Featured Friend of the XR/AI Pub Crawl: Victor Paru, ‘Idea Guy’ at Paru Digital

Featured Friend of the XR/AI Pub Crawl: Victor Paru, ‘Idea Guy’ at Paru Digital

I first met Victor Paru at our in-person pub crawl in Portland. I remember it was a warm summer day and we had all alighted at a large, wooden table outside at on of my local haunts near the river. Victor was an old pal of Billie’s, having worked together at Intel for several years. Victor was a believer in immersive tech and was excited about what the future held for immersive media and communications.

That was almost a year ago and Victor has attended every pub crawl since. I’m thrilled to share his expertise and passion with our community.

What is your area of expertise?  

I am fluent in creativity, and thrive when I can “SHOW vs TELL” a targeted audience about a new product, service or opportunity. Video and imaging combined with live events are among my strengths and passions.

Why are you interested in XR and AI for marketing and communications?  

Throughout my career, I’ve engaged audiences across physical stages and digital screens. As an AI champion, I recognize its potential and challenges. Innovative marketing and communications are essential in this new era, where good messages and experiences build trust and community. I think AR excites me the most within the XR universe at this time, navigating the real world with its digital potential. 

Do you currently leverage XR and AI for marketing or do you plan to in the near future?  

Yes, I am currently a SW Tech Marketing Engineer at Intel focused on AI technologies and develop demos for executives and events. I have also been running my own agency (Paru Digital) since 2010, providing digital media production and creative services. I continue to integrate AI into my workflows to advance projects and help clients navigate new tools and services to reach new possibilities.

XR Pub Crawl Marketing and Comms: Hugo Boss and Olivier Moingeon from Exclusible

XR Pub Crawl Marketing and Comms: Hugo Boss and Olivier Moingeon from Exclusible

Our June edition of the XR Pub Crawl for Marketing and Comms was one of the best yet! If you missed it, you can catch the on-demand version on my YouTube channel and I got some highlights summarized below. Hope to see you for our next broadcast, you can learn more about that on the LinkedIn event invite.

The Show Floor Tour

One of the most valuable parts of the AWE experience was the show floor tour. It allowed us to try out new technologies, hear presentations from vendors, and get a firsthand look at the latest innovations in the XR space. Being able to engage with vendors and learn about their products from a marketing perspective was truly valuable.

Building Relationships

AWE provided a great opportunity to reconnect with old friends and make new connections in the XR community. The sense of community and the chance to deepen relationships is one of the highlights of this conference. It’s a reminder of the power of networking and the importance of building a strong community.

The Future of Education

One of the most inspiring sessions at AWE was about the future of education. The speaker shared insights on personalized learning and the role of AI tutors in shaping the way we learn. As marketers, education plays a crucial role in our job, and this session provided valuable insights on how to educate and engage our audiences effectively.

The Rise of AI Digital Twins

One of the most mind-blowing topics discussed at AWE was the concept of AI digital twins. The idea that we could have an AI-driven twin that thinks and acts like us is both exciting and eerie. AI digital twins have the potential to revolutionize various industries, from influencer marketing to personalized learning. It’s a concept that we need to pay attention to as it becomes more prevalent.

The Hugo Boss Project

Now, let’s talk about the recent project with Hugo Boss. The collaboration with Hugo Boss and Imaginary Ones resulted in a stunning immersive experience. The project aimed to recreate the aesthetic and theme of Hugo Boss’s Miami fashion show in a virtual world. The team worked tirelessly to build a custom world using platforms like special.io and mid-journey. The result was a visually captivating experience that showcased the brand’s creativity and engaged users.

Q&A

Q: What were the main highlights of AWE?

A: The show floor tour, building relationships, the future of education, and the rise of AI digital twins were the main highlights of AWE.

Q: What was the most inspiring session at AWE?

A: The session on the future of education was the most inspiring. It provided insights into personalized learning and the role of AI tutors.

Q: What is an AI digital twin?

