Amusement Expo International organizers made a massive mistake in planning this year’s virtual reality Education track: they mislabeled it. The back-to-back, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. sessions were more of a bootcamp, dealing with far more than just VR and delving into the most relevant issues in location-based entertainment with some of the most forward-thinking thought leaders in the industry today. Though VR was far from the only focus of the sessions, pioneering technology and its myriad, unfound uses kept speakers and attendees both engaged.
Longtime anti-Luddite Bob Cooney led the seminars, mentioning early on that he decided to forego breaks to jam as much content in as possible. Alexis Macklin from Greenlight Insights, a research firm dedicated to the emerging market, kicked off the sessions with a detailed, data-driven session on the industry today. Attendees quickly saw that VR was far from the only tech stack finding its way into the amusement industry. Following seminars jumped from assessing quality core loops in game design to whatever xR is (basically the moniker covering mixed, augmented, virtual and any other coming reality changing tech.)
Macklin’s seminar elucidated a few key trends in the sophomore age of this new tech. Account closures peaked last year, following an explosion of new businesses in 2016 and ’17. A couple of big names fell out of the game last year as well, including IMAX, StarVR and VRZone in Japan. The tech is becoming easier and easier to implement, with massive changes coming down the pipeline that will make things cheaper, more accurate and more immersive. A lot of the talk revolved around discovering who your locations’ target consumers are, and how to implement that knowledge. Additionally, speaker after speaker emphasized that the tech, whether that’s VR or any of the others, should never be the focus of your marketing campaign.
“The people that started this industry were so enamored with the tech that they projected that to the audience, but the audience doesn’t really care about the VR, they want an experience,” Cooney said.
The day rolled through topic after topic, discussing eSports, Dave and Buster’s VR implementation, hygiene, impact on laser tag, immersive theaters and more. Representatives from Microsoft, HP and a litany of other big companies illustrated the importance and longevity of the tech. To many in this industry, it looks like history could repeat if the tech finds success, finding its way from out-of-home to consumer’s living rooms. But, luckily for those involved today, that reckoning is years out by the most optimistic (or pessimistic) assessments.
“A lot of what will become consumer and mainstream isn’t there yet,” said Microsoft’s AR/VR Content and Partnerships Lead Ishita Kapur. “Arcades will be where the public interacts with it, where it will be touched first.”
Look for a full article concerning the VR seminars at this year’s Amusement Expo International, as well as the offerings from the show floor, in the May edition of RePlay.