The three-day streaming event of VRDays Europe certainly has been the most encompassing virtual conference I visited in this year of restrictions for social and business interactions. Not only, because this event brought together so many diverse aspects of VR from so many busy activity areas. The show also made use of a great variety of virtual technologies for lining up all these activities on different presentation platforms.
The main show was live-broadcasted from a TV studio in Amsterdam and streamed on the internet. On the first day, this main presentation stream showcased a great roundabout of all topics VR with live moderators and expert interviews. The next two days, conference lectures and expert panels were streamed while invited studio guests commented the topics in a parallel live broadcast in the studio. Another program block streamed startup pitches of content, technology or research activities.
A virtual exposition based on Laval Virtual World offered a trading floor with company and product booths, meeting rooms, roundtables and workshop facilities. Besides the broadcasting event in Amsterdam, you could visit 13 satellite locations for a real-world event. If you preferred to dive deeper into VR, you could meet up with special interest groups on AltspaceVR, and OculusTV presented a selection of panoramic videos for those with a VR headset at home. A long linking list of existing or upcoming social VR platforms completed the program offer.
The general ambience was pretty cheerful despite or even because of the pandemic situation. VR may profit from the general trend for digitization, especially in areas like collaborative remote working, education, virtual film production and online gaming. But there were downsides as well in areas like LBE installations, VR arcade gaming and in any situation where you actually need to get hands on a device yourself.
This mainly concerns the fundamental building block of real-world VRDays which is the trade show exhibition. You really want to try the products introduced during the lectures, test the new hardware yourself, get an impression of content and installation frameworks. Of course, this was not possible in a purely virtual event. All showcases only served promotion purposes – and they could serve those very well. You mostly ended up in company websites or promotion videos.
HP offered a whole series of daily workshops to go into detail on their recently released Reverb G2 headset like they did in so many streaming events throughout this year. But I did not find out about new ways to bring customers into contact with new market entries nor did I learn many new things about hygienic solutions and logistics for those areas of activity that are heavily hit by CORVID-19 restrictions.
I did learn some new terms like ‘phygital‘ which denotes the necessity of physical contact even in times of enforced digitization, or ‘pervirtual‘ for the erotic activity areas of VR adoption. But I could not grasp how much these areas actually contribute to thriving market outlooks for VR. For the moment, the general communication has to stay purely digital and the exchange for solutions takes place on a rather personal level.
VRDays Europe achieved to present a great summary of enormously diverse activities with VR in many industrial, cultural and institutional application fields. The event also successfully combined all digital formats that had been tested online throughout this exceptional year. But the lack of physical presence did not allow the medium to come to itself in this overarching digital screening framework. And among all these impressive activities, especially on a European level, there was no leverage point to be seen, yet, for a concerted action to make this medium stand on its own.