Sunset Gathering - Creating an XR event

In the wake of the pandemic, XR Expo 2020 met the same fate as other events three and a half months before the event. The event in the originally planned framework had to be canceled.

Sunset Gathering Foreword & concept

The evening event has always been a special highlight in previous events, where the community and interested parties could exchange ideas in an informal atmosphere. Since this get-together would otherwise have been cancelled, it quickly became obvious to focus on this part in the form of a virtual reality event. 

 

As organizer of the XR Expo and at the same time developer of its own collaboration platform, the decision to use the Holodeck Control Center - HCC for the evening event was obvious. We were also attracted by the software architecture of the central control instance, which allows the application to be modified almost at will during runtime, and which also makes it possible to easily integrate users who are not familiar with the technology. It also came with the option of including different large installations with multiple users and, of course, the ability as developers to freely design the experience to our liking without the limitations of other software platforms. Although the HCC was mainly used for reviews and training situations, the flexible architecture and the SDK allowed us to quickly develop the missing features for this type of application.

The focus of XR Expo on B2B solutions meant that we wanted to create a reference to a real context in the scene of the virtual event, instead of complete fiction. The aim was also to transfer the spirit of the real get-together into virtual reality. If possible, we didn't want to take any legacy from reality with us and instead focus on the strengths of VR.

 

A pure meeting in VR didn't seem to be enough for us in terms of content, which is why we were looking for additional added value. The result was the concept of a large discussion round with event character. The overarching discussion topic and currently central problem for us was the question: "What does the future of XR events look like?"

 

We wanted to approach this question in four discussion rounds from different perspectives with experts from various fields. At the same time, the whole thing was intended to serve as a self-experiment for us.

How was the implementation carried out?

scenery design

The previous XR Expo events were held in Stuttgart, Germany. In order to establish a real connection between the virtual scenery and the location, and to distinguish itself from fictitious gaming worlds, the evening event was virtually set in the heart of the Swabian metropolis - right next to Stuttgart's main train station. And not in its current state of construction, but how it will look after completion.

In the design, emphasis was placed on a clear, reduced formal language with a futuristic impression in a high-quality look. Our goal was always to find a healthy mix of fiction and reality. Fantasy and seriousness should result in a balanced relationship. The overall load of the scenery in terms of performance could not be disregarded.

Script

A virtual event is very similar to a real event in terms of organization. A meticulous schedule had to be drawn up. More helpers were needed to implement the event than we had originally expected.

Challenge

TIME! As expected, the last-minute rescheduling of the entire XR Expo, including the virtual evening event with numerous unknown components, meant that the participant organization and testing could not take place to nearly the extent we would have liked. Fortunately, all participants were willing to support this experiment and showed great flexibility. Many thanks again to all involved!

Impressions of the VR session

Opening

Opening of the Sunset Gathering by the organizers on the Overwatch platform in the middle of the scenery.

Virtuelle Sunset Gathering Plattform Human mit Avataren der Besucher und virtueller Präsentation

Discussion

Lively discussion on the "Human" platform.

Evening-scenery

After the discussions, the outer platforms with the participants were slowly moved to the center while the scenery changed to the evening atmosphere.

Closing

Finally, the main platform was transformed into a glass pane and the floating platforms took up various positions in the surroundings of Stuttgart's future main station. Sometimes at eye level next to the station tower, sometimes enthroned at a height of 100 m above Stuttgart's city center with a view over the entire city basin.

Impressions of the users

Audi Ingolstadt

Up to 4 participants were connected together from the AUDI Holodeck in Ingolstadt and took part in the Sunset Gathering as part of a large-scale installation (15x15m). Due to the size, the minimum distances required by Corona could be kept without any problems.

SectorVR

Participants who were either unfamiliar with the technology or did not have access to the corresponding hardware had the opportunity to participate from the Game Arena SectorVR. With several, up to 10x10m large areas, there was the option to connect further user groups from there.

Sunset Gathering Recap

What did not work? The biggest problem was AUDIO! There was a combination of conventional problems, which are also known from video conferences, but also a few "home-made" ones, or some that could have been mitigated by preventive measures in the participant briefing. These are listed in detail in the report.

 

What was positive? The feeling of being at an event! At the beginning it was reported that a pure meeting was not enough for us, because we were skeptical about how attractive it could be. The feeling of meeting others, talking with them, experiencing something together and feeling personally connected surprised us ourselves, and also coincided with the feedback of the other participants. The impression is actually very close to a real meeting and not comparable to what one knows from video conferences.

 

While there is a lot of room for improvement, the participants themselves were surprised at how positively they reacted to the experience. The overall concept of the format worked very well and was convincing. After the official part of the event, loose discussion groups formed, just like in reality.

Special Thanks! Many thanks to all supporters and partners of the Sunset Gathering:

  • Sponsors: AUDI, ITS (Infotower Stuttgart), Deutsche Telekom
  • Organizers: VDC Fellbach, Lightshape
  • Partners: Plan B, CDM Tech, SectorVR
  • Panel members/ moderators: Günter Wenzel, Henning Linn, Jan Pflüger,
  • Dr. Lars Riedemann
  • Supporters/ Participants: All supporters who contributed in the background and participants of the Sunset Gathering.


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