Virtual Reality

An event marketer’s guide to Virtual Reality

The events world is exploring the virtual and as a result, mixed reality technology has become a highly requested tool both within events and the wider world, to bring a virtual experience into a physical space. So what do you need to know about virtual reality in order to successfully embrace it at your next event?

What is ‘virtual reality’?

Virtual reality is the manifestation of a computer-generated simulation by specialist electronic equipment. For example, a visitor at a travel event may adopt a headset on a stand, in order to take them to a hotel room in Dubai to have a look around. Alternatively, they might put on a headset, or pair of googles and take a ‘train ride’ through a City. The difference between this and older methods of visualisation is that with VR, the visitor is fully immersed in an environment through the sense of sight. Remember those visual stimulator rides where you would get in to a big black box and watch a screen as if you were on a speedboat? While they were effective up to a point, virtual reality takes this to another level, where the only scene you can see is the one being portrayed to you, with no other visual to detract from the illusion.

The history of VR

The term ‘virtual reality’ first began to spike interest around the 1990s, when there were books and films that depicted signs of VR, as well as virtual reality games in arcades and shopping centers. Shoot forward to the early 2010s, when Oculus Rift began their Kickstarter campaign and it was clear that this was a technology that wasn’t going to go away. Further proved by Mark Zuckerburg’s announcement of a $2bn investment in Oculus Rift, which putvirtual reality firmly on the list for emerging technologies that others, such as Samsung and Apple, must soon explore.

Virtual reality and events

VR is certainly a big buzzword in events, but one that is yet to reach full potential. The difficultly in the past has been creating content that is able to show-off the technology in the best possible way. The VR experience needs to be high quality, or risk being rendered useless. The entire concept revolves around making a person feel that they are in a specific environment and more importantly, for the brain to register the scene as a reality. If there is a time-lag when you turn your head, or a stuck scene, the reality is broken. This means that without enough budget to create a properly tried, tested and well-designed piece of software, you might as well not bother. In live event environments especially, nothing is forgiven. Saying that, it is now much more affordable to create a VR experience – with most bespoke pieces of content creation starting at around £4K or £5K and moving upwards depending on length, complexity and resolution.

Modern headsets are becoming more sophisticated than original versions, with many able to react to human movement at lightening speed, adapting the view accordingly. The screens themselves also offer a high-quality image that could be mistaken for a real-life scene

When choosing which form of technology to employ it’s important to think about it’s use within your event environment – rather than a testing one. For example, VR devices such as the Samsung Gear are powered by a phone which in an event environment may be difficult to keep charged.

Lastly, virtual reality should always be considered in light of your wider strategy and brand aims. Technology for technologies sake will not enhance your visitor’s experience, but a well-thought out piece of technology that creates a memorable experience will. Focus on the brief and message and employ the technology to facilitate that. And if VR is the right vehicle, then well your visitors are in for a treat.