A: An AI digital twin is an AI-driven replica of a person that thinks and acts like them. It has the potential to revolutionize various industries.

Q: What was the objective of the Hugo Boss project?

A: The objective of the Hugo Boss project was to recreate the aesthetic and theme of their Miami fashion show in a virtual world, providing an immersive experience for users.

To learn more about the AWE conference and the Hugo Boss project, watch the full video.

Tags

#AWE, #Hugo_Boss, #XR, #AI_Digital_Twins, #Immersive_Experience

Are You Ready for Your AI Double?

Are You Ready for Your AI Double?

Originally published on Linkedin

A few weeks ago I had a panic attack brought on by a sort-of existential crisis. It’s the first time, maybe ever, that I was so flooded with excitement (and anxiety) over advances in technology, that I needed to hit pause.

After discovering inspiring new, AI technology at AWE‘s Augmented World Expo (as I often do), I was obsessively working at all hours on an AI-enabled, 3D companion modeled after an old flame. (*See my comments on the disappointing virtual companion platform, Kupid.ai, below on WHY I needed to build it myself.)

A Modern Day Frankenstein

The project started innocently enough, I was trying to create a living persona based upon someone I knew, and they were the first person that jumped into my head. Fast forward several minutes and iterations later, and I had a VERY lifelike, 3D, talking character that looked like them, sounded like them, and almost verbatim said things that they had said, or things I wished they had said.  

The fact that I created this Frankenstein with zero coding knowledge sent me into my panic attack as I realized the implications this would have on the world around me. So, I got up from my computer and took my dog for a walk by the river, which is what I always do when faced with overwhelming anxiety.

AI Doubles Already In Action

AI versions of real people are ALREADY a thing but it’s never been THIS easy to build one. If you watched the season opener of Black Mirror, then you already understand the dark implications of a world where it’s possible to make AI-driven, lifelike versions of real-people and celebrities. Currently these types of AI doubles are reserved for the rich and famous but eventually this technology will trickle down to all of us, like it or not.

A Moment of Zen

Perhaps you can relate to my story of both AI infatuation and AI anxiety, as technology is rapidly reshaping both our personal and professional environments like a runaway train.

While we may not be able to control our external environments, we can take a pause and reflect on how we will internally navigate these changes and challenges. External experiences can be a powerful tool to better understand ourselves and help us find ways to manage fear, anxiety, and other uncomfortable emotions.

And while I WAS overwhelmed and likely will be again, my nature walk allowed me to reflect on some of the positive trends coming out of this AI revolution. You can get the deeper dive in the full post, Top 5 XR and AI marketing trends in 2023′ over on MarTech but here’s the spoiler:

#5) Scaling XR experiences enabled by immersive ad units, a BIG thanks to Joe WardDebbie Sorich and the entire team at Undertone for crafting these innovative ad units!

#4) Hardware transcends the headset slump – AR or rather mixed reality glasses ARE coming.

#3) 3D content made simple, with creative teams like the folks EyeJack helping to empower artists with 3D.

#2) Coming soon — an AI version of you! Companies like Doppl.ai are building them as I type this. Yeah, I’m going old school and actually writing my own copy, how primitive.

#1) There will be an AI for that!!! (Insert rimshot here, ‘da dum tss’)

Hopefully some humor and good old-fashioned community can help us navigate the challenges ahead. I’m here for all of it…and for you. ❤

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Hope, fear, and AI

The Verge polled 2,000 people about how they’re using AI, what they want it to do, and what scares them about it the most. For me the good news is (and maybe for all of us), I’m NOT alone with it comes to my mixed emotions on this ever-expanding disruptor and most are in favor of regulations.

A few other key stats:

  • ChatGPT is the most well-known AI tool
  • AI use is dominated by Millennials and Gen Z (In other words, ALL of my students.)
  • Most people thought AD did a better job than they could have
  • Most people are having reactions similar to mine, feeling BOTH excited and anxious
  • 51% of American’s believe that AI will become sentient or ‘conscious’ – (WOWZA! I’m not alone in my wild predictions on AI doubles and companions either.) 

