Apr 05, 2018 by Alex Carter

How VR, AR and Extended Reality Are Transforming Events: a Conversation with Industry Experts

Event planners aren’t magicians. At least, that was true before augmented reality and virtual reality came along.

We chatted with Irina Shames of SubVRsive about what she thinks is in store for the events industry with the rise of extended reality.

Tell us a bit about yourself and SubVRsive.

Hi, I’m Irina and I head Business Development and Strategy at Emmy-nominated and WPP-backed extended reality startup SubVRsive.

I joined SubVRsive to build commercial product, develop the company’s go-to-market strategy, and ensure a healthy pipeline of revenue.


Photo: SubVRsive

Let’s start with the basics: what does extended reality mean for event experiences?

Extended reality (XR) offers the most immersive experiences to date. Whether in VR or AR, it’s the closest to the actual real world situations we can get to without having to take audiences through the “real” experiences. Instantly, with the help of latest technology, any simulated experience at an event can feel astonishingly real.

At the same time, events has always been a very exclusive field. VR solves the problem creating on-the-ground experiences at scale – 360 degree livestream on Facebook and Youtube allows audiences around the world to immerse themselves in the event in real time without actually having to be there.


Big picture, where do you think extended reality technology is headed?

It will become more and more of an everyday utility for us.

VR headsets are getting cheaper by a minute, and augmented reality is now at millions of consumer’s fingertips. We will see the shift from leveraging VR and AR experiences as marketing tricks to finding the actual value in communicating with audiences by creating solutions in virtual and augmented realities.

What do you see as the most practical and exciting applications of XR at events at present? Care to share any examples?

To promote LaLaLand at SXSW 2017, Lionsgate transformed one of Austin’s most popular bars into Seb’s – the beloved jazz club from La La Land. To share the experience with fans worldwide, they asked us to stream the entire event live in 360 degrees.

Both the event itself and the live stream were hugely successful. The 360 live stream garnered over 313K views and 23.6K reactions, comments, and shares. Plus, fan engagement and shares led to over 1.7M in organic reach.

And for SXSW 2018, we just partnered with AMD to create an augmented reality photo booth from scratch. It was a hit at every stop it made all over Austin.


Photos: SubVRsive

What uses of extended reality at events do you expect to grow in 2018?

Here are my top 3:

  1. 360 Livestream. As per example above, more and more events will be live-streamed in 360 to offer audiences on their computers and phones around the world the most immersive live viewing experience.
  2. Virtual reality experiences. More and more instead of bringing large and costly props to events to showcase product or experience, events will feature custom-made virtual reality experience. Whether it is a boat or plane tour, a chef catered tasting experience, an art galley exposition or a theater piece, VR will be able to deliver the most immersive and emotive experience and let events guests intimately connect and explore the product or service that’s at the heart of the event firsthand.
  3. Augmented reality experiences. Augmented reality offers a unique opportunity to seamlessly overlay our actual reality with any information the a consumer can see on their phones. With Pokemon Go’s launch success, the augmented reality revolution is just in its infancy, but the power of engagement through augmented reality experiences cannot be denied. We will see more and more scavenger hunt and gamification tactics employed at events to meaningfully engage with participants.


Are there any common misconceptions about using XR at events that event planners need to break out of?

First: “VR is alienating.” Yes, in the moment, once in a headset, the experience cannot be shared with others. But these experiences are definitely talked about, and the word-of-mouth has proven to be VR’s key ambassador.

Second: “VR makes me dizzy.” While this was the case in the early days of VR, the technology has gotten much more advanced, and the headsets much more user friendly.

As technology continues to evolve and rapidly become more and more mainstream, these misconceptions are set to quickly disappear. With VR, once you try it, you’re a fan for life!

Do you see certain barriers to using XR at events decreasing or even disappearing in the near future? Which ones and why?

The same two I mentioned. In addition, as more investment pours into VR industry, the headsets are set to become more user friendly, VR experiences will be more social (for example, Facebook launched Facebook Spaces, a social platform in VR to communicate with friends), and price point for headsets lower and lower. VR applications and experiences will become a regular part of our lives.

Friday vibes in the demo room.

A post shared by SubVRsive (@subvrsive) on

What’s the biggest advance in XR tech on the one-year horizon that you think will impact event experiences? How about five years?

In one year? Holograms.

Companies like 8i have championed use of holograms and this will be more of a daily life experience with us shortly. Your keynote speaker or a performer cannot attend an event in person? No problem, how about an interactive hologram?

And in five years? Breaking boundaries between “virtual” and “reality.”

Companies like Magic Leap are working on technologies to make virtual reality experiences so real, the viewer would have a hard time telling the difference. Their motion sensors already allow to capture our hand movements and translate them into virtual space without any additional gear, allowing event companies to easily create engaging and interactive experiences for their attendees without the need of extensive gear.

Thanks so much for your time and insight.

Thank you for having me.