Forced by the coronavirus, Laval Virtual launches a 100% virtual reality show

Forced by the coronavirus, Laval Virtual launches a 100% virtual reality show

From April 22 to 24, the 2020 edition of the virtual and augmented reality fair will be held using real-time 3D. A first in the world for an event of this magnitude.

The decision had to be made in record time. And the dilemma was big: cancel the Laval Virtual, this annual event with an international dimension dedicated to virtual and augmented reality that could no longer be held because of the health crisis, or make the risky bet of transforming it in less than a month into a real virtual show? “When you have a whole team that has been working for twelve months on an event of this magnitude, the biggest anxiety was that the 2020 edition simply cannot be held,” explains Laurent Chrétien, the general manager of the Laval Virtual association.

In less than three weeks, the association has therefore made every effort to build a 2020 edition of its annual show entirely produced in virtual reality, which will take place online on the planned dates, from April 22 to 24. First step: build the virtual world in which the show was going to be held. After a benchmark of about thirty solutions tested by an international community of 60 people, the team selected VirBELA’s real-time, interactive and immersive 3D solution, capable of supporting the simultaneous connection of at least 10,000 participants. It works on computers, smartphones and tablets, without the need for virtual reality glasses. The association launches in record time the work of customization and the various features. “This is the first event of this magnitude in the world that uses 3D in real time,” says Laurent Chrétien.

“Like in real life”

The result: as in a video game, each visitor has his alias and can move or even teleport as he pleases on the various stands of the exhibitors, in the different buildings of the show. He can chat with the participants he meets, sit in the auditoriums to listen to lectures given by speakers also in alias on a stage and specially trained for the exercise… Exhibitors can also access one of the 36 private meeting spaces, just like a real physical show. Ditto, many actions, like opening a door for example, are based on natural physical gestures to make the experience simple and enjoyable.

Laval Virtual

Only the consumer dimension could not be transcribed since the latter come above all on the show for the ‘entertainment’ dimension of the demonstrations, which require, they, helmets and virtual reality equipment.

For the association, the annual cost of using the platform amounts to about 100,000 dollars, between initialization of the virtual world, license and maintenance. “Within the deadline, we made the choice to make everything free for exhibitors and participants. In return, we ask for a little indulgence for this world premiere…”, says Laurent Chrétien. Economic consequence of the cancellation of the physical show: the association lost 1.5 million euros out of the 3 million of its budget.

Other upcoming virtual events

“This world is ours, it is persistent and we will now be able to exploit it,” explains Laurent Chrétien. The association has already received requests to use its platform for the organization of other virtual events, at a time when the coronavirus is weighing a sword of Damocles on most physical events in the coming months. In the United States, large groups like Facebook or Microsoft have waived any physical event of more than 50 people until June 2021. “I hope that real life will resume its course but for 18 to 24 months, all international events risk being cut off part of their audience,” emphasizes Laurent Chrétien, who intends to deepen his reflection on the complementarities between physical and virtual events. He is thinking about it for his European event, the VR Days organized in Amsterdam. On the other hand, he will not have enough time to organize the planned one in China. The next physical version of the Laval Virtual is already scheduled from April 14 to 18, 2021.

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