Monthly or Weekly: Cast your vote

I recently was in an awesome MarketingProfs webinar that advised sending out newsletters AT LEAST once per week, given the insane speed of changes impacting our industry. But I wanted to get your opinion – would you prefer I keep the current, monthly digest format or a shorter weekly version? Please cast your vote via my LinkedIn Poll. Thanks much!

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Join Our Next XR Pub Crawl August 25th at 12 noon PT

We’re taking July off to enjoy some much needed R&R and hope you’re doing the same. Our next live event will be the fourth Friday in August where we’ll be talking with the creators of the wildly successful and moving AR app to commemorate Breonna Taylor. This award winning activation is one of my all-time favorite AR experiences and I’m THRILLED to have the team from EyeJack join us to discuss the strategy behind it’s creation. Hope to see you there – simply, RSVP to the LinkedIn Invite.

Top Tools of the Month

Jasper.ai

Jasper is an AI tool trained to write original creative content like blog articles, social media posts, website copy, and other types of marketing content. They offer a free trial, so you can jump in and try it before you buy it. 

Cetra.com

If ‘content automation’ sounds scary, Celtra, is trying to position this as a marketing super power. They offer a suite of services that help marketers scale personalized and dynamic content like ad units, videos, and images. Their capabilities include a studio to easily create endless variations of your latest digital campaign assets like dynamic product ads, dynamic video units that can have unique overlays, graphic call-outs and end-cards and a recently addes AI assistant that helps you with the entire process. No pricing is listed – read expensive – and they require a demo for sign-up.

Rasa.io

Rasa.io takes email newsletters into the future with a platform that uses AI to help do everything from content creation to automated management to integrating with your favorite mail platform. They have a standard monthly subscription starting at $29 bucks per month. If I weren’t using LinkedIn for my newsletter, I would definitely check them out.

Toolhacker.com

A great directory of the latest and greatest AI apps featuring categories for marketing, event management, image generation, writing, video generation, productivity, B2B, and so much more! 

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Top Fool of the Month

Kupid.ai

Kupid AI positions itself as offering “virtual friends and companions to engage in personalized and deep conversations.” They offer different AI ‘soulmates’ characterized by various interests such as cooking, art, gaming, and nature. They are quick to point out that all of the companions are AI-generated and any resemblance to real people is incidental. Duh.

I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect virtual companion since Yahoo chat rooms were a thing, so I was eager to explore what Kupid had to offer. I was SO SO SO disappointed to discover that the creators of this platform seem to think soulmates only come in one variety – a beautiful woman under the age of 30. To be clear, I’m all for virtual companionship and it’s many forms from cybersex to online knitting forums. Frankly, I think it’s more ethical to ‘use’ an AI companion for sex than one powered by a real person. However, given today’s rainbow of identity and gender options, it’s extremely short-sighted to not bring some diversity into the mix. I provided this candid feedback via their website, we’ll see if they listen.

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June’s XR Pub Crawl On-Demand: Birthday bash in Spatial.io

I’m extremely grateful for all who joined me last month for my virtual birthday party! Thanks to Olivier Moingeon for the insightful presentation and fielding some tough questions. We discussed the latest trend of branded quests in platforms like Roblox and Spatial, how these quests are measured, and some strategic factors to consider.

Once we ate our vegetables, it was time for CAKE in the 3D spatial.io gallery I created for my NFT collection of AI flower fairy PFP’s (that’s short for profile pic, just in case your old like moi!). The site is still live, so if you missed the broadcast, you can jump in and explore.

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I’m working with Exclusible to get my flower fairy collection minted and ready to be claimed by friends of the XR Pub Crawl. Stay tuned for more details on that and one of these haunting portraits can be yours.

