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Sunset Gathering – Creating an XR Event

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

1. Introduction

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

2. Choice of the collaboration software "HCC"

As co-organizers of the XR Expo and at the same time developers of an own collaboration platform, the decision was obvious to use the Holodeck Control Center - HCC for the evening event. The software architecture of the central control instance, with which the application can be changed almost at will during runtime and which also allows the simple integration of non-technological users, also suited us well. Combined with the option to integrate different large installations with several users and of course the possibility to design the experience as a developer according to our wishes without the limitations of other software platforms.

3. Concept 

 

Although the HCC has been used mainly for reviews and training situations, the flexible architecture and SDK allowed us to quickly re-develop the functionality needed for the missing features for this type of application.

For us, the XR Expo's focus on B2B solutions meant that we wanted the virtual event scene to relate to a real context rather than complete fiction.

Another goal was to transfer the spirit of the real get-together to virtual reality. If possible, we didn't want to take any legacy from reality and instead concentrated on the strengths of VR.

A pure meeting in VR seemed to us to be too little in terms of content, which is why we were looking for a further added value. The result was the concept of a large discussion round with event character.

4. Content: Discussion rounds

As the overriding discussion topic and currently central problem, the question was: "What does the future of XR events look like?

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

5. Implementation

a. Design of the scenery

The previous XR Expo events have been held in Stuttgart (Germany). In order to create a real connection between the virtual scenery and the location, and to set itself apart from fictional gaming worlds, the evening event was virtually placed in the heart of the Swabian metropolis - right next to Stuttgart's main train station. And not in its current state of construction, but what it will look like after its completion.

 

In the design, emphasis was placed on a clear, reduced formal language with a futuristic appearance in a high-quality look. Always with the aim of finding a healthy mixture 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 ignored.

b. Screenplay

A virtual event is very similar to a real event in terms of organization. A meticulous schedule had to be drawn up. The implementation of the event required more helpers than we originally expected.

6. Organisational challenges

TIME! As expected, the short-term rescheduling of the entire XR Expo, including the virtual evening event with numerous unknown components, meant that the organisation of the participants and the tests could not take place to anywhere near the extent we would have wished. Fortunately, however, everyone involved was prepared to support this experiment and showed great flexibility in doing so. Many thanks at this point!

7. Impressions of the evening event SUNSET GATHERING

a. Impressions from the Virtual Reality Session

 

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

 

Lively discussion on the "Human" platform.

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

Finally, the main platform was transformed into a glass pane and the floating platforms took different positions around the future Stuttgart main station - sometimes at eye level next to the station tower, sometimes at 100 m above Stuttgart city centre with a view over the entire city basin.

b. Impressions of the users during the VR session

Up to four participants were connected together from the AUDI Holodeck in Ingolstadt and took part in the Sunset Gathering as part of a large-scale installation (15 x 15 m). Due to its size, the minimum distances required for the corona could also be easily maintained.

Participants who were either technologically unfamiliar or had no access to the appropriate hardware had the opportunity to participate from the SectorVR game arena. With several areas of up to 10 x 10 m in size, there was the option of connecting further user groups from there.

8. Recap of the event

1. What didn't work?

The biggest problem was AUDIO! There was a combination of conventional problems, which are also known from video conferences, but also some "homemade" ones, or some that could have been mitigated by preventive measures in the participant briefing. These are listed in detail in the report.

2. 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 sceptical about how attractive it could be. The feeling of meeting others, talking to 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 you know from video conferences.

9. Conclusion

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

More detailed information can be found in the report:

  • Listing of sources of error
  • Improvement suggestions
  • Feedback on the event
  • Results from the discussion rounds
  • Key data of the session

Our video of the Sunset Gathering also gives you an impression of the whole evening event, its scenery and the lively discussions.

11. Special thanks

Many thanks again to all our supporters and partners  of the Sunset Gathering: 

1. Sponsors

  •  AUDI: Main Sponsor
  •  ITS (Infoturm Stuttgart): Sponsor and release of the environment model of Stuttgart main station
  • Deutsche Telekom: Sponsor with the OTC Cloud for the Sunset Gathering

2. Organizers

  • VDC Fellbach: Co Organizer of the XR Expo
  • Lightshape: Orga Team of the XR Expo and Sunset Gathering

3. Partners

  • Plan B: Originator of the visualization model of Stuttgart main station 
  • CDM Tech: Support for the 3D model of the environment
  • SectorVR: Provision of hardware, premises and support during the evening event

4. Panel members/ moderators

5. Supporters/ participants

  • All supporters who contributed to XR Expo in the background and participants of the Sunset Gathering

If you have further questions on this topic, you can always contact us.
 

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