“Laval Virtual World“ the first fair in the world in Virtual Reality

This year the 22nd Laval Virtual fair, took place completely online, from 22th to 24th April, right during the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw the whole world forced to close themselves inside the walls of the house.

With 20 days from the announced date of the start of the fair, the Laval Virtual Team, led by Laurent Chrétien (General Manager of “Laval Virtual”) together with Harriet BartlettMaroua El MokhtariNicolas RibeyreMaud OukaltoumNicolas ToueilleValentin Régnier, with the support of Benjamin De Witt (VRDays Europe) among others, has decided to create the “Laval Virtual World“, a virtual salon that would allow people to be physically present through Avatars. 
11,000 people have registered, from 110 countries around the world, and over 6000 avatars have been created. A great bet, which has been enormously successful.

Three immersive days, in the most visionary realities of the XR world, thanks to VR. The event included six cycles of conferences: VRtical, TransVRsal, ConVRgence, Virtual World, Art and Tech Talk and a busy program of meetings.

There have been important events like the prize giving ceremony “Laval Virtual Awards 2020”, that rewards VR/AR solutions and their innovations Recto VRSO”, the first museum in VR led by Judith Guez (General Art Director) that present the new perspectives that virtualization opens up in the artistic field, the 4th “XRBASE Investor” event led by Andrey Lunev (Executive Producer), and the pioneering XR LATAM, first meeting space for all of South America.

The team received support from the international “XR Crowd” community as a part of its #EmbraceOnlineXR initiative. They helped testing and comparingabout twenty virtual platforms before choosing the solution proposed by VirBELA, which responded to the expressed wishes: to offer an event accessible to all through an easy-touse tool that allow interaction.

The platform allowed access from a computer (PC or Mac); after registering, downloading the “Laval Virtual World” software and customizing your avatar, you could access the hall and scheduled events.

For the more experienced users, there was the possibility of living the experience through a viewer, such as “HTC VIVE” e “Oculus Rift“.

It has been three incredible days, in which emotion and adrenaline have played a fundamental role. The search for the desired conference, the possibility of moving in the environment, the rapid movements from one place to another through the dematerialization of the avatar, were all pleasantly innovative elements. The program was available on the “Laval Virtual” app, which offered a schedule of one’s day, based on personal interests.

Within the app there were both the location of the various conferences and the starting time, as well as notifications. The excitement of entering in the rooms, the possibility of sitting in the desired place to better assist the speaker and the screen, the possibility of chatting with the team, requesting slides, insights, meetings… helped to feel fully part of the fair.

The presence of avatars has lowered inhibitions and positioned visitors on a common level; it was much easier to meet people, to sit at a table to talk, interact with others.

The gamification part of the spaces used for relaxation was important; the “Cocktail Challenge” with meeting at the soccer field or the dinghy ride, the visit to the lighthouse, the “Full Moon Party” on the beach with the fireworks of the last evening, the “LV Twin Party” with online deejays, they gave this virtual world, the typical warmth of the after-show, the moments necessary to disconnect from work and finally relax, have fun and get to know each other more informally. The emotions felt were all real.

We spent three days in a world that does not exist outside our computer, without realizing that we actually lived three days of intense fair, with a load of enthusiasm higher than normal.
During the days of Covid-19, during a very difficult moment for the whole world, the Laval Virtual team managed to enable a very large number of people to access a truly innovative experience, from their home computer.

The feeling of having attended important conferences, or of having had the opportunity to swim in the sea, or to have the sensation of feeling the warmth of the sun on the skin by the sea, being closed in the house, had an effect also beneficial on the continuation of the days. 
When “Laval Virtual World” is finished, the desire to return to the fair to see if there was still something was a lot … it is very likely that those who have lived this experience are still missing it right now.

A special thanks goes to the whole Laval Virtual Team, for having given the opportunity to many specialists in the sector to participate in the fair, completely free of charge.

This event gave the opportunity to many Italian professionals working in the XR sector to meet for the first time, creating a network for Italy, which will certainly give rise to new business.
A special thanks to Carlo Corinaldesi for the network created with the Italian professionals.

Cecilia Lascialfari
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