Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

September 06 2016

What Will Virtual Reality Mean For Your Meeting?

Jeanna Hofmeister

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When it comes to virtual reality, do you think of Pokémon Go? Just like when our world was rocked by the development of 3D printers that could produce artificial limbs and even organs for human transplantation, VR is the next technology set to radically change our thinking. No longer just territory for gamers, animators and film makers, VR can be a tool that planners can use to elevate the experiences and minds of their attendees – for learning, thinking and dreaming bigger.

Bringing Possibilities to Life

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Tapping into the possibilities of virtual reality in our real-world life is the mission of many high-tech companies. Montréal has attracted some of the most successful VR start-ups, with more considering a move to the city. All this makes sense when you consider the Montréal setting: creativity embedded in the local mindset, a “joie de vivre” lifestyle, an affordable cost of living and four universities that provide a seemingly endless pool of fresh talent.

Minority Games is a pioneer in Virtual Reality that has produced the first Canadian VR game in the Oculus store, working for more than three years to produce 14 hours of gameplay entirely in VR. Its sister company, MinorityVR, specializes in storytelling in VR and is currently producing content for the launch of Google’s Daydream headset. 

But these companies and others are also creating virtual worlds to address real world issues. From surgeons who become more adept practitioners through VR operations, to treating sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorders, VR offers a robust platform for learning that hasn’t yet been hugely integrated into the meetings market. “People have to be entertained. Consumers have to be impressed. Experts have to learn something new,” says Isabelle- Anouk Bourduas, Senior Vice President and Executive Producer for Minority. “Conferences have to use any tools at their disposal to keep their audience.”

Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality

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Just in case you’re confused about the differences between VR and AR, augmented reality is technology that blends virtual reality with real life. It’s easily distinguishable from VR which creates a virtual environment that is clearly separate from the real world. So, now that you’ve got a clearer picture, why would you want to integrate either VR or AR into the program for your next event?

While these technologies are still working to eliminate the isolation that comes along with them, it isn’t hard to picture the future coming at us fast. “20 years ago when the first mobile phones came out, we never could believe that each member of a family would have one, or that we would use it to casually communicate, but also to shop, to use a GPS, to photograph, to listen to music,” says Bourduas. “VR will develop much faster.” And, if her prediction holds true, the technology will also become more affordable, allowing almost anyone to experience a new world view.

What’s Now And What’s Next

Currently, it’s possible to create large-scale conference experiences with 2-3,000 people in headsets that are triggered at the same time to create a more immersive experience. But budgeting for these experiences is still an unknown and planners should budget $25,000 at minimum if they are looking to integrate VR into their events. “It completely depends of the content of the experience. Much like making Ironman or MY BIG FAT GREAK WEDDING is not the same price,” says Bourduas. And while we don’t yet know what the future of VR might look like, it’s almost certain to become a key component for conferences, learning environments and perhaps, even life itself.  “A film might leave you with a beautiful memory,” she says. “But VR will leave you with an emotional imprint. It’s incredibly powerful.”

See Also:  Six Reasons Why These Meeting Planners Chose Montréal

Have you explored the possibilities of VR for your meeting? Do you have exhibitors who have used VR in their booths? Go to Catalyst to share your thoughts on how this emerging technology will impact the attendee experience.

This informative article was brought to you by Tourisme Montréal.  With nearly 120,000 jobs across 5,000 private companies, and tech-related industries that generate more than $20 billion each year, Montréal is a high tech hub where leading brands including Google, IBM, and Morgan Stanley have already set up base camps and many more are considering the city as a future home.  To learn more about the future of virtual reality and how you might incorporate it into your meeting in Montréal, explore the Tourisme Montréal meetings blog to find out why the American Bar Association, National Women’s Studies Association, World Social Forum and other organizations are choosing Montréal for their events.

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Photos credits: Virtual Becomes Reality, George Fok, Eva Blue

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