Crédits photos : VRDays Europe
From 4 to 6 November 2020, VRDays is embarking on new ambitions. For its sixth edition, called “New Horizons”, the international event explores new formats and exclusive content. Streaming conferences, a virtual investment market, an artistic area in virtual reality… Benjamin de Wit, founder of VRDays, tells us about the programme of the 2020 edition.
What would VRDays 2020 look like?
This year, everything is different. Everything has to be different, and I like it. In the past five years we built this rich, crazy, educational, fun and inspiring event. (But if you look at it, it was also an old fashioned event about immersive technologies, and) now we have to reinvent ourselves, be innovative. We told ourselves: “Let’s become the most immersive event of 2020”. We are all so tired of Zoom events and being locked in with your computer all the time in that little digital bubble. So we want to make that bubble a little bit bigger. We want VRDays to be even richer, crazier, more educational, more fun and more inspiring this year. Not only for the XR believers, the people that normally buy a ticket, but also for the people in their surroundings. We want to extend the excitement of XR beyond the realm of believers.
So does that mean you had to imagine new concepts?
Yes, we came up with a couple of ideas. VRDays is about business, science and art. We have conferences, a tradeshow, an exhibition of creative works, a market for talents and investors. We will still do all of these things, but on different platforms. The conferences will be on streaming. The first day, we have the hybrid Vision & Impact Conference in Amsterdam, in the Kromhouthal with a line up of XR superstar speakers and live audience up to 200 people. We are going to film it and stream it online. Day 2 and 3: imagine a studio for a football match: a table with a presenter and the specialists. That is the set up we will have. Our conferences are the football matches, get it? The conferences, keynotes and presentations on training, storytelling, location-based VR, remote working, etc. etc. will be pre-recorded to get premium quality. The studio is 100% live.
What about the business part? How did you imagine it?
There will be a virtual tradeshow and business suites, where you can really meet and visit the booths with your avatar. This is where the business part happens. Then, there is a VR platform where you can see the best creative content of the last year, and another platform for IFM, the Immersive Funding Market. This is where we connect talent with money and network. We have IFM Startup where we connect startups with investors, IFM Content where we connect content creators with producers and funders, and this year the first edition of IFM Research research, where we connect researchers in immersive technologies with government corporations that have projects that lead to new research insights.
Do you have more ambitions for this year’s edition?
We want to be more than digital and virtual. So we are going to make a print magazine: the New Horizons, XR for Everyone magazine. This magazine will show XR is interesting for everyone. It is not only for professionals, but also for consumers. Also for your children, your husband, your mother, your roommates. This physical magazine will be sent to you, to have something tangible and to get the people in the surroundings of our attendee interested in VRDays, so that by the time the event is online, everybody wants to join. There will be a big map of all the locations where VRDays will be, to put on your fridge. So VRDays will be in your house! And then, we organize Satellite Events across the world on Friday the 6th of November. Small scale corona-friendly events, organized with partners. There will be workshops, conferences, and real live networking.
The next edition is in less than 4 months now. The program seems quite rich. It’s a bit of a challenge?
Would it be fun if it wasn’t a challenge? We had a great brainstorming session with the Laval team where we thought of all the components that VRDays could have. And gradually, it developed into this. There are still so many things that we cannot do that I wanted to do. Everything is a challenge: your communication, how do you sell tickets, what price do you sell tickets for. A lot of people are getting used to online conferences for free. But it’s impossible to do something for free and deliver a good quality. And we want to deliver the best! Like we have always done. We put all our time and energy, we are a very devoted and skilled team, we put our heart into building a valuable, rich, exciting and fun program, so I am sure people will pay for it.
There are many virtual events happening in the past few months. How did you make VRDays different and innovative?
It’s really hard to build engagement when an event is online. It’s so easy to close your computer. When your wife or kids come in or when you receive a message on your phone, you’re distracted. So we wanted to make the bubble of you and your computer a little bit bigger. That’s why we came up with the magazine, why we have these different platforms: you can watch the streaming of the conferences on your phone, you can walk around in the virtual world on your desktop, you can see a couple of things in a VR headset, and maybe you can go to one of the Satellite Events if it’s not too far away. This way, we try to build an engagement and to get a real feeling of being together, belonging and being a community. And that is what VRDays has always been about, community. Because it can also feel lonely if you are at home by yourself with your computer. We try to pull out all the stops and make something special.
The program of this 6th edition shows that the possibilities are infinite. Do you see more virtual in the next editions of VRDays?
Now, we are getting a lot of new skills. We have to do many things we are uncomfortable with. So that’s a new learning curve. We’re making a magazine for the first time, we’re recording a lot of sessions. With online conferences, as soon as the sound or the image is bad, as soon as someone is not on time or is searching for words, you want to go. So everything you do online has to be better produced. So this is something we will definitely keep. Last year was such a great edition of VRDays, I was so happy, and now we can do something very different, it’s also exciting. For 2021, we will bring back the masses to Amsterdam, but I am sure we will keep parts online.
The theme of this year’s edition is “New Horizons”. What does it mean? What topics do you explore?
This is the first year we chose a theme: “New Horizons”. We want to explore how immersive technologies shape the world of tomorrow. Everything virtual and remote working is coming into acceleration, and we really now have to show what immersive technologies can bring to the research community, to the working community, to the industrial community, to the consumers. Because we need new technologies to come over social isolation for example. At the same time we also realized that digital stuff is not enough. That’s what we will focus on during VRDays.