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There are hundreds of Extended Reality (Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality) events to attend in 2019 across the world. We have sought high and low to find the very best events, from the very large to the very small, for you to put into your 2019 events calendar. We’ve broken our list up into UK Virtual Reality events (as well as AR and MR in general), European VR events, and those in the USA, Canada, Asia, and Australia.
Just in case you weren’t sure what ‘extended reality events’ actually means, let me explain: it’s an umbrella term, so we are looking here at virtual reality events, augmented reality events, and mixed reality events, all of which are usually covered together at a single event – hence the term ‘extended reality’, which actually encompasses all types of simulation-based technologies.
As we come across more, we’ll add them to the list, so if you have any suggestions, do please let us know and we’ll get them in there.
To help you navigate this (rather long!) list, please use our easy to navigate links below to get to your geographical region easily:
Now in its 4th year, VR World 2019 is a 2 day conference and exhibition focused on Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality and its impact beyond gaming.
With 4 in-depth event tracks and over 150 leading speakers, no other European event covers the market in as much detail.
Amid unparalleled networking opportunities, attendees will have access to visionary speakers and case-study led content. Hear from inspirational keynotes and thought-provoking panel discussions from key players redefining the boundaries for technology.
Outside of CES, WTS is the biggest LAUNCH platform in Europe for product announcements. Partners from around the world use WTS to showcase innovation and expertise. No other specialist or vertical show can compete with the volume of innovation that we showcase and the amount of press attention we therefore attract.
Our aim is to bring all major technology companies – to LONDON – the home of innovation. London deserves a high quality technology event and we aim to deliver it!
The Future Tech Demo Area at UC EXPO is a dedicated space within the event, which lets you test out new technologies across enterprise IT and have your burning questions answered by a range of IT specialists.
This is your chance to get up close and personal with cutting edge technologies of the future that are starting to change the way we work. Try it out for yourself: talk to the experts or just explore and learn about some of the latest developments in your industry. The Cisco Webex Board allows for wireless presentations, acts as a white board and has the ability to provide video and audio conferencing features – everything you need for team collaboration, all with the touch of a finger. Come along and see the very latest in VR technology! Get involved with interactive demonstrations and displays, gaining first hand experience in how VR can benefit you and your company.Cisco Webex VR ‘offers new ways for people to be present within the same room even though they are thousands of miles apart’, allowing for the communication and collaboration needed to enable future development in your company.
The VR integration featured in the Future Tech Demo Zone allows users to experience the Webex board in Virtual Reality making the experience even better – be sure to check it out!
AR & VR World is the only practical conference and exhibition dedicated to serving the community. Its aim is to develop a blueprint for enterprises who are thinking of utilising ARVR technology and, to walk current users through the next stage of their application development with the goal of spearheading commercialisation.
Benefit from the most interactive and business critical AR VR event to date including live interviews, success stories, deep dive panels, debates and much more.
The WVRF Annual Summit’s Conferences are the culmination of a year-round work, bringing together all the expertise of the team and its advisors to provide participants with an editorial of the highest quality. Broadcasted live on our YouTube channel, all the debates take place in the conference room of the Le Régent Congress Center available on WVRF Replay a few weeks after the event.
The world’s largest gathering for the mobile industry will also include VR/AR, AI, drone, Internet of Things (IoT), and Robotics. 2018 was another successful year with over 107,000 attendees and 2,400 exhibitors. Expect more of the same in 2019.
Immersive Enterprise brings together the brightest minds working on VR/AR deployment across industry… Join hundreds of senior level attendees from across the VR/AR ecosystem to sharpen your immersive strategy and drive seamless deployment. Learn from 60+ leading cross-industry speakers with real-world experience of implementing immersive technology for business gain. Hear the latest case-studies and insights from companies leading the charge immersive technology development and enterprise deploymenT. Get hands-on with the latest immersive technology, platforms and solutions in our targetted expo running alongside the conference.
Google’s annual developer conference never disappoints with unprecedented access to Google developers, preview of the latest tech and major announcements on new and existing platforms. With their hardware and software support for VR and AR, this is a must-see conference. Note that this conference usually sells out so be ready to register as soon as it becomes available.
This massive conference covers all aspects of consumer electronics. At CES 2017, 170,000+ attendees saw 3,900 companies covering over 2.5 million square feet of exhibit space that included VR, AR, AI and drones demos.