XR/AI Marketing News

L’ Occitane takes customers to Provence – via metaverse

L’Occitane isn’t the first to use the Emperia platform to combine the metaverse with a retail shopping experience. I recently visited the Tatcha activation where I chatted with a Zon monk on the benefits of forest bathing and took a stroll through a breathtaking old-growth forest. You can learn more about these projects and others on Emperia’s website.

Sarah Silverman Sues OpenAI And Meta Over Copyright Infringement

Article summary: it’s complicated. The Forbes post provides details on several pending lawsuits. These legal ramifications will likely not be ironed out for years to come, making enterprise and large businesses shy to use AI technology for content generation. 

We tried Threads, Meta’s new Twitter rival. Here’s what happened

Yeah, Threads happened this month. This post on the Guardian provides some fresh perspective from our UK counterparts. One challenge with the platform is that it’s not available in the EU due to privacy concerns. That doesn’t make it optimal for communicating with my global tech geek network, many of whom live in Germany and France. Probably not optimal for global brands either. 

Adobe indemnity clause designed to ease enterprise fears about AI-generated art

If the above legal issues has your legal team preventing you from using AI, Adobe Firefly might be the solution you’re looking for. They train their models only on images they own the rights to and thereby pass that safety onto their customers. 

More XR/AI News:

LinkedIn Launches Live Test of Generative AI Posts

11 AI Video Generators to Use in 2023

NVIDIA CEO: Creators Will Be ‘Supercharged’ by Generative AI

Roblox Opens Immersive Ad Partner Programme at Cannes Lions

Luxury Giant LVMH Strikes Deals with Epic Games and Apple for Creative Transformation

Follow Me on LinkedIn

Before I go, I want to encourage you to follow me on LinkedIn and to reach out with any suggested topics for future XR Pub Crawls and newsletters.

If you haven’t already, please vote on your preferred cadence of this newsletter and stay tuned for the verdict. I hope to ‘see’ you all in August for the pub crawl, until then, take many pauses and be kind to yourself and others.

3D Networking Building Momentum in the Metaverse

3D Networking Building Momentum in the Metaverse

Originally published on awe.com

As I head toward the orange glow of the distant bonfire, I’m struck by the beauty of the twilight blue sky filled with millions of stars and the white capped mountains outlined against the deep purple hues of the setting sun. Hiking through the rugged and mountainous terrain that lays out before me, I’m joined by fellow explorers, eager to spend this evening by the warm fire discussing the future of human connection and communication. It’s a diverse group from all over the globe and we have arrived at this time and place to enjoy a moment of heart-to-heart connection and collaboration. What makes this night unique is that no airline tickets were required to reach this remote location, no hiking gear, and no firewood. We have gathered in the metaverse from the comfort and safety of our own homes.

A New Category Emerges: B2B Immersive Social Networks

Just 15 short years ago this type of meeting would have not been possible.  Advances in computers and networking technologies have enabled us to create immersive worlds where we can embody avatars, interact with others and explore 3D landscapes of all shapes and sizes. Historically these types of experiences were primary reserved for enthusiast gamers and hardcore techies, however more and more people are flocking to digitally mediated communications. The barriers to entry such as high-quality hardware and advanced levels of expertise have all but vanished as companies are building communication and collaboration technologies that can be accessed by practically everyone.

As businesses were forced to find new ways of working over the last year, much of the workforce has made the move to working online. This has brought an increased interest in finding platforms that can better mimic physical and in-person interactions. Virtual business events and the platforms that support them have exploded over this past year with varying levels of success. Remote workers have become accustomed to on-demand content available 24/7 and flexible hours that allow for productivity at home. New groups of immersive technology users are emerging, business leaders and professionals hungry to find their tribe, connect and collaborate in the metaverse.

My avatar making its way to the virtual fireside chat in the 3D business platform, Breakroom.

