Is VR the future of events? We spoke to Sandra Whelan, the COO of Immersive VR education.
As events and conferences are being cancelled and postponed due to the global spread of coronavirus, HTC took the opportunity to hold their annual conference inside virtual reality.
The VIVE Ecosystem Conference - which is usually held in Shenzhen, China - took place in ENGAGE, on March 19 2020.
Engage is a VR platform, created by the Irish company called Immersive VR Education - a worldwide leader in producing VR educational experiences.
This was the first in the world, Fully Immersive VR conference, which was also streamed live.
Immersive VR Education has been founded by Sandra Whelan and her husband David Whelan, back in 2014 in Waterford, Ireland. It has since gained worldwide success.
Their success resulted in an announcement that its holding company, VR Education Holdings plc, has commenced trading on the London and Irish stock markets, as of March 2018.
Following on from the strategic licensing partnership, as well as the success of the VIVE Ecosystem Conference from March, Immersive VR Education has announced that HTC has agreed to invest €3 million in the company.
We could not help but wonder, are VR conferences, THE NEXT NORMAL, in the events industry?
We spoke to Sandra Whelan, the co-founder and COO on Immersive VR Education, about her thoughts and predictions when it comes to VR technology and its use in the events sector.
How can your platform ENGAGE help event planners? What is your current offer for events planners/ conference organisers/ the meeting planners?
With Covid-19 we are seeing the cancellation of more and more events. ENGAGE allows event planners to take advantage of peoples new-found enthusiasm for all things virtual and bring their real-life events into the platform.
The one thing that is missing from online events at the moment is social connectivity and interaction. Those hallway conversations that would happen at events whereby you would “bump into” someone as you go grab a coffee, or happen to spark up a conversation while visiting a stand. This is possible within VR.
The life-like avatars allow those interactions to happen and are the next best thing to a real-life event. They do however take just as much time and planning as a real event.
We ourselves are not event planners. We are the tech that event planners can use to hold their events. We do however offer packages where we can create content, brand areas, create cool locations and add animations to offer that WOW factor that can’t be done in the real world.
Could you support more conferences and build custom stages such as what you have done, for HTC?
Yes, no problem at all.
Can your platform ENGAGE impact the events industry in your view? Are you planning to get more involved in this sector?
I do see more and more events going virtual over the coming years. Be that standard online event or fully immersed virtual events, it will begin to be more widely adopted I believe. We have proven through the HTC event that events can be done within VR and done well.
Since the HTC event, we have had multiple events held within the platform and we do see that continuing for the foreseeable future. People no longer have to travel if they don’t want to and safety and peoples health are at the forefront of everyone’s mind at the moment.
VR is a safe way to hold an event without the need to waste time travelling and of course it reduces your carbon footprint.
Do you think the future of events is VR/AR? HTC Vive seems to be calling is "the next normal".
Yes, I do. Industries, companies and people have been forced to adapt very quickly over the past 4 months. Now that they know they can move at such a fast pace and incorporate the changes they made, even though not by choice, this pace I believe will continue.
Thank you very much, Sandra, for your wonderful insight.