The South by Southwest® (SXSW®) Conference & Festivals celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. Fostering creative and professional growth alike, SXSW® is the premier destination for discovery.
GDC is the world’s largest professional game industry event. Join game designers, programmers, artists, producers, and business professionals for 5 days of unparalleled education, inspiration and networking for the global game development community.
Digital Hollywood debuted in 1994 and has from its start been among the leading trade conferences in its field with over 15,000 top executives in the film, television, music, home video, cable, telecommunications and computer industries attending the various events each year.
Location: Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA
Event Type: Expo
What It’s All About:
AWE (Augmented World Expo) is the world’s #1 AR+VR conference and expo with annual dates in the USA, Asia and Europe.
These events bring together a mix of CEOs, CTOs, designers, developers, creative agencies, futurists, analysts, investors, and top press in a fantastic opportunity to learn, inspire, partner, and experience first hand the most exciting industry of our times.
Experience the most innovative and disruptive technologies — IoT, AR, machine learning, blockchain, robotics and more — at LiveWorx, the world’s leading technology conference and industrial marketplace. Discover tomorrow’s digital tools to solve mission critical issues and create a clear vision for business transformation.
E3 is the world’s premier event for computer and video games and related products. At E3, the video game industry’s top talent pack the Los Angeles Convention Center, connecting tens of thousands of the best, brightest, and most innovative in the interactive entertainment industry. For three exciting days, leading-edge companies, groundbreaking new technologies, and never-before-seen products will be showcased. E3 connects you with both new and existing partners, industry executives, gamers, and social influencers, providing unprecedented exposure to the entire video game industry, all under one roof. E3 is where digital worlds meet real innovation.
VRTO aims to empower people to share their world, culture, knowledge and dreams with the assistance of emergent immersive technologies.
Recognized internationally for its high caliber, high-quality discussions, in-depth training, world-class presentations and top level speakers, VRTO brings together compelling discourse and bleeding-edge prototypes, demonstrations and innovative companies in carefully crafted schedules and environments.
While many conference focus on airing the problems and pain points in the industry, VRTO has an acute focus on searching for solutions for these problems, and testing candidates.
VRTO is always an opportunity to build powerful and long-lasting business and personal relationships, with a very open-minded and inclusive community, unafraid to ask the big questions. Furthermore, the show provides many different tools to ensure attendees find their best matches towards meeting their goals at the show.
Extended Reality Events in Africa, Asia and Australasia
Augmented and virtual reality technologies are beginning to infiltrate many new and previously unimagined places in society. Industrial, retail and leisure uses abound – and both AR and VR are growing fast. As you might imagine, therefore, there is a vast landscape of news and insight being generated on a daily basis. As tech evangelists, we keep up to date with the latest goings-on in virtual and augmented reality and want to help you do the same.
We put our heads together to find out the AR and VR websites and blogs that all of us head to for the news from the industry, and these are the ones that came up most. Many of these we also subscribe to by email, as well – something you may also consider. Emails are a great way to avoid missing anything important, so we recommend finding the sign-up page on the websites we list here.
And if you know of any more great websites or blogs about VR and AR that we should add, please do get in touch! You can email Michele on email@example.com, drop us a comment below, or hit us up on Twitter.
Let’s get cracking…
There’s a lot of news from the VR gaming world on VR Focus, but it’s also interspersed with some really engaging news pieces about investments, funding, industrial and enterprise use cases and so on. The site is visually interesting and easy to navigate, with separate sections for news on the different hardware, from the HTC Vive right down to Cardboard.
Giganti.co has a bit more of a minimalist look to it than VR Focus, which is a bit misleading. On initial glance, you might think there’s very little to engage with here, but scrolling down you’ll find a really eclectic selection of content, some of which is curated from other publications. There are interviews, whitepaper reports, and some really insightful and compelling articles, for example, making it a really powerful resource.
You may know TechX365 from its incredibly popular TechXLR8 events, but its website is chock-full of content from all corners of the Tech space. VR and AR feature strongly in the site’s content offering, primarily from the perspective of industry news on funding for rising startups and so on.
