October 07, 2015

Guest blog: Amsterdam Dance Event virtual reality check

As Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) bestows upon us we’d like to introduce Avinash Changa, CEO of WeMakeVR, who’ll bring an eye-opening session to the playground, as he gives the event industry a virtual reality check. Alongside Avinash will be Head of Product at ticketscript, Ruben van den Heuvel, who’ll take you on a journey through the future of ticketing.

First thing’s first, let’s get to know a little bit about Avinash and his motivations prior to ADE.


How long have you worked with virtual reality (VR )?

WeMakeVR has been one of the first movers in the VR industry. We started developing when the first headset was released in early 2013. The VR headsets at the time were meant for video gaming. We quickly went beyond that and invented a camera and software which enabled us to create photo realistic VR experiences.


Before creating your own agency, WeMakeVR, you were working in the event industry. What kind of events did you come into contact with in that time?

In one of my previous companies, we produced film festivals. These were festivals that attracted 2000+ film fans to Amsterdam, to watch the newest Sci-Fi and Fantasy films. In close relation to this industry, I also ran a company that created commercials and post-production services for events. We designed artwork for events like Mysteryland and other dance events.


How would you assess the impact of virtual reality on the event industry?

VR will have a huge impact on this industry – for the visitors, as well as the organisers and artists.

Vistors: A common issue experienced by festival goers is that they can never experience everything. You pick the main stage at a festival, and afterwards you hear from your friends that the performance at the other stage was much more exciting. Before you know it, you’ve missed out.

That fear of missing out does not need to be an issue any longer. WeMakeVR can let you relive the performances you enjoyed the most, or experience the performances that you could not attend the first time around.

Artists: When we do VR registrations of an event, we can provide a compilation of the event to visitors through our app and distribution platform. We can also offer full performances for a small iTunes-like fee. For example, we could offer a VR experience of a song for a small price, or the entire concert. Part of this revenue will go back to the artist. This way we create a new revenue stream for the artist, for a performance that they are already giving. We generate additional value whereby prior to our VR tech there was none.


How can an event organiser benefit from new technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality?

Organisers: For the event organisers, VR can offer a great sales tool to promote the format to other potential licensees/countries. It can also be a good way to train new staff: they can see how certain things are organised, and get a preview of what to expect. It can also be a good way to evaluate the event’s proceedings. The key staff can never be everywhere at the same time. Now they can relive the event, and see where the bottlenecks and potential improvements are.


What reaction do you expect from the people when they experience virtual reality for the first time?

We’ve been showcasing VR for nearly three years now. The response is pretty universal; we call it VR face. Once the experience starts, you see the corners of the mouth curl upwards. This huge smile and sense of wonder appears on people’s faces. This is actually part of the WeMakeVR mission statement: “We bring people moments of joy!”

From experience we kind of know what to expect. We appeal to a very fundamental, core emotional response. When we do dance experiences, we make people happy and energised. However, we can also elicit thoughtful responses, or inspire people to think about topics and possibilities they hadn’t considered before, such as VR applications for elderly care, or therapeutic applications. This way we go beyond entertainment and fun, and create valuable applications that add to a person’s quality of life.


How will people consume these VR experiences?

The gamers and tech-geeks will be the first adopters of high quality VR devices. But for the mainstream, we believe that our “WeShareVR” smartphone app (in the Appstore and Google Play Store) will be their first VR experience. Since everyone already has a smartphone, all you need is our app, and you can already experience a very basic version of VR. We also make “cardboard” VR viewers. This is a low-cost, 30 euro way to experience VR, without needing a fast computer, expensive headset or technical knowledge. Once events start offering “cardboard” holders at their merchandising stands the rate of adoption will quickly increase.


How do you think virtual reality will be used in the event industry in the next two years?

Beyond the examples we’ve discussed earlier, it will also be used as a means to “design” events. If you are planning the layout and routing of a festival, it can really help to actually walk around the festival in VR, to see if the routing you have in mind makes sense. Alternatively, when the art department is designing massive stages and huge pieces of art and decoration, it helps to see them in VR. It’s a good way to evaluate the impact of a design before you actually build it.

At the same time, I also see people connecting through our technology. Imagine you could participate in a festival on the other side of the world from your own living room. You could see people, talk to them, enjoy a performance with friends, when you can’t physically be there.

In the future I can even see some festivals taking place completely in VR. Now this would be an entire new kind of industry. WeMakeVR is already laying the groundwork for that. Pioneering in this industry is very exciting, and a lot of fun! We look forward to collaborating with many festivals event-organizers, and help them create even more exciting experiences.


Has your VR curiosity been sparked yet? Just wait until the event itself. If you’ve been invited, don’t forget to register ASAP due to limited capacity. See you at Amsterdam Dance Event 2015!