HTC’s V²EC 2020 took place on March 18, 2020. This was the first time HTC VIVE has conducted their annual conference in VR. It’s also the first major physical industry event to be converted fully into a VR experience. For more information check out the HTC VIVE announce press release.
The event was conducted via the Engage platform, which is a training and education system designed for collaboration.
The developer conference was also being live-streamed on YouTube for non-VR users, however, the link is now private.
As a regular industry trade show participant and VR enthusiast, I was excited to participate in this first. Would it rock my socks off? Would it be weird? How would they handle so many opinionated people?
This post looks at 5 things that were epic about V²EC 2020 and 3 things they could have done to make it even better. Let’s jump right in!
DO BETTER — What V²EC 2020 conference? Where? How?
I shared the conference announcement with my team early on and let everyone know when it was live. But since they didn’t sign up, there was very little way to find it before it started. They tried searching Google and YouTube, and it didn’t pop up. I knew about it from following VIVE executives on Twitter, but it seems like anyone not in the know, didn’t stand a chance at ever finding it.
Maybe that was intentional to focus on their target audience of developers. But still, I believe they are doing something big here that more people should have been able to access.
EPIC- Incorporated High-Value Team Members
The executive team at VIVE took a risk by participating in this conference. The company went all-in on this event, despite knowing if it would work well and what the reception would be. Participants included:
• Cher Wang, Chairwoman of HTC
•Yves Maitre, CEO of HTC
•Alvin Graylin, China President of HTC VR
DO BETTER — Participant Preparation
There was a newsletter via email to anyone who signed up that to participate that they needed to download the Engage app. This was super helpful!
What wasn’t clear is that you need to create an account, which included a whole bunch of steps. Using a VR keyboard is time-consuming in itself, including filling out personal info like your birthday and then creating an avatar.
Not knowing this and where to find the event itself in the Engage app made me late to the party. A great do better would be if VIVE mapped out the steps required to participate ahead of time. Even a heads up that this process takes 10–15 minutes, so I can get it done ahead of time.
EPIC — Used as a Platform to Interactively Talk About Coronavirus
The VIVE team didn’t need to include anything on the Coronavirus. I don’t think anyone would have been upset. If anything, many people are tired of companies using the topic to sell things or send newsletters.
That said, VIVE didn’t just talk about it, they made it a considerable focus in the opening remarks in an incredible way. They talked about how it impacted China, the growth, and the importance of taking it seriously in other countries now. They made it interactive and engaging by putting all audiences members in hazmat suits and bringing out Coronavirus models, which floated above our heads. This was a brilliant show of VR technology and an example of how to use your influence to impact for the greater good. Kudos.
When you get a bunch of people in a room, things tend to get crazy. Especially in a virtual world where the consequences of your actions are different than in real life. Just look at the racism and sexism rampant in typical in-game chats as an example.
In the case of this conference, attendees were able to use their arms to express themselves, but they were forced to remain seated and muted during the conference. It didn’t feel weird or restricting in any way. If anything, it felt comforting knowing that you couldn’t miss-press anything and unmute yourself by accident, or that a troll couldn’t ruin the conference for everyone else.
DO BETTER — Even More Virtual Engagement
The thing that makes school boring is listening to teacher talk infinitely. The VIVE team did a great job at including 3D virtual elements like models of the Coronavirus, whales, and the train above.
There was quite a bit of talking, and the audience just listening. I understand this is one of the first times this has ever been done and they probably made an effort to keep it simple, which would be focusing on making things work instead of adding too many bells and whistles. They nailed making it work btw.
In the future, it would be great to have more things to engage with when the fidgets kick in, including things to do on the VR tablet they provide and more 3D objects to help break up speaking time. IMO, it doesn’t take away from what you’re saying, it makes it memorable.
EPIC- Haptics When Someone Touches You
Being in VR with other real people is still a new experience for me. Especially in the case of conferences. At the real life version of V²EC 2020, I would be meeting people I may be doing business deals with during the year. In VR it feels real’ish, until someone makes a really strange avatar.
One enchanting feature that was included in the experience was haptics, the vibration motor in the controller. It was used very subtly and from what I can tell in only one way. Specially for human interaction. When another user reached out to touch your avatar, or you reached out to contact someone else, you would feel a haptics buzz.
During the conference, the fellow next to me and I reached out to each other, and the haptics buzzed. Something is comforting about knowing when someone else is in your space, and that someone else is really there next to you, even if it’s exhibited with rudimentary haptics.
EPIC — Felt Like A Real Conference
If you’ve ever been to a trade show or business conference, there’s an air about it. Serious yet buzzing with geeky excitement. The lobby of the event had this. People were in small groups, while others were hanging out on their own busy or AFK.
When I joined the lobby pre-event, I stood there awkwardly, taking it all in, like I usually do at conferences. I was able to be a fly on the wall while people were having group chats, and not feel quite as weird as I would have if it was real life. I didn’t have a mic, so I ended up just waving at people.
Exciting Times Ahead
I’m convinced that this is the beginning of something truly extraordinary. Something drew me to participate despite not being a very regular VR user and the nauseous feeling I had navigating using my controller.
With so many of the world’s most significant events being canceled because of the Coronavirus, like MWC Barcelona, GDC, and Geneva Motor Show, businesses are going to need to find new ways to engage users at a distance to be able to share their new tech with the world. V²EC 2020 was a great example of how this is possible.
Mark my words, this is just the beginning of something very big. It was a brilliant conference and exhibition of the potential of VR and AR.