A lovely mixture of augmented and virtual reality news to enjoy here. Whilst too many publications tend to focus too heavily on VR whilst leaving the equally impressive AR in the corner, VR360 appears to give as much airspace to the wealth of exciting developments within the augmented and mixed reality sector. There is a tonne of content to be enjoyed here, along with Events listings (for Marketers, Developers, Telecoms and IoT) and covers diverse categories, including Devices, Case Studies, Data & Analytics, Enterprise, and Security.
RoadToVR is incredibly popular, and with good reason. The whole industry is covered from every angle; hardware, software, gaming, enterprise, you name it! Even scrolling through today’s headlines is a bit distracting, so I’m forcing myself to move on to the next site before I go down the reading rabbit hole…
Gizmodo is a great online publication that covers the bulk of the tech industry without the enterprise/industrial angle. The VR-related content is more culture/gaming and so on. The link above takes you to the /virtual-reality tag, where all the VR articles can be found. There’s something new every week or so in this category, but the site at large is certainly worth your attention if your interests cover the broader tech landscape.
Haptic.al is cool because it covers all the industry/enterprise/culture/gaming areas of VR and AR, but also includes AI news, for those who are also interested in artificial intelligence (i.e. me). The topics here are wide-ranging and really insightful. Absolutely fascinating stuff here, and not to be missed.
Virtual Reality Pop
High value, regularly updated and interesting VR and AR-focused content across the board on Virtual Reality Pop, whose modest reputation belies a really great resource for VR news and insight.
UploadVR was the most widely-mentioned VR site (well, next to TechCrunch, that is) when I consulted the team on their most visited VR websites. That’s probably because it’s one of the most well-known. However, though its content is engaging, regularly updated, and good-looking, it’s only as good as many of the others on this list, and is sometimes actually surpassed by some of the lesser-known publications in terms of quality and diversity of material.
Like Gizmodo, TechCrunch is an online publication that covers the tech world at large, though through the link above you’ll head straight through to the VR page, which is very regularly updated with interesting content about both VR and AR. If the industrial and enterprise stuff doesn’t interest you quite as much as the general goings-on and developments, TechCrunch is a good destination for you. It’s light without being amateur, and deep enough to discuss pertinent topics in an accessible and engaging manner.
Virtual Reality Reviewer
Those who are most into VR film and gaming will enjoy the reviews of virtual reality content itself which Virtual Reality Reviewer offers. With so much VR content out there, it’s not always easy to know what the best experiences are – and as you generally have to pay at least a couple of quid for a good one, it’s worth having some proper tried-and-tested reviews to help you decide before you buy. Covers all levels of hardware, high-end to basic.
Well, these are our favourite AR and VR websites and blogs, but what are yours? Let us know in the comments, or just drop Michele an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get it added in!
In the past, LinkedIn groups have had a bad rap. The worst are fraught with spam and self-promotion, and that’s put a lot of people off. But things have changed. The ways in which people use social media have evolved. Now, though there are still some crappy LinkedIn groups out there which you should avoid, there are also thriving communities of professionals engaging in discussion and creating meaningful interactions. You just need to know where to look.
Closed communities such as Facebook and LinkedIn groups are starting to blossom, creating positive ways to engage with your audience, particularly in B2B. Facebook Pages are less valuable than they used to be for marketers, which is why these closed groups are on the rise. LinkedIn now has a global user base of over 500 million members. Whilst this pales in comparison to the over 2 billion on Facebook, the difference is the target audience. LinkedIn is for professional connections, making it the perfect platform on which to engage with like-minded folk to discuss things from an industry perspective.
Taking the line of ‘the bigger the better’, we’ve sought out the most popular LinkedIn groups for VR and AR professionals, all of which are actively operating and regularly updated.
The Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) & Virtual Worlds (VWs) group is the place to meet leaders in the field and discuss these emerging technologies. This is the most popular VR LinkedIn group on the platform, so should be top of your list (as it is top of ours).
Owned and run by blockchain innovator and architect, Qamar Zia, Augmented Reality has one of the highest number of members of any LinkedIn group in the VR/AR community, shortly behind Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) & Virtual Worlds (VWs) – (above). What’s also refreshing is its focus on augmented rather than virtual reality. VR seems to dominate discussion left, right and centre, though it’s AR that arguably stands to have a more significant impact on industry and culture.
