With a rise in tech being utilised in the events industry, James Morris-Manuel, co-founder and CCO of Virtual Walkthrough tells EN why there’s a place for virtual reality in events.
Immersive experiences are all about appealing to our senses. Engaging visitors and creating an experience is what events are all about, so it’s not surprising that more organisers are looking to virtual reality (VR) for inspiration.
As an exciting technology that has a real world application, VR is starting to touch on more and more real life scenarios, in both daily life and business.
It is often referred to as immersive multimedia and used to refer to a computer-simulated environment that represents objects or places in either the real or an imagined world.
“I think the important thing with this technology is that it is seen to be helping, not taking away from business,” says James Morris-Manuel, co-founder and CCO of Virtual Walkthrough.
“With VR we can go one step further into showing a potential buyer a property, or a venue. They can experience not just the sight of the space but also the sounds (i.e. traffic from adjacent roads) and gain an idea of how the space really feels. It is all about immersion and creating that experience – it has great sales potential.”
With clients in the events space, including MIPIM UK (Reed Midem), MCM Comic Con, and Ministry of Sound, Virtual Walkthrough was founded in 2009, after entrepreneur and CEO of the firm, Antony Waldorf, conceptualised the product to answer a need of his own.
“He owned a number of properties, and realised that in order to sell them, he would need more than standard photographs to properly represent his houses online. Waldorf was shocked to discover that the technology available to help the sales process was relatively basic,” Morris-Manuel tells EN.
“Finding a new way to market houses that would work with estate agents and customers was the spark that started Virtual Walkthrough. The team quickly realised that the product was not solely applicable to marketing and selling homes.”
Morris-Manuel believes the virtual experiences can provide a number of benefits to events and exhibitions.
“Technology is creating a way for events to be more accessible but also more exclusive – this exclusive access benefits not only the venue itself but also the consumer.”
“A lot of tech companies, Virtual Walkthrough included; are looking to work with industries to help create positive change. We want to work with traditional companies, not against them.”
Morris-Manuel explains that the important thing for virtual reality to be successful in the events industry it to have the data behind it.
With Virtual Walkthrough, the team uses 4k technology (and have the ability to use 8k) to create the most true-to-life experience available.
The information the firm captures has such as diverse application that it can be used just as easily on a computer or translated into a VR headset once they have been mainstreamed.
“However, without true-to-life data creating the images the consumer wouldn’t get an idea of their surroundings, so the concept would be irrelevant. VR only works in business if the data behind it can catch up to the concept, then it can become a proper reality.”
The question is, how can we use virtual experiences to our benefit in this industry?
“Firstly,” says Morris-Manuel, “it is the concept of ‘the experience’- people want to interact with their spaces. By creating a virtual experience potential customers can determine how they will work with the space around them when deciding to use, or planning how to use, a venue.
“Furthermore, virtual experiences create a permanent record of an event, something that can be seen with Virtual Walkthrough’s work with MCM Comic Con and MIPIM UK. Those looking to attend a future event (whether exhibitors or delegates), can experience what it is like to be there based on previously documented virtual experiences.”
A key benefit of virtual experiences in events is the marketability of the space, he adds.
“Potential clients can get an accurate idea of floor sizes, capacity, and hire rates in tandem with visuals, as well as advertising space and a true representation of exhibition stands in detail and perspective. This is something the benefits planners, marketers and consumers.
“Lastly, something previously mentioned is the time-cost benefit. By using a virtual experience, travel time is decreased, time wasted viewing inappropriate venues is decreased, and time spent organising and booking an event is increased.”
As consumers are becoming more considered and demanding more information, the industry is seeing a rise in tech being utilised, whether it is to make an event more interactive, using specially catered software to manage guest lists and seating plans, or allowing guests to interact through specifically designed apps.
This article was first published in the November issue of EN. Any comments? Email Annie Byrne