- Smartphone brand HTC held its fifth annual XR industry conference, VIVE, in virtual reality (VR) in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus that is causing a flurry of events and festivals to cancel, the company revealed in a press release.
- The company renamed the event for the occasion to Virtual VIVE Ecosystem Conference (V²EC). About 2,000 people from over 55 countries registered for the event this week that featured speakers from across the globe. Speakers participated in the VR event by creating custom avatars to represent their disembodied voice. Content at the nearly four-hour event included presentations and panels from experts in the XR and telecom industries.
- The VR platform allowed for immersive experiences not possible in the real world. For example, the company's China president Alvin Graylin demonstrated HTC's VR technology by releasing digital models of coronavirus particles into the audience of avatars and asking them to virtually pose for a selfie as the avatars sported masks and protective gear, VentureBeat reported.
Smartphone brand HTC aimed to tout its VR capabilities and highlight the possibilities of future events by hosting its annual conference virtually. This strategy could become more common as companies look to quickly adjust their event schedules in light of the pandemic, which has forced many trade shows around the globe to cancel to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus, which causes the illness COVI-19, via large crowds.
Major confabs including Mobile World Congress (MWC), SXSW, Google I/O and Facebook's F8 were axed in the past month, while others like Shoptalk and Cannes Lions have been rescheduled to later this year. Trade show events and developer conferences serve as an important venue for brands and tech giants to announce products and services, showcase new developments, strike important deals and generally network with their industry peers.
Now, these companies are struggling to determine how to maintain these presentations and a steady clip of business, the pandemic. Cancellations additionally disrupt things like sponsorships and experiential marketing efforts, challenging companies to find other ways to connect and generate publicity. Some, including Google's I/O and several of the upfronts and newfronts presentations, are shifting to livestreaming and online presentations, but HTC's gathering proves to be one of the more notable attempts to tap into VR as an alternative.
In this case, HTC chose to showcase its VR technology through a virtual conference at which attendees could create their own avatars for a more personalized and human experience. V²EC this week was one of the first of what will likely be a number of conferences that pivot to virtual or digital channels as companies try to keep these events alive.
However, Graylin's flippant treatment of the pandemic may have crossed a line into tone-deaf, potentially turning off attendees, as noted in VentureBeat. Despite HTC's VR event appearing to be well executed from a technical standpoint, making participants feel uncomfortable.