Augmented & Virtual Reality Professionals Group is dedicated to specialists in Augmented & Virtual Reality. As such, it’s the perfect B2B LinkedIn group for VR enthusiasts working in the industry. With a comfortable 13,250 members (at time of writing), you can be sure it’s not so overloaded that it becomes hard to see the wood for the trees, as can be the case with the most popular LinkedIn groups.
Stay up-to-date with Virtual Reality news, insight and analysis; share ideas, debate and promote VR technology.
The VR community is dedicated to this exciting and innovative technology, its applications and its implications. Let’s explore how this technology will change our world and create amazing new products and opportunities.
Created by VRTalk.com members to discuss the Virtual Reality industry. VRTalk is a forum for virtual reality enthusiasts from all walks within the industry. The forum site seems to have gone dormant since 2017, which may be a sign that many users have moved across to the LinkedIn group.
This moderated group’s members include those interested in Augmented Reality & Immersive 3D Environments for corporations, trade shows, museums, product marketing, education and immersive public spaces (real & virtual).
The Moderator is seeking members who may be interested in presenting live webinars to the group. (software & hardware demos, related business opportunities, training related to Augmented Reality, 3D training, etc).
Do you know of any really great AR or VR LinkedIn groups we should list? If so, do get in touch and let us know! You can email email@example.com and tell her all about it.
How Virtual Reality Could Help To Rehabilitate Domestic Abusers
The link between virtual reality and empathy is known to be strong. Placing a person into a virtual situation is seen to evoke the same emotional response as it would if they were physically there. Many industries are utilising VR technology and we have seen it within the charity sector, virtually immersing the public into Africa, surrounded by starving children or in the depths of the rainforest to see the destruction being caused. Greenpeace research shows that they had double the signup rate to their cause, due to their use of virtual reality. So if virtual reality can evoke such emotive responses, how else can we use it to change behaviour?
Well, The University of Barcelona has coordinated a study using virtual reality to improve empathy and rehabilitate previous domestic violence abusers, by placing them in the victims shoes. Mavi Sanchez Vives, the study coordinator said “Virtual bodies can be drastically different from the participant’s, but even so, the individual goes under a strong subjective illusion of owning the virtual body”
The study began by asking male abusers, to take a test to measure their empathy levels and ability to recognise emotions being displayed by others. The participants were then placed into a virtual world, where their body was that of a woman. They then had to endure the situation of having a male abuser enter the scene, who verbally abused them, threateningly looked at them directly in the eyes, and screamed ‘look at me!’ if the participant turned to look away. As horrendous as this may be to endure, in putting the shoe on the other foot, the abusers got to experience the same behaviours that they had inflicted on their victims in real life.
Results of the study showed that before going through the virtual reality experience, the offenders had a low ability to identify when a woman was showing fear on her face. Inability to recognise emotion, is thought to be a reason why many abusers don’t feel any remorse, or empathy when being violent towards another person and therefore continue to do so.
After experiencing the verbal abuse themselves as the virtual female victim, their ability to recognise emotion hugely improved on the follow up test, as they were able to feel exactly what their victims felt. Fear.
Virtual reality has the power to change perception. If this technology holds the key to making domestic violence abusers, recognise that they are causing fear and pain to another person, it should stop them from continuing with their violent behaviour. The success of this study shows how VR could be a vital tool for rehabilitation, not just for domestic violence but for offenders of many different criminal charges.
It is easy to turn and blind eye to the hurt being caused either around us, or by us, but virtual reality immerses people into the difficult situations that they don’t want to face. By evoking empathy, VR is a powerful, behaviour changing, tool.
It’s not exactly groundbreaking news that virtual reality has been around for a while, yet has only recently started seeing success as a technology. Mass customisation, too, is a concept that has been around for decades, but is only just starting to be taken seriously as an idea, because the technology to needed to make it happen is beginning to mature.
What Is Mass Customisation?
Back in 1993, Joseph Pine wrote a book about the concept, entitled, of course, Mass Customisation. In it, Pine writes of it as being ‘a new frontier in business competition’. He also wrote: ‘Customers don’t want choice. They just want exactly what they want’. This sentence sums up what mass customisation is all about: producing bespoke products on a mass-market level.