Metaverse: No headset required

During our inspirational virtual fireside chatPhilip Rosedale, the creator of Second Life and High Fidelity, and others attempted to define the term ‘metaverse’. As Rosedale outlined, in the simplest terms the metaverse is “the digital space between us”, a canvas that is accessible to all.  Others would add that it needs to be a persistent or ‘always-on’ digital space where people can interact, connect and have the freedom to create the world around them. The metaverse is not new and people have been meeting in virtual worlds for years. Typically, these communities were seen as fringe groups and not part of mainstream society. That is changing. Today groups of professionals from all industries are gathering across the metaverse, connecting with laptops, tablets, VR/AR headsets and even smartphones. Many immersive platforms are providing tools for professionals to meet, work and network that don’t require headsets or special hardware. These 3D environments accessible on 2D devices like smartphones and PCs are making immersive spaces more inviting and accessible than ever before.

The benefits of 3D spaces, headset or not, allow users more interactivity and agency or freedom of movement and expression. These are essential building blocks to meaningful networking and can create more powerful experiences than today’s social platforms like Linkedin and Facebook. There has been much research done on the power of embodying an avatar in a 3D digital environment to help build closer connections with others and create a sense of presence. The avatar-driven, 3D platform Engage VR has shared a few of these studies on their website as a resource.

A recent networking event in Altspace VR with Tom Furness, the ‘grandfather of virtual reality’.

Which Immersive Networking Platform is Right for You?

Currently there is no ONE professional immersive space that everyone is flocking to, instead there are several options that are attracting slightly different segments of users.  This fragmented landscape may eventually be a thing of the past as companies with big pockets are investing heavily in this sector. Microsoft’s acquisition of Altspace VR and their new Microsoft Mesh technology IS the future of networking according to XR expert and Forbes contributor, Charlie Fink. He lists Altspace VR as one of his primary resources for professional networking. Engage is a 3D, primarily VR enabled platform that has announced a new project named Engage Oasis, that purports to be the immersive version of Linkedin. Fink reported that Engage has raised $10M in support of the project and the tentative launch date is early 2022.

Great networking was to be had at this packed education focused event in Virbela’s 3D auditorium.

There are a handful of other 3D platforms that are attracting professionals looking to network, so how does one choose where to invest valuable time? There are two factors to consider: 1) The size of the community – Networking is about growing your number of connections, so size does matter. This is why Linkedin has become so popular as nearly every professional has a presence on the platform. 2) The quality of the contacts you’ll meet – If you’re looking to connect with educators then spending time on a platform that primarily houses content developers won’t really help you. A few other considerations include how much time it will take to learn to navigate in the immersive space, does the platform make it easy to connect with others and do you enjoy spending time there. Consistent participation in any community is key to reaping the rewards so if it’s not enjoyable, you likely won’t continue to participate.

If you would like additional guidance experiencing XR collaboration and meeting spaces firsthand, Augmented World Expo and Charlie Fink have partnered to offer a hands-on XR virtual collaboration workshop. You can learn more about this opportunity and sign up on AWE’s website.

A Look Ahead

We are all in the throws of a very exciting and tumultuous time. The disruptions of the digital era are becoming more stark and painful lessons along with exhilarating advances are happening at breakneck speed. Rosedale has a unique perspective on the challenges involved with building online communities, as the immersive world he founded has survived for over a decade. During our fireside chat, he points out that a “top-down model is unsuccessful.”  He argues that these digital worlds need to be open and allow for communities to do their own policing as moderating interactions between multiple avatars is impossible and the costs per user will be too high. This begs the question as to whether corporations and possible investors in these new business spaces will tolerate extending this freedom to users and allow enough time for the organic growth required for a sustainable community.

We all have an opportunity to create something new that deviates from the personal reality afforded to us through social media and advertising algorithms. This hope of a shared reality that engenders trust, respect, and more than a desire for ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ keeps me searching for new opportunities to connect with my peers and has fueled my passion for virtual worlds since 2006.  Are you ready to join me on this exciting journey?

