The Rise of Virtual Reality: An Evolution

March 31, 2017

The concept of Virtual Reality isn’t new. However it’s introduction to events has only come prevalent in the last year or so and now we see it everywhere, from workplace simulations to marketing activations to tourism. Virtual Reality has had an impact all all kinds of industries and the events industry has embraced it with open arms.

Virtual Reality has a long (sometimes dizzying) history, and has certainly come along way since the first virtual reality headset, produced in 1968 by Ivan Sutherland. We have seen virtual reality evolve and take take one many forms inspired by each era, but it has almost always been about one thing: the experience. Since it’s most recent re-invention/evolution, we see how VR can transform the event experience.  VR is giving presenter, participants, and planners alike a new way to communicate–more immersive, more reality. VR is THE way to give a true point of view experience. “With newer, more sophisticated technology and with advancements in computing, cameras, and display technology, we can move away from the older, nausea-inducing experiences and get the crisp, clear immersive content savvy event planners have been waiting for,” says Joel Reodica, Solutions Specialist, FMAV.

The History of Virtual Reality Explained

History of Virtual Reality FMAV


So, why events?

More and more, planners are looking for innovative ways of connecting with their audiences and to up the engagement factor.  At first, VR seemed like a hot new trend or fad, but it has become more than the novelty piece people anticipated.  Major tech brands stood up to evolve the technology to be more than just a consumer, gaming platform making adoption easier for events.  (Fun Fact: over six million VR systems were sold in 2016). Whether you’re creating a fully virtual event or enhancing the live event experience, with VR, planners can create scalable and immersive experiences.

Event planners can leverage in many ways including these most popular ones:

  • Virtual Reality pre-visualisations and true-to-scale representations
  • Virtual site inspections and venue tours
  • Original VR video content that puts the user amidst the action
  • Product launches that drive real brand connections
  • 360 live streaming that expands your reach so no one has to send their regrets
  • Gamification that boosts audience engagement



The Power of VR

The real power of VR is its ability to transport you to another time and place (whether it’s real or not).  Let’s say you’re trying to sell your destination, what better way than to drop your client directly into the action.  This was the case for Tourism Toronto for their recent Neighbourhoods campaign.  The Tourism Toronto team harnessed the power of VR to transport trade show attendees to Toronto so they could experience some of the city’s most vibrant neighbourhoods and attractions.



But, how does it work? 

First off, with the VR boom of 2016 we saw a multitude of VR solutions; from the cheap and cheerful to the uber sophisticated and from portable to stationary.  The choice of which is right for you depends on your event goals. Currently, there are three primary solutions available–each with a different use-case.

Let’s start with the cheap and cheerful.  Google Cardboard is what we would call “accessible” VR. The user installs an app onto their phone and slides it into the cardboard headset and is ready for a simple VR experience. This solution is ideal to suit large numbers of people. However, with this solution you get what you pay for and will lose out on a higher quality experience the other more sophisticated solutions offer.

Portable devices like Samsung’s GearVR or Google’s Daydreamprovide a more refined experience over Cardboard yet are still very portable.  The Cardboard and GearVR, while portable, are only stationary experiences. You can’t physically move around in the experience.

Solutions like the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift provide the ultimate room scale virtual reality experience. Running off a powerful computer, these devices truly make you feel a sense of “presence” in the virtual space. With motion controllers and room sensors, you can walk around and interact with the virtual experience within a “virtual fence”.


What’s next?

As technology evolves so will virtual reality and it’s capabilities.  The next evolution of this technology event professionals can expect to see (sooner rather than later) is an enhanced experience that incorporates Augmented Reality using 3D depth sensing cameras. This means users will be able to interact with real world object within a virtual space. “Expect to see VR/AR impact the way we share content and the way we create content. We are moving away from 2D content that is flat, to content that is 360, 3 or 4D, and sometimes holographic” says Cathy Hackl, Chief Communications Officer, Future Lighthouse.  And while we’re loving VR experiences right now, they are almost solely a single-person experience; one person puts on a headset and has their experience on their own.  The next step is clear, Group VR experiences. We’ve seen this start to come about already with Jaguar and Samsung leading the charge with group marketing activations.  But in a live event space gesture technologies are being developed that will bring 360 video to the forefront paired with spherical projection to truly create a group experience what will lend well to engaging presentations and interactive event decor.

Creating the right experience for your event is important. Have the right team by your side. 

At FMAV, we don’t just embrace trends, we set them! When Virtual Reality was just emerging we saw the big picture and how this technology could revolutionize the event planning process. At the start of 2016, we launched VR in the Canadian event community to support events for pre-visualizations, exhibit engagement, speaker training, and 360 live streaming.

Contact our team today for VR solutions that fit your event.

VR Solutions