The idea is that the consumer has active input into the design and features of the product they wish to buy. With your smartphone, for example, you get to customise the device with your chosen apps to make the device completely tailored to your individual needs. The mass customisation concept envisages you being able to do much the same with any product you buy.
For it to be a practical option, mass customisation needs to happen within some boundaries. If we look at Nike’s long-popular customised footwear line, NIKEiD, we see that the brand allows a set of variations of colour and fabric, but doesn’t hand the reins fully to the customer. This allows the manufacturer to produce the trainers without too much strain on resources.
Designing the Kyrie 4 on NIKE ID! - YouTube
Offering a predefined set of variations rather than offering a blank canvas for customisation to the consumer is important if a brand is to avoid losing its defining features – if you hand over too much control, the brand is not yours anymore. Mass customisation must be a two-way exchange between the brand and consumer.
NIKEiD has been running (excuse the pun) since 1999. The biggest footwear retailer in the world has been using mass customisation for two decades. Converse, also owned by Nike, makes around 12% of all sales at its New York store as customised versions of its famous Chuck Taylor sneakers, demonstrating that the pull of customised products works as well in-store as online.
Mass Customisation and Manufacturing
A different manufacturing model is required for mass customisation. The mass production model, which is how most products are currently manufactured, relies on creating large volumes of each individual product in bulk, stockpiling it for sale. Whatever isn’t sold is excess inventory, that is then a costly burden for the manufacturer, both in terms of wasted resources and in storage costs.
The alternative is lean manufacturing, where product is manufactured on demand. This prevents stockpiling of excess product and the associated material and financial waste, whilst at the same time letting the consumer actively participate in choosing their purchase.
Uptake of the mass customisation model has been slow so far, partly down to the fact that the changes to the production line are considered a risk. The secret to making it work, however, is not to overhaul a brand’s existing production line, but to add a lean manufacture line for one aspect of the brand’s offering: customised versions. Just as NIKEiD have been doing for years.
A mass customised line commands a higher retail cost than mass-produced versions. This cost premium will, at first, cover the costs of initiating the line in the first place. Once this is established, the price premium on the customised products begins to turn a profit, as it takes no more money to produce than the mass-produced line.
Integrating this lean model for customisation with virtual reality software to allow customers to ‘design’ their own products is a strong win for omnichannel marketing and for user experience in general, whilst saving the costs associated with excess inventory and materials.
Retail brands know that they now have to engage their consumers across multiple platforms. Creating a seamless interaction across mobile, web, store, and beyond is now a key part of maximising sales, and integrating virtual reality as part of an omnichannel strategy is another tool in this arsenal.
Omnichannel is as much about personalisation as it is about cross-channel accessibility. This is where the overlap between mass customisation and omnichannel lies, at a crossroads of agency, choice, and user experience for the consumer. With VR as another channel, it’s possible to deliver all three of these whilst tailoring product to meet individual consumer needs.
Mass Customisation in Virtual Reality
Most examples of brands using mass customisation right now work with 3D rendering software. Brands like NIKEiD have the software integrated with their website, whilst some jewellers offer bespoke ring or watch design in-store using software on a desktop or tablet, for example.
An image of a product is visible in three dimensions, with the customisable elements clickable to swap in and out as desired. The user puts together their product by selecting their choice from each variable factor offered, then orders the product they’ve ‘designed’ directly.
Currently, this process necessarily takes place behind a screen. Virtual reality, however, offers the chance for full immersion in the product being designed. Clothes can be made to measure with unparalleled accuracy, tried on in VR, and options swapped in or out until the customer is completely satisfied. They can then, just as with on-screen 3D rendering software, simply hit ‘Order’ within virtual reality, and their custom-fit, bespoke product will be on its way.
It is, at its heart, a fully interactive, engaging shopping experience. Whilst screen-based customisation software is all very well, the ability to see and interact with a product as though it were actually in front of you takes this engagement to the next level.
VR is an omnichannel strategy that can bridge the gap between online and in-store experience, in many different ways. Whether a brand decides to host a fully virtual rendering of one of their stores for access at home complete with ready-made products for purchase, or a virtual space for customisation hosted in-store or via a VR app customers can access at home, virtual reality offers a tool no retailer should underestimate.
Other than the readiness of the technology, there are also cultural factors that lead us to believe that the mass customisation revolution is truly upon us.
