Pivot Fast: Building Virtual & Immersive Platforms for Events – PART 2

Pivot Fast: Building Virtual & Immersive Platforms for Events – PART 2

PIVOT FAST is a web series dedicated to helping the community pivot from a live presence to virtual presence. 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 this episode, we take a deeper dive into the benefits of virtualized platforms and how these tools create opportunities beyond what the physical world is able to provide. We are 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 & Strategy, Accenture Interactive

Accenture Interactive has helped clients to pivot and understand how virtual plays 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 their 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. 

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 optimize their business. 

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 they are 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 gap between network connectivity to people’s homes for “work for home” efficiencies. These networks are having to think about how they can provide the infrastructure support which allow people to continue to conduct their work and lives with what will become the new normal of continuing to be distributed.

Sadie Van Buren

Business Development Manager, Mixed Reality, Microsoft

Microsoft, as expected, is on the leading edge of virtual solutions with their Mixed Reality platform and suite of both software and hardware products. The company is doing a lot to innovate and inspire their staff and community during COVID. Some of these initiatives include using AI to track their progress against COVID-19 world-wide and their 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 prioritizing and optimizing all their collaboration technology including remote assist (now offering a 6 month trial!) which is a mixed reality application that helps people connect remotely and see through the eyes of someone in the field so an expert can help them. 

Live vs. 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 the physical presence can currently provide. 

There are many challenges to overcome in translating the live presence to the virtual presence. There are many in the industry who are reacting frantically to meet this challenge.  You can also see the thought leaders in the industry 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 virtual and augmented reality, 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 virtual technologies, Sandvine released a report showing, for the first time, a VR platform (Oculus) being placed in the top 10 of gaming platforms. This provides great optimism in how the world is shifting to embrace virtual 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 physical space in virtual doesn’t translate the same way we recreate a physical space in another physical space because we don’t use virtual spaces the same way we use physical spaces. The reason for this is because of the limitations in a physical space. For instance, in a convention center 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 none of these same rules apply because in virtual there are no rules. So 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 like networking and sharing information. With that lens, it will change the strategy on how you engage with attendees virtually. A computer-based game, Fornite, broke barriers of the current understanding of virtual concerts when they hosted live animated & gamified concerts by the DJ, Marshmallow, and more recently, rapper Travis Scott. Over 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 be utilized when attempting to create an experience in a virtual space. These are some examples of virtual event platforms that are quickly gaining traction: 

Ability to Create Anything on Virtual Platforms

Many in the virtual spaces industry have been using gaming artificial intelligence (AI) to be impactful for health, the environment and business practices. More and more, people are starting to truly understand the true value where gaming or “creation” engines can be something more impactful than just for the games industry. The concept of being able to create anything is reaching the mass market and people are realizing that in the virtual world, anything is possible and we are no longer held to the limitations of the 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 like WebXRand WebAR. This is important because this immersive web capability is giving businesses the ability to easily incorporate more engaging content and introduce immersive to the masses that are already accessing the web. The Real Estate band is an excellent example of utilizing augmented reality to bring content alive.

Virtual’s Endless Capacity

Many events have finite dates and times because of capacity expectations, content scheduling, cost prohibitive space rentals, etc. In virtual, time and space are no longer a roadblock. Virtual allows you the ability to change the format of events and to maximize the freedom of 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 their content over 1-hour time segments, every day, for two weeks during the lunch hour. Given this type of flexibility, in regards to 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, the new budget decisions are based on what features to add to the event platform as it evolves over time. The conduit: as we are freed from the constraints from the physical space, there inherently becomes more pressure to optimize the experience for the event’s immediate accessibility to a global community. This includes considerations of feature additions, such as optimizing avatars to bring emotion and intent, as well as incorporating language translation services.

In this new era of pivoting fast to virtual spaces, a vigilance to invent new products and experiences has been created.  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 evaluate the true importance of different procedures and engagements.  This is the basis for pivoting and shifting investments and focus to virtual.

Watch the full conversation here.