If you haven’t heard of interactive and VR experiences for events, you haven’t been paying attention. Here at Endless, we’ve been covering a lot of topics related to this. And we did so because of the possibilities these new technologies bring to the world of events! They are exciting, ever-evolving, and there’s always something new to bring to the table.
So, on this week’s Event Tech Podcast, we’re shaking things up a little bit. Out hosts, Brandt Krueger and Will Curran, sit down with two very special guests. Donnie Nufus, and Tyler Gates from Bright Line! They are an immersive technology company that creates experiences, and simulations for commercial, for the military, for the government.
Together, the for of them go through what Bright Line does, and how it got to where it stands today. Donnie and Tyler share some of their most thrilling stories with interactive and VR experiences for events. Stay tuned for precious advice and impressive tales, all on today’s Event Tech episode!
All About Bright Line
“We started actually in the military, and government space”, explains Tyler. “We were making a lot of simulation, and training, and strategic communication style technologies for the government. At the time it was referred to as emerging technology, but it was really sort of trying to take technology beyond the … Some sort of web-based simulation.”
The road that took Bright Line to the world of events was an unexpected one. “We only got into the branding space, the commercial brand space sort of activation events, because we had a military customer that was actually activating at NASCAR.”
Taking The Leap
“At the time technology wasn’t such a big part of an event activation footprint. But we knew that that time was coming because the technology was ramping up”, says Tyler. “It was really just about sort of turning the customer into a third party brand ambassador, and we knew that we would be able to do that with some of these advanced technologies that we had been working on in the government.”
Getting in touch with the world of VR came a few years later. They realized that “this technology, although it’s not there in terms of the hardware at the time, and in terms of people’s awareness of the impact of this technology. We could see well ahead of time that this technology was going to be a big deal in the entertainment, and event’s space, as well as in the sort of the more enterprise brand, and military and government space.”
Betting on Virtual Reality
Realizing the power of this technology, Bright Line went a few steps forward. “We doubled down hard, and started hiring Unity 3D developers, and started transitioning to making in house applications for virtual reality. Then we made our first large scale VR application in the beginning of 2014 for Toyota. We did a lot of simulation type stuff for them. We put sensors in the steering column, and in the gas and brake of the actual car, and let you control the car in the virtual space by using the actual, physical car. Things moved on from there.
Interactive And VR Experiences for Events: Bringing Technology And Events Together
The Avengers Experience
Recalling some of the most exciting experiences, Tyler describes an action they did for Marvel: “We had over 25 different experiences that were inside a 10,000 square foot space. We basically recreated the Avengers, what we called Avengers Station. This was where all of the agents of shield worked and hung out essentially. It was all a movie set. It was built out like the actual movie set. There was a room for each of the four main characters. There was a room for Captain America, a room for The Hulk, a room for Thor, and a room for Iron Man.”
“What we did for this one is actually Marvel wanted us to recreate the Heads Up display to mimic the Heads UP display of Iron Man. If you’ve ever seen it in the movies. There’s a lot of different ways that it’s represented. But really the biggest thing is they wanted to be able to have the crosshairs be controlled actually by the user’s eyes. Then we wanted a way to kind of fire from the Iron Man suit. That was a lot of fun, in incorporated biometrics. What we did is we combined eye tracking with electroencephalograph sensors”.
Describing the entire process, Tyler compares it to “a technology kitchen sink project. It was anything, and everything and all ideas were on the table”. He continues by saying that “in general it was a back, and forth where we actually ended up being on the side of coming up with things that were incredibly inventive, and it was really more our client that at times sort of pulled us down into more of reality in terms of their budget, and things like that. It was a lot of fun, I’ll say that.”
The New Paradigm
The opportunity to work for a company like Bright Line was a gift in Donnie’s eyes: “I feel so incredibly lucky to be part of this organization, and I’m happy to say that this week I worked with Tyler on some concepting things. I was able to come up with some ideas, and I was so proud of myself, that I was able to throw out ideas there of things that did not exist, but were possible to do with this technology”, he says.
He continues, stating that “it is a very exciting, and almost liberating type of feeling for us who have been in the event technology space and have been, I don’t want to say limited, but just kind of … We’ve stayed in our lane for such a long time. That is no longer really … The budget is always a big thing. That’s no longer as much of a constraint anymore because the technology and the hardware has come so far.”