The rising dominance of omnichannel marketing is one symptom of the cultural shift that’s opening the doors for mass customisation. The cause? Digital culture, epitomised by social media.
Social media has had a massive impact on consumer demand for personalised products. In an era where we can augment our identities online through the content we produce and share on social media, we want products that further allow us to express our identity in unique, personalised ways.
As our digital dependence moves beyond the screen and into VR, it’s likely that self-identity will become even more important, particularly given the more immersive nature of VR. If our identities are already formed by the digital space, imagine the possibilities as the net goes virtual.
In a society where identity is so important, it goes without saying that the ability to choose exactly what one wants is of utmost importance, too. We’ve already been conditioned into this to some extent by the algorithms we come across daily on online platforms like Netflix and Amazon, whose recommendation engines are designed to make it easier for us to access products and services that we’re most likely to be interested in.
It’s already possible for retailers to develop virtual reality stores where the products offered first are based on data gathered by integrated machine learning algorithms, similar to the recommendation engines of Netflix and Amazon. Customising products based on similar algorithms may just be the next logical progression for meeting customer demand at a deeper level than ever before.
The number of UK Virtual Reality companies emerging within the UK is growing at an unprecedented rate. Exciting times and we are very much looking forward to watching the space unfold. We wanted to map out the size of the sector, whilst highlighting the key players within the space and put them all in one place and allow you to then use the resulting virtual reality infographic on your own site and share across all social media channels.
At the end of the infographic you will find an embed code should you want to use it on your own site but equally, and perhaps more importantly, we recognise that this is an evolving sector.
We are keen to hear from you if your company isn’t in the infographic or perhaps needs to be moved around a little. Just drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you in the next version.
With new VR startup companies rising up through the ranks, such asGameFace Labs who are manufacturing the next generation headset, it’s becoming increasingly hard – even for those of us fully immersed in the VR sector – to keep tabs on them all. But with this new infographic that we have built, a thorough map of all the UK VR companies at work, keeping up to date with this rapidly growing industry will be much easier!
We were keen to detail each VR company’s ‘specialist subject’. As you can imagine, this was no easy task, and it will be an ongoing project. It’s clear the sector is about hit a climax, with so much new and exciting tech emerging. We fully expect the UK VR space to see the same development that the US has seen over the last few years.
Virtual Reality Infographic of UK VR Sector
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<p><strong>Graphic created by The Digital Marketing Bureau</strong></p><p><a href=’https://www.thedigitalmarketingbureau.com/virtual-reality/virtual-reality-infographic’><img src=’https://tdmb-w78uyjksariur4ilzt.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/VR-infographic-updated-07.10.16.jpg’ alt=’Virtual Reality UK Map Infographic’ width=’650′ border=’0′ /></a></p>
UK VR COMPANIES MENTIONED (INCLUDING LINKS TO THEIR WEBSITES) INCLUDE:
We’ve had such amazing weather these past few days, I managed to eat lunch outside and I have made a start on the annual garden upkeep as well, more to be getting on with today so lets get things rolling!
One of the best case study’s for medical virtual reality I have read in ages, you just don’t realize how much powerful virtual reality truly is and how it is impacting our health on such a wide ranging scale.
I can however understand that those with a phobia of flying would be potentially interested in using a service like this but I cannot understand the logic behind booking this as a pleasurable experience but maybe that’s just me.
An avid follower of PropTech? Check out my boss and mentor James Dearsley’s very popular Sunday PropTech Review, which – again – also goes out on LinkedIn every Sunday. You can also subscribe to receive these by email by dropping him an email to email@example.com
You can’t build a future unless you can imagine it, sci-fi author Ayodale Arigbabu once stated. That’s why sci-fi is an important element in technological development. Sci-fi is reality, Arigbabu says. The questions posed by science fiction have been inspiring scientists and inventors for generations, and no less so now, as sci-fi narratives take on the digital realm.
What do stories do to us? They are more than just escapism. Stories have been told since the dawn of time, either challenging the status quo of the time, or reiterating it. Stories affect our political identities as individuals, and can also affect political and cultural reality outside the text.
From a writer’s perspective, one’s personal politics also affect the story you tell. In the world of indie gaming, for example, there has been a massive upsurge in narratives that challenge received gender politics.
