Visiting Europes biggest VR event

Our report from the digital edition of the Laval Virtual World Festival.

For 20 years, the “Laval Virtual World” festival has been held in France and has been bringing together experts on the topic of extended reality every year since then. On three days, visitors can experience workshops, presentations, award ceremonies and other program items – but this year everything is different. Travel and big events are not allowed and so the whole event takes place digitally and virtually. Sabrina from our Places _ team has had a look at the whole thing and tells us in an interview what you can experience at a virtual festival.

You have been a guest at Laval Virtual World over the last few days – tell us in two sentences what is behind the event?

Laval Virtual is a festival for virtual reality. Every year up to 10,000 VR enthusiasts from all over the world meet in Laval, France. They hold and listen to lectures, give workshops and bring the latest VR applications with them.

So the whole thing wasn’t planned as a digital event? What was your actual plan?

No, not at all. That it now takes place digitally was a great wish of the community and the partners. The local festival had to be cancelled due to the corona pandemic, but the entire community still wanted to meet and experience the lectures and other program online. I would have liked to pack my bags to meet people from different countries on site.

What is the program of the event? What can you experience?

Many programme points were implemented very well. All speakers perform anyway. Also the TechTalks will be held in different virtual rooms. Unfortunately the testing of VR applications failed completely. This is what a festival lives from. But now the focus was more on the lectures and the meeting of the community.

What was particularly fascinating and perhaps even better than at a live event?

It was incredible how many people got involved in the digital adventure. In between there were over 2,000 users on campus. Everyone was super relaxed, even if the one or other presentation started with technical problems. I was very impressed by the users’ understanding that everything is an experiment and that not everything works yet. I have heard a lot of presentations that I might not have seen all of at a live event. You can jump from one lecture to the next and save yourself the time you would need to get from A to B. This way I was much more concentrated on the lectures and didn’t let myself be distracted by other things, like you sometimes do at a trade show.

And what else didn’t work out so well?

The implementation in VR has not worked that well. I got very sick immediately when I used the VR glasses, because the movement effect was quite hard on me. And this although I am in VR almost every day. Sometimes there were also small sound problems but nothing that disturbed me.

The craziest experience? 

It always looks very crazy when people who are online with VR glasses and have just put their controllers aside or hold them strangely. The avatar takes a – let’s say – unnatural posture. (laughs) But also being on the beach with people from all over the world and watching virtual fireworks was a great experience.

Conclusion of the whole experience? What did you take away?

I am very impressed with what the organizers have done! Unfortunately it can’t replace the real festival yet, because the technology is not yet ready to test the VR applications as it would have been done on location. But the lectures, discussions and TechTalk were already useful. In general the whole community was open and you could connect well.

Pictures from the Laval Virtual World Event