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Virtual Events and the Future of VR: 3 Questions to Louis Cacciuttolo of VRrOOm

Break Down These Walls Festival / VRrOOm - Stereopsia

Louis Cacciuttolo is the founder of VRrOOm, a French online and offline media network curating and publishing XR content, partnering with the world's finest festivals (Venice, Cannes, Annecy, Paris - NewImages, etc.). He recently launched a series of Social XR events. Can it be an answer to this lockdown period and, change the way we share content and ideas in the long-run? French Culture asked Louis to answer a few questions.  

With all festivals canceled, to what extent can virtual events replace in situ festivals?

Forced to cancel or to postpone, most festivals and events organizers had to find alternate solutions to save what could be saved of their preparation efforts. Virtual events can not fully replace physical interactions quite yet, although I totally believe they will be able not only to replace them in the future but also to enhance them.

There are various ways of making an event 'virtual': from Internet-based online galleries to full-fledged 6 degrees of freedom social VR experiences that require users to download an app in order to virtually 'attend' events in 3D environments where they can freely move around, explore, interact with objects, meet and talk with other people or watch live events, the range of what defines a virtual event is very broad. The more immersive the experience, the closer we get to the 'real' thing. This is a path I chose with VRrOOm, keeping in mind the fact that such virtual events must remain accessible to the largest possible audience, which means accessible using a PC only when people don't own a headset yet.

Not only these virtual festivals in '6DoF' are getting close to replacing physical events, but they cost much less to implement and can save a lot of carbon footprint. Festivals, all around the world, suffer from huge constraints in terms of logistics, time, and space. Plus, they can only host a very limited audience, for budget or location reasons. Virtual reality is much more than just an solution, it's a real breakthrough.

Can you tell us more about Break Down These Walls festival? 

The 'Break Down These Walls' festival was born from our desire to bring an escape to global audiences in this challenging period of confinement. Together with Brussels' Stereopsia and the Münich-based Virtual Worlds' festivals organizers, we wanted to provide VR creators with the visibility they deserve at a time where they can't physically meet with the audience, as well as bring quality content to confined households and contribute in making their daily situation more bearable. The principle of the festival is simple: we showcase one 360 VR film per day, that can be viewed in groups. But beyond just offering virtual reality films' screenings, we also invite the creators to meet with the audience when their work is screened, and the public can also enjoy our virtual dancefloor for relaxed virtual parties with their friends. The festival will last until the confinement situation starts to loosen up. In the meantime, we are preparing updates that will beef up the variety of activities the platform can host, to make it even more exciting for the audience.

COVID-19 has hit the emerging technology storytelling community hard. What are signs of hope for the VR industry?

It's time to face the reality of the VR business: I believe that location-based entertainment will suffer from the pandemic in the long-term, and might never fully recover because it will be difficult to convince people that donning a VR headset and handling hand controllers that are shared with many other people is safe, even if the equipment is cleaned after each usage. On the other hand, I believe a promising new era dawns on the home usage of VR, as the spotlight is now set onto social XR networks and more affordable, high performing autonomous headsets. Figures don't lie: the headsets' sales are picking up and the traffic volume on social VR platforms is growing fast. This is not a short-term trend. We can expect exciting times ahead!