What’s the most trendy conference giveaway? Google Cardboard-style virtual reality (VR) viewers that fold flat for travel, are easy to assemble, use your smartphone as the screen and advertise your conference or company’s brand.
In case you haven’t seen them before, here’s an example of how they’re being branded for conferences, courtesy the Future of Events Conference in Amsterdam. (Disclaimer: I’ll be leading a workshop about how to storyboard your event there.)
— Future of Events (@foehq) May 18, 2016
For the uninitiated, VR is a way to show participants a more immersive environment. Unlike augmented reality (AR), which superimposes a layer of information over what you see, VR depends on cutting off your other senses and replacing them a hard-coded version of reality.
Marriott Hotels’ “Travel Brilliantly” campaign was one of the first examples of the hospitality and meeting industry embracing the technology. But it’s been slow to catch on, primarily because it costs roughly $50,000 to create a simple experience that’s difficult to edit, change or update.
But recently, Google’s decided that it wants to bring VR to the masses. A Google Cardboard-style viewer costs $10-$16 on Amazon and you can make your own version of 360-degree VR experiences with the free Google Cardboard Camera app.
What can you do with VR at your events? How about this?
Alissa Hurley, national director of client solutions and emergent technologies at FMAV in Ottawa, Canada, is already using this technology. In addition to being great entertainment, Hurley says allowing guests to play with Google Tilt has been its primary event application. Another use for VR is to create virtual galleries that can only be seen by people with VR viewers—a concept that William Gibson wrote about in 2003, but is just now becoming possible.
But how long will VR hold its cool factor? I think it’s clear that VR viewers are 2016’s hot new conference swag, but how long until they’re like the reusable water bottle: Once novel and useful, now redundant and overused. Or worse yet, will they become the next “mashed potato in a martini glass?” What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
[This post induced Editor Michael Pinchera, a VR geek, to chime in.]