Pioneering VR And Events
Tyler recalls some of the challenges when VR first started gaining momentum: “the two main challenges were that virtual reality used to be very one to one, where somebody is doing something insanely impressive inside the virtual world, and they’re moving their head around. Everyone else, it looks like they’re swat net at a swarm of bees that nobody else can see”, he explains.
Furthermore, “it’s a lot more comfortable for the user to watch from the third person. We wanted to figure out a way to achieve that, and we did. After we did that there’s now actual support through a lot of the OEMs for virtual reality to actually now do that as a capability, which was kind of funny, and cool to see. Then the second reason is that it creates a social media sharable. That’s another thing that was missing from virtual reality”.
Interactive And VR Experiences for Events: The Implementation Road
“Let’s start getting into the practicality of this, of what does it look like if I want to try and bring this type of technology to my event?”, asks Brandt. “What are the things that I need to keep in mind? Then what are we starting to look at as far as possibilities, and actually implementing it?”.
How We Look At VR
“I always talk about SOS, shiny object syndrome”, begins Donnie. “I think one of the real problems is that people have been leveraging these tools under the wrong … Thinking about it the wrong way. A lot of people will use technology like VR, and they’ll create a fun game, or a fun experience like that, that you go through it. It’s really cool, and then you move on”.
This perspective, however, is limiting and keeps us from doing great things. Donnie feels like VR should be perceived as a communication tool, that “is allowing the ability to understand, retain this education, this information, the speed at which people are able to do that. It’s speeding that entire process up incredibly quickly”.
Additionally, and even more impressive, is that “VR for the same budget can communicate a lot quicker, a lot more effective, and reach more people giving you a huge return. The beauty is that it’s not something you’re putting on a jet and flying around. It’s something you’re carrying around in a case, and hand to them, where they can actually be in that experience”.
VR Cost Effectiveness
“The hardware has gotten incredibly cost-effective”, explains Donnie. “Yeah, when we started talking about on the backend, being able to like you say visualize. If you’ve got five different sites, and you’re able to eliminate one of them by doing virtual tours. You’re saving potentially thousands of dollars, or depending on how many events you do over the course of the year, millions of dollars”, adds Brandt.
Taking The Right Steps
When it comes to implementing this technology to events, Tyler suggests “not think about virtual reality as this one-off piece of technology that you’re going to use once in an activation. But rather to think about it as this is the way you’re going to deliver the product experience, the customer experience throughout the course of the year”.
“Over the next two, or three years we were still working on that same environment, and making updates, and adding in new cool features, and adding people into it, and adding music, and 3D sound. I mean we were really building out a platform for them. That’s just the way that people should be thinking about this technology, is as a platform that you’re going to build over time, and whatever you start with, you don’t have to start all over the next time”, he adds.
Tyler suggests that the “value of virtual reality is that it can deliver the wow factor every single time, but you don’t have start from scratch every single time”. The best way to begin is “consider doing what we call interactive VR, instead of doing 360 video (…) which is usually photo-realistic rendered content that we make interactive”.
“Unless you’re doing those things, you should really be considering interactive, photo-realistic rendered content, because it’s going to be able to deliver more of an experiential, and truly interactive”, he adds.
Best Tips And Practices
“First what you have to do is don’t start with the technology”, Donnie advises. “Start with what is the pain point? What is it that you’re trying to do? What is the challenge, or the problem that you’re trying to solve?”
Second, “I also think the other important key here is also understanding what success looks like”, says Donnie. “Figure out what can I communicate more efficiently, and quickly to have the illicit behavior that I want when they’re done with this experience, or with working with this content? (…) Really figuring out what does success look like here? What is it you’re trying to solve? Then partner with somebody like a Bright Line, who understands how then to implement that in an effective, and responsible way with your budget. Not just making cool stuff, but really trying to help you achieve those goals”.
Tyler adds that “this technology, and these types of technologies they’re advancing very, very quickly, and the capabilities inside the technologies are advancing at such a pace that if you’re not plugged into it on a regular basis, it is very legitimately challenging to stay on top of what’s possible”. This leads to a solution Tyler names “shameless plug if you’d like, but it really is reaching out to the people who are actually doing this on a regular basis. (…) There are people in your local communities that do have this sort of awareness, and knowledge about this technology, and about technologies in this ecosystem”.
There you have it! If you’re still wondering how to dive into the world of interactive and VR experiences for events, check out our resources below. Also, let us know what your thoughts are on Bright Line and their fresh new take on events! Have you tried something like this before? What’s your take on implementing this technology to events? Tell us all about it in the comment section below!