate goal to provide memorable and customised event experiences, but first, understand the terms, uses and challenges it may possess before jumping on the VR bandwagon.

At a virtual reality masterclass held at Novotel Clarke Quay by international creative agency B.U.T. in Singapore yesterday, true immersion has been defined as a mix of high visual quality, intuitive interactions (precise motion tracking and natural user interfaces) and high-resolution audio quality.

The widespread popularity of Pokemon Go has proven the public’s interest on the adoption of augmented reality (AR), while the rise of gamification of events to drive traffic and create buzz have opened the floodgates for this technology to seep into more aspects of daily life.

As the umbrella term for all immersive digital experiences, which could include purely real-world content (360-degree videos, for e.g.), artificial content or a hybrid of both (mixed reality), VR is undoubtedly taking event planning up a notch with its immersive capabilities.

From trade shows to virtual meetings, the use of VR has help reduced cost savings either through an interactive demonstration of products (imagine no longer needing to transport large product items to trade shows) or having remote attendees be part of the meeting as if they were really present. Advanced 360-degree cameras and perspective mean it is possible for them to see others in the room as if they were alongside them.

VR content is usually a real-world video recording, but can also be a computer generated 'movie' that can be viewed in different ways; stored on youtube, vimeo, or uploaded on facebook, content can be viewed by moving a phone/tablet 'viewport' around a headset/cardboard, or explored on a desktop.

Providing a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment, AR is when computer-generated graphics are blended into real footage in real time. Digital imagery is projected into the prism projection system located between the eye and the outside world so that the viewer sees the digital image as an integrated part of the real world. As an example,  speakers can now speak at conferences without having to physically be there.

Mixed reality (MR), as with AR, uses semi-transparent glasses like the Microsoft HoloLens that allows virtual “holographic” objects to be added to the environment. Its positional awareness has the whole 3D environment mapped, enabling objects to be anchored in the real world and manipulated in the virtual world. 

Some of the challenges B.U.T. have highlighted include:

  • Highly fragmented ecosystem of platforms; no platform is dominant
  • Lack of standards in data sharing and interactions
  • Immature authoring of tools
  • Autonomy of devices battery, tethering
  • Quality of lenses and displays; field of view
  • Incompatible back office systems
  • Cost of content production
  • Cost of devices and ecosystem

Although it is a little too soon to call it mainstream, it appears that virtual reality has been gaining precedence for the ultimate immersive experience. The question now is not if, but when and how you will be using VR in your events. Afterall, content is king, and you are in control of making it relevant and attractive.

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