Where to Start Your Immersive Networking Journey

If you’re ready to dive in and start exploring these 3D professional spaces, I applaud your pioneering spirit. Below I have provided a brief review of my favorite platforms and suggest you explore each one to determine if it’s a good fit for you. This is by no means a list of ALL the options available for 3D networking, however these are a great place to start!

Altspace VR

AltSpace offers an ‘always-on’ virtual campus commons where you can find around 30-50 users mingling around the campfire. The platform does require a quick download with a light learning curve for the 2D option. No VR headset is required but if you have a stand-alone or tethered VR device, you’re all set.

The platform is event driven, as are most, so you’ll find other users logging on for specific events based upon interests. I found several related to business and education. They also have a feature in beta, where users can build their own worlds and express their creativity. This feature isn’t as simple as using a plug and play template; however, I would imagine something like that may be on the way.

Altspace VR avatars are not photorealistic and have a limited number of customization options.

The platform offers a few features to encourage building connections such as the ability to add another user as a ‘friend’ so that you can directly message that person and see when they are online. However, users don’t have access to robust profiles that list out details about another user, like job title, company, contact details, etc. Avatar customization is limited, not life-like and doesn’t allow for the average user to create their own look or style.

Engage

Engage is a robust 3D community that is best experienced in a VR headset. The 2D or desktop version is limited, and you can tell their primary audience are VR users. This platform has announced a new project, Engage Oasis, that purports to be the Linkedin of immersive spaces launching in 2022. In the meantime, the current platform does offer a persistent common space for users, however it was empty when I logged on. This platform is also event driven and so your best chances of meeting and interacting with others will be during one of their promoted events.

The platform allows users to upload a photo to create a more realistic avatar and has a content creator program that allows 3D artists to build and share custom content. Platform capabilities focus more on enabling users to host their own 3D events with current contacts instead of facilitating meeting new connections on the platform. There is no ability to add ‘friends’, search profiles or even participate in group text chat. Hopefully these shortfalls will be addressed soon.  

Breakroom

One of my favorite platforms for business networking is Breakroom. Created by the founder of 3D social world, Sinespace, Breakroom offers the highest quality 3D environments and content streamed over a browser – that’s right, no download required. Removing this point of friction is the holy grail for marketing professionals who can promote events and activities in the platform with a simple URL. Breakroom also takes advantage of high-performance, streaming from the cloud which allows for users to access high quality content without the need for a higher-end laptop.

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Breakroom houses accessible high-quality content and endless options for avatar customization.

The platform has robust networking capabilities with a searchable database of users, customizable profiles and the ability to add ‘friends’ to your network enabling you to see who’s online, send a private message and more. Avatar customization, although not as easy as some of the other platforms, does allow for endless options as users have access to content created by a wide network of artists. Compensated through an in-world economy, content creators are encouraged to create on the platform and there’s a host of beautiful environments to visit.

Currently the platform doesn’t offer any persistent and publicly available spaces, however they are hosting a series of events in-world that offer attendees great networking opportunities and the chance to explore the environment.

Virbela

Virbela’s open campus is a persistent 3D environment that they keep equipped with very friendly live staff to help users navigate the open space. The platform does require a download however once loaded onto your desktop it’s quite easy to navigate and customize your avatar. The platform allows users to create and browse profiles – adding a photo, bio and links to social platforms like Linkedin. They currently do not offer a way to connect with other Virbela users, such as a ‘friend’ network but you can directly IM any user in the open campus space. This aids in the networking process and helps to facilitate growing one’s network.

When I dropped by the open campus on a random Friday, there were a handful of users in the space, so to do any real networking attending a planned event is essential. Virbela is actively hosting networking events and I recently attended an event on the future of education which was very well attended with a lively Q&A. One complaint that I’ve heard from more than one colleague, is the cartoon-like nature of the platform’s avatars, are perhaps not optimal for professional and corporate executives.  

Let’s Connect!

I’m excited to anticipate the future of networking with these immersive platforms and would love to connect. Feel free to contact me on any of these platforms or good old fashioned Linkedin. What has YOUR experience of 3D networking been like? And please be sure to share your favorite 3D spaces in the comments below, I’m always looking for new communities to explore.

Immersive Virtual Event Technology: Why 3D?

Immersive Virtual Event Technology: Why 3D?

By Lisa Peyton, originally published on Venturebeat.com

I love events and have spent the last several years traveling to support and speak at many different industry events.  At their core, they’re all about creating memorable experiences and bringing together communities to learn, network, and build relationships.

Over the last few months, with work-from-home orders preventing in-person collaboration, we’re all more hungry for connection than ever. Webinar attendance has spiked around the globe, and systems have crashed trying to handle the throngs of online attendees to first-time virtual events.

With so many events going virtual and Zoom fatigue becoming the norm, we’re now seeing event organizers push past traditional 2D platforms such as On24, Microsoft Teams and Zoom in an effort to provide fuller immersion and engagement. The tools they’re using fit into two categories. I call them 2.5D and 3D.

The 2.5D platforms provide interfaces that mimic real-world environments complete with stock people or avatars. They are a step above the Zoom’s of the world but ultimately fail to pay off the promise of an immersive environment. They aren’t avatar driven and are simply a more interesting looking skin for 2D content. Some examples of these types of platforms include vFairs and MeetYoo.

Surprisingly, these platforms tend to be more expensive than the newer, 3D platforms that are currently emerging within the virtual event software space. vFairs starts at $8K per event and goes up from there, and many 2D and 2.5D platforms don’t offer “one and done” pricing; instead you need to enter into an annual contract in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Above: This vFairs screenshot is an example of 2.5D, a static, representation of a 3D space that houses 2D content. It provides no mobility, avatar control or other 3D functionality.

Not your mother’s 3D

3D platforms on the other hand, offer true immersive spaces. They are created from 3D building blocks and allow for free movement within a virtual space. You can access many of these platforms not just with a VR headset but also via multiple devices, including smartphones and laptops, allowing for differing levels of immersion within the same event or experience. This helps make your virtual event strategy future-proof as more and more users move toward VR solutions for at-home work and productivity. 3D event platforms include MootUpBreakroomLearnBriteVirBELAEngageAltSpace, and a handful of others.

Most of these platforms offer a monthly subscription rate, instead of an annual contract, as they are eager to onboard users. Breakroom’s monthly rate starts at $500 for 50 seats and increases based on the number of attendees. VirBELA offers an entire virtual campus that can accommodate 25,000 or more users starting at $2,500 per month. LearnBrite offers subscriptions starting at $99 per month that are VR ready and include voice and video conferencing and a full library of 3D assets, no coding required.

Above: The Opal Group is hosting a series of Data Analytics events in the 3D event space, MootUp. The events are fully integrated with Zoom and accessible via smartphone, laptop or any VR device on the market.

3D gaining momentum

By all reports, these up and coming 3D virtual event platforms have seen a sizable increase in demand since the outbreak of COVID-19. According to Alex Howland, President and Co-founder of VirBELA, the platform “has seen more than a 653% increase in virtual events and 12x increase in monthly active users.” The CEOs of MootUp, LearnBrite, and Breakroom also say they’ve experienced at least a 100% increase in demand since March.

VirBELA recently hosted the Laval Virtual World annual event on its platform, registering over 11,000 attendees from 150 nations and featuring six simultaneous session tracks with over 3,000 meetings. (See video of the experience above.) These numbers dispel the myth that VR-ready 3D virtual events can only support a small number of users. In fact, these newer 3D platforms are cloud-native, as opposed to some long-standing enterprise tech companies that still house everything on-prem. Relying on cloud giants like AWS and Google Cloud means scaling is “not an issue,” according to Breakroom CEO, Rohan Freeman. The ability to scale has gotten quite a bit of attention since the SAP’s system crashed during its virtual annual customer event last month. According to Freeman, his 3D platform recently supported millions of concurrent users during a national TV campaign rolled out across India.

3D makes memorable experiences

So why 3D? It’s all about creating those memorable experiences. Recent research has shown that users in virtual and 3D environments have improved learning outcomes and increased memory retention due to spatial presence. Embodying an avatar and engaging in a 3D world ignites areas of the brain typically reserved for physical encounters. It also allows for more self-expression through the ability to customize and animate avatars and peer-to-peer interaction.

If you are trying to recreate the benefits of in-person networking and create 1:1 connection during your virtual event, then 3D is a great option. I hosted a virtual “end-of-term” party for my University of Oregon students in LearnBrite as a small consolation for not being allowed to meet in-person. The event was a huge success, with students sitting around a virtual fire pit, enjoying virtual champagne and chatting well past the event had technically ended.

These spaces can be decked out with pre-built or custom 3D content. No need to meet in a standard office when you can meet virtually by a stream, on a beach, or even on the surface of Mars. 3D platforms are also offering integrations with the standard 2D event platforms. LearnBrite and MootUp are Zoom clients, allowing speakers to login and present in Zoom while the presentation seamlessly livestreams into the 3D environment. I recently attended a full-day, Data and Analytics Summit where a dozen back-to-back speakers seamlessly presented their slides and webcam from Zoom into a full, 3D auditorium.

You can also import and share product specific, 3D content. Complex machinery, consumer electronics, automotive, and other models can be imported into the 3D virtual space allowing for remote collaboration and discussion. With no more show floors housing the latest physical product, 3D event spaces are a real alternative allowing customers to interact with a product at home.

Above: Dell’s Virtual Reality Classroom of the Future experience allowed potential customers to engage with 3D models of their products within a virtual classroom.

Headset vs. no headset

While each 3D event platform has varying levels of support across multiple devices, most do boast support for VR headsets. The number of users accessing these platforms via a headset are small at the moment, but it remains an important point of differentiation from the 2.5D and 2D event platforms that don’t offer any VR support.

Above: Breakroom initially developed low-poly objects, pictured above, that could load across almost any PC, smartphone or tablet. They are now in the process of updating their graphics, pictured below, as bandwidth and streaming capabilities have improved.

For most virtual events, consuming the 3D, avatar-driven environment on a 2D device like a laptop or tablet, may be preferable, as VR headsets can be heavy, cumbersome, and too uncomfortable to wear for hours at a time. There needs to be an extremely compelling reason to use a VR or MR headset, like collaborating on 3D content or watching a 360-degree film or livestream.

Platforms like MootUp, LearnBrite, and Breakroom have been designed specifically with accessibility in mind and support a wide array of devices. Social VR platforms like AltSpaceVR and Engage were built for VR headsets and offer a more robust, VR-first experience, with limited capabilities on laptops and smartphones. Understanding the needs of your audience and how they plan on accessing the event is an essential first step to choosing the right 3D event platform.

A call for creativity

With Zoom fatigue setting in, now is the time to innovate and think creatively about building customer-centric, memorable virtual experiences. The tools and technology are only limited by our lack of imagination and fear of trying something new. Be bold. Be part of the XR revolution. There’s no turning back.

Untethered Videos: Making your events truly immersive

Untethered Videos: Making your events truly immersive

Thanks so much for joining my presentation, ‘Virtual Event Planner’s Guide to XR: Making your events truly immersive’, at Untethered.

Below are the resources from my presentation including the full-length video and presentation slides. Enjoy!

I’m offering 60 min consultations with all Untethered attendees – I would love to hear more about your conference experience and any current event challenges you are facing. Simply schedule your session here: https://calendly.com/lisa-peyton/untethered-consultation.

Full-length Presentation Video: 30 Minutes

Short Presentation Teaser: 6 Minutes

Presentation slides can be downloaded here: Virtual Event Planner’s Guide to XR.