The events industry in the UK is worth somewhere in the £40 billion area today. 2014 figures from BVEP put it just below that figure, while an AV Technology piece from last year spiked it at £42.3bn.
This includes everything from the events themselves to travel costs – many readers will understand the 'on the road' mentality that comes with frequent executive international travel. But with climate awareness continuing to gain traction – Greta Thunberg currently being en route to New York via boat to send a message about 'flight shaming' – can more be done to curtail event travel?
VRJAM thinks so. The company has announced the launch of a partnership with Agora, a voice, video and interactive streaming platform, to create an 'event technology platform' utilising virtual reality (VR) – hence the name – featuring real-time simulations of business conferences for mobile devices.
The updated solution, called VRJAM X, will be unveiled to delegates at the IBC Conference in Amsterdam next month, while a beta version has already been trialled at Createch, a UK government conference focusing on technology innovation. The company received a citation in the UK Creative Industries top 50 'companies to watch' list for its trouble.
For event organisers, the key may well be to ensure remote participation does not significantly impact on the numbers of those who do attend in person. For potential remote event attendees, user experience is vital. Anyone who has suffered at the hands of spotty connectivity for remote webinars, or even played conference call bingo, may be sceptical.
Sam Speaight, CEO at VRJAM, explained that testing thus far had been 'extremely encouraging'. While sustainability 'plays an important part' in defining the value-add for the product – but getting event organisers and attendees onside with VR is still a challenge, albeit one that can be beaten.
"Accessing VR hardware remains a challenging hurdle to overcome – many people simply aren't aware that it's possible to have a truly compelling, high quality VR experience using a mobile phone," Speaight tells MarketingTech.
The companies outline how the partnership works in the press materials; combining VRJAM's 'existing core 3D graphics technology… with the powerful real-time audio and video streaming capability' from Agora.
"The joint platform provides a one of a kind immersive solution that merges live interactive video, real-time 3D graphics, 3D motion capture and live audio to deliver unmatched real-time experiences on mobile devices," the companies claim. "Event organisers and speakers will gain access to larger audiences allowing them to communicate in a more personal way compared to alternatives such as video calling, [while] event attendees will feel empowered with access to a wider variety of information, with the possibility of being present at several locations almost simultaneously."
So how will this work in business rather than technological terms? While some VR headsets are eye-watering in their cost – the $3500 cited for Microsoft's HoloLens 2 at MWC earlier this year being a case in point – there are good budget devices out there. Speaight cites the Samsung Gear VR 2, whereby savvy shoppers can get change from three figures, as an example.
"As we make the technology available to business event-tech users, we envision delegates attending events remotely in VR, where the price of their delegate ticket includes a mobile VR headset that's delivered to them in advance of the event," says Speaight. "When this cost is weighed against the cost to travel to and attend a conference in a foreign country, it's easy to see how much added value XR solutions like VRJAM X create.
"VRJAM X promises to dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of event delegates while at the same time increasing operational efficiency and accessibility when it comes to participating in globally focused business events," Speaight adds.
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