GamerGate and the VR Empathy Machine
You’d have to be living under a rock (or at least off Twitter) to have missed the GamerGate fiasco. Female gamers and games developers harassed, threatened and doxxed for daring to suggest an alternative to the male centred gaze of mainstream gaming culture. And yet, female indie games developers have stood strong, as have those with differing gender identities and sexual orientations, who are striving for a more inclusive gaming universe.
There is an argument from those who subscribe to the mainstream, inarguably male-dominated gaming world, that these games are marketed towards them because this is the fantasy world they wish to inhabit. A world where even the kick-ass female characters are scantily-clad and formed with impossible proportions; where a souped-up version of the male dominates.
The counter-argument is about proportional representation, breaking down the sense of segregation of gender, sexual identity and race that pervades the mainstream. A more egalitarian representation, it is argued, is essential to actioning cultural change outside the gaming world, in which patriarchal discourse on gender roles, which are as damaging to males as they are to females, can be overthrown for the benefit of all.
This is where VR comes in. Could virtual reality act as an empathy engine, exposing those with limited mindsets to alternative perspectives? Literature, of course, has been doing this for centuries, absorbing the reader in consciousnesses sometimes vastly different from their own. The landscape of the consumption of storytelling, however, has changed, and is now a many-headed hydra. I’ll go into this later.
VR takes the empathy engine to its logical conclusion: total immersion in an alternative consciousness.
What, for example, would the effect be upon a confirmed male chauvinist who inhabits a female character in a fully immersive VR setting? What about trans identities, racial or cultural identities? Could VR be a tool for obliterating prejudice?
Well, that’s the most optimistic outcome. The challenge is steering those with one particular mindset towards the experience of another.
AI and Social Media: A monocentric experience?
A popular current discussion concerns the limitations that AI, specifically on Facebook, places upon our perceptions of politics in the world around us. The algorithms Facebook works from, as well as those presented by search engines, can throw up vastly different results for different individuals.
On Facebook, in particular, our news feeds are tailored to what the algorithms decide we want to see. So, if you are engaging with a lot of left-wing posts, for example, you’ll be presented with many more. Same goes for the right-wing. What happens then, over time, is that we are only presented with content that confirms our view of the world. We become less and less able to question our own views, as we fail to be confronted with alternatives.
As individuals from all sides of the left/right divide are increasingly presented with only content that confirms their viewpoint, real world divisions may become more tense. Re-engagement with differing perspectives via VR could be a valuable tool in breaking down these divisions.
Whilst social media has the potential to narrow political viewpoints, fiction is re-opening them in a different way to that which VR can offer.
The Changing Face of Fiction: Netflix and Fan Fiction
Of course, there are many different ways of presenting fiction nowadays. Netflix series, for example, are fast overtaking the novel as the medium of choice.
Back in the seventeenth century, one of the earliest novels, Pamela, was eagerly devoured by all who could get a copy. Dickens published both The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist as a series of weekly instalments, to enthusiastic response. Readers eagerly awaited the latest episode, and like Pamela, these were discussed high and low throughout literate society. Sound familiar? The only difference with Netflix is that we can now binge our way through an entire season of Orange Is The New Black in one go.
But for those who write, the narratives of which we have a special passion, whether written or film, the text is not the end. The author is dead; the author is legion. Two words: Fan Fiction.
You don’t have to go far online to discover a huge trove of fan fiction that takes the original narrative as a jumping point to create whole new journeys for the characters they know and love. Harry Potter, of course, is a prime example.
Individual fan writers bring their own political stance to their beloved stories. There are queer Harry Potter offshoots, both erotic and not. The characters are re-imagined in different racial and gender contexts, different settings, and so on ad infinitum. Whatever reality you can imagine, you can create. This has always been possible, yet the digital world has awakened a whole generation of writers to the open universe of their imagination.
As such, there is no literary canon anymore. Fans can disagree, they can talk back (as they do so often on Twitter – see J K Rowling). The publishing world should be quaking, because it’s not just the marketable fictions that people are reading; and it’s not just Amazon’s self-publishing functionality responsible. Every narrative can now be annotated.
VR, Coding and the Democratisation of Creativity
So, to be explicit, what has this got to do with virtual reality? Well, there’s the fact that these alternative fictions can be gamified. And with gamification, we come to VR.
How long before all the fan fiction out there, combined with the fanart of a million different artists, comes together within the gaming world? With the next generation coming up code-literate from primary school, the democratisation of creativity, the capacity for immersive empathic experiences within the perspectives of other identities, and the pluralisation of narratives, is only set to grow.
Walmart has purchased a company called Spatialand who specializes in transforming existing content into immersive, virtual reality experiences. It seems Walmart is looking to lead the way in virtual marketing.
Intel’s new smart glasses look normal! Its about time as there has definitely been a few creepy looking glasses these past few years, they are called Vaunt and they do look really cool, what’s your thoughts?
Training for the winter Olympics and the Olympics sounds and looks like hard work doesn’t it, however, virtual reality is being used to unleash that raw power needed to get a gold, silver, bronze medal, new training environments are at your fingertips, you can do anything you want, be anywhere you want, climb a mountain and ski back down, go for a run in Hyde park.
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Who’s your favourite artist and have you seen them live?
The likelihood of having seeing your favourite artist or group live these days is quite slim as, in reality, they are touring the world with the aim of reaching global success and little old you, well, are not. Concerts have always been about connecting people and having a laugh but, for some, concerts are becoming inaccessible because some fans just aren’t near the chosen venues.
So, apart from the very few fans that are so devoted that they will follow their favourite artist/group anywhere on the planet, the rest of us are left feeling a bit left out. Travelling long distances for a concert is far from cheap, and ticket prices can reach hundreds of pounds. All this means that fans from all over the globe will probably never be able to see their favourite artists or groups in person just because of where they live.
Now, what options are available to us? Well, one option could be to watch a broadcast, but it’s just not as good as the real thing. There is good news on the horizon though, as it looks like virtual reality is coming to the rescue!
The Evolution of the Music Industry
The music industry is huge. In the last year alone, the industry has generated 10 billion pounds. Half of that is accounted for through live concerts. The world, though, is going digital and the music industry recognizes that. The changes they have been putting in place are clear to see. I mean, how easy is it to buy a song these days? Before Apple Music, I must have spent £1,500 on songs over a 3 year period. It looks like vinyl is making a comeback though, which is cool, as it would be a shame to lose that physical engagement with music. Nonetheless, on the whole, digital culture has changed prevailing trends. Consumer demand is for immediate gratification. No one wants to head to Our Price (remember that?) to get a new single on a Saturday afternoon anymore. We want our music, and we want it now.
Live VR Music Concerts
If you follow the TDMB through our Twitterand LinkedInaccounts, then you would have read a few of our blogs on virtual reality music videos and 360 animations, for example. There’s only been a few successful vids so far, but it definitely looks like online concerts and virtual reality concerts are becoming more popular. But the fact remains that it has to feel like you’re there… or what’s the point?
a-ha – Take On Me – Virtual Reality (VR) 360 video - YouTube
Going back to live music, location is still the largest limitation for concerts as, in reality, everything comes down to geography. I wonder what it’s like to be the artist or musician. In their eyes, I guess, concerts have changed very little and they just go where they need to go, same as they’ve always done. But with the way that we distribute music having changed so significantly, and music now having a global reach thanks to Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and so on, perhaps it’s time we brought that immediate gratification to the live music experience.
At TDMB, we love virtual reality and we know its potential so, to us, it’s easy to understand why music distribution is becoming more and more virtual. That being said, one issue is that many people either still haven’t experienced virtual reality or they don’t even know what it is. Shocking, I know.
If we were to create virtual reality experiences for every artist or concert, would it be a success? Probably not right now, but demand is growing and VR has the potential to catalyse new technological changes in the music industry.
Before adoption of virtual reality music videos takes off, though, it’s important to consider the implications for musicians, record companies, promoters, and fans. Ticket costs will come down and fans won’t have to travel to get to a gig. It’s actually beneficial to artists and promoters as well, as it cuts down overheads for things like staff and security at the venue.
With VR concert-goers, unlimited seats are available. Masses more people will therefore be able to experience the thrill of the concert at the same time. That is, unless, the artist chooses to make an exclusive VR experience with limited spots, but in general it could mean that artists may potentially earn more from the gig. Equally, all of this must mean a better viewing experience for you and me as well. I guess the big question is whether it be enough for the hardcore music fans?