Match XR 2021 – evolving into a hybrid event

Dec 17, 2021
HXRC Team

After almost two years of monotonous online meetings, the Helsinki XR Center team wanted to create some buzz, both live and online. So, Match XR 2021 went bigger, spreading across a live stage in our new venue, and a virtual space in a redesigned VR Pavilion Finland. And over two days of November, about a thousand people gathered for a deep dive into Finnish XR!

Match XR 2021 photo from the live event and screenshot from the AltspaceVR event

In its early years, the Match Up event brought XR enthusiasts together live. In 2020, the first Match XR was forced to move to an entirely virtual environment. In 2021, the Helsinki XR Center team decided to take a big leap and organize both: a hybrid event, combining the live and the digital!

Match XR 2021 in numbers

  • 16 presentations, 5 panelists, 6 recorded interviews, and 7 demo booths
  • 25 partner worlds in VR Pavilion Finland
  • 9 core team members, 14 volunteers and 5 show technicians
Laetitia Bochud speaking at Match XR 2021.

Laetitia Bochud, President of XR4Europe.
Photo by Lauri Tiainen.

Technicians overseeing the show.

Technicians supervising the stream.
Photo by Lauri Tiainen.

Going hybrid

On the 17th of November, Day 1 of Match XR 2021 kicked off on the Helsinki XR Center premises on the Arabia Creative Campus of Metropolia UAS. Our timing regarding the pandemic was lucky, