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Laval Virtual 2020, a 22nd edition out of reality

Laurent Chrétien in the Laval Virtual World

From April 22nd to 24th, we lived a disconcerting experience for some, unique for all and incredible for the entire Laval Virtual team. Laurent Chrétien, CEO, wanted to say a few words to visitors, partners, speakers, suppliers, exhibitors and all those who made this Laval Virtual World possible!

A big thank you from the Laval Virtual team

Dear friends, I will start by thanking you all, all those who animated the 6,000 and more avatars which gave life to Laval Virtual World during these three days, the 11,000 people who registered and were able to participate in the networking of this 100% virtual edition, the 22nd edition of the first event to the world dedicated to virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, Laval Virtual. You, individually or collectively as a community, made the success of this incredible adventure! So on behalf of all the members of the Laval Virtual Team, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Barely a month and a half ago we made the decision to postpone Laval Virtual 2020, death in soul. I can tell you that it was a terrible moment for my teams, and for all those who worked on the preparation. But immediately, we also made the decision to virtualize the event as best as we could … There was no question of dropping a year of efforts to deliver an event that once again promised to be exceptional, no question of sinking into the “blues” of an aborted event, no question of being Laval Virtual and not trying the experience of virtualization! So, we rolled up our sleeves, regained the adrenaline of the final sprint, and with the precious help of many of you, we managed in four weeks to create the experience you just had during these three days in Laval Virtual World.

How many events like Laval Virtual are postponed or simply canceled? They are numerous starting from the MWC, Global Industry, SXSW, Tribeca, FMX, Vivatech, perhaps the Siggraph, IFA, and many others… We don’t know yet when events of this size, will be held again, in France, in Europe, in the World. End of summer, end of the year, we do not know it yet and it will depend in any case on the policies of each country… Like Las Vegas which has been closed since March 18: no more casino hotels, no more conferences, no more events, concerts… The whole event sector is suffering and will suffer severely! I would like to take this opportunity to affirm our solidarity and support to all of our “physical” partners and providers with whom we are already restarting for next year in 2021 and whom I would like to thank for their support and the work that they have done alongside us, some for many years.

No more events, no more restaurants, no more or much less transport, no more tourism, just to name a few sectors of activity related to ours and which are experiencing and will experience the same difficulties as us. When the recovery comes, we will not be in a V curve but rather a U curve and I think that the base of this U, at least for our event activity, will be very flat, very long. The exchanges that I have had with other event organizers, whether in technology or in more traditional industries, are converging.

The recovery in international attendance will be long, we are talking about several months, even years you know. The consensual hypothesis would be that of a possible return to normal within 18-24 months in direct connection with health aspects… It is very long! However, this is likely to be even longer, because it assumes that the other consequences of what we are going through will not change behaviors more durably. I am thinking of the new financial constraints of companies leading to budgetary restrictions which will force to reduce spending on communication and events, I am thinking of the significant risks of social problems, changes in our own individual behavior, stronger awareness that an international exhibition has a very negative carbon footprint to date, etc.

For all these reasons, I am convinced that trade fairs, and more generally all international events, will have to mutate voluntarily or/and undergo the changes imposed by experiential innovations like the one we have been experiencing for three days in Laval Virtual World. These experiential innovations are themselves provoked: on the one hand by technological innovations and on the other hand by the new design, the new engineering that these technologies allow.

As of today, we are entering a new era in the organization of events, the era of creative and unexpected mixtures that the real and the virtual will bring together. And not only in the field of events…

Analysts’ predictions for the global VR & AR market, before the coronavirus crisis, converge around a market estimate for the year 2025 close to $600 billion. This applies to the total sales of hardware + software + content production. These estimates have been revised upward recently because boosted by the forecast contributions of other technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, big data and deep learning, etc. and improving connectivity from 4G to 5G. End of last year, PWC estimates that the total market will reach $ 1.5 trillion in 2030!

Regarding the B2B sectors, which are the main activity sectors presented at Laval Virtual, the growth is in three digits around 130-140% over several years for the retail sector, the medias & communication, for health,and for education… gradually catching up with the volumes of historical uses in the industry sector and in transport. All the signals are green, or rather, were green. I say, were, because it is not certain that each of these sectors can continue to grow after the crisis.

I am not going to get into divinatory economic forecasts, but there is before us some obvious facts and sectors of activity which will have difficulty in recovering from the crisis and therefore in generating business for companies that develop VR & AR applications in their field. Tourism, culture, transport, especially air transportation, events of course, etc. A friend of mine said to me recently that the best way to think of a way out of the crisis for creative people like all of us here, is to make a list of everything we can no longer do, of what we must not do anymore, and of what we will no longer do at all, and imagine, how virtual or augmented reality can do to provide a constructive response, useful for human beings. This is what we do every day for companies in our Business Intelligence department.

The experience of “Laval Virtual World” that we have just lived together and that we are living at the moment, shows several things. First, that virtualization is not an end in itself but a powerful response to the painful moments we are experiencing. It allows us to keep “the link”, our link, in conditions close to reality… But I can tell you that I still miss a lot of you, that I would love to see you IRL, touch you, see your smiles, share the moments of conviviality that are the soul of Laval Virtual for 22 years.

Then, this experience is a source of inspiration and openness to new possibilities! Here, historically, we are opening the way to a virtual organization which reinforces the real organization of events. Even if we have believed it in the past, the virtualization of an event does not destroy the real part. On the contrary. It gives access to new, different and more numerous audiences. Another friend told me that there have never been as many people in football stadiums as there have been since television! We bet that thanks to the virtual, frequentation of physical events is increasing in the same way!

Finally and importantly, this experience shows that it is possible to give a value close to the one of physical fairs to the relationships that are established between speakers, suppliers and users who come to understand, imagine, and buy VR&AR solutions and equipment. I would like to thank again all our partners and sponsors who are supporting us on our events, and in particular for this Laval Virtual World, Microsoft which helps us and encourages us to fight for you!

What has been incredible this week is that, despite the tight deadlines, the metrics of attendance are more or less in the same quantity as for the physical event: more than 6000 avatars created and more than 11,000 registrations. They are different in quality: a much more international attendance, an audience logically more turned towards conferences, and obviously more curious, trolls also against which we have delivered a victorious battle! We had new and wonderfull experiences of appropriation: improvised stands on the beach, a full classroom and lessons from Taiwan, a pixel artwork with sticky notes offered on the football field, virtual and collective sea bathing, and so many words of love disseminated in secret places…

Together guys we are inventing the future! Together #FeelTheVirtualForce

Thank you again, thank you, thank you, thank you, to the teams at Laval Virtual and Recto VRso who did an incredible job, in incredible conditions, for an incredible result!

Thank you to the local authorities who support us financially and who mean that despite the crisis, we were able to hold and offer you this event: thank you to Christelle Morançais, President of the Pays de la Loire Region, thank you to Olivier Richefou, President of the Department of La Mayenne, and we love Mayenne Olivier, thanks to François Zocchetto, President of the Laval Agglomeration, the best town to leave in the world.

Thanks to everyone who helped us, starting with XR Crowd the XR community who helped us to test and evaluate the platforms, thanks again to Microsoft and especially to Othman Chiheb.

Thank you to Benjamin de Wit from VR Days AmsterdamGrégory Maubon from RA proSimon Richir from Arts & MétiersJames Zopissa and his Massive Immersive team, thanks to XR Base for the XR Invest, to all the fantastic speakers who faced the virtual exercise with kindness, thanks to all moderators and facilitators…

And thanks again to all of you and see you next year, in April, physically in Laval!

– Laurent Chrétien, CEO of Laval Virtual

About author

Content editor at Laval Virtual. Obsessed with adverbs and punctuation, synonyms and keywords are my daily guides. I hunt innovative use cases about VR/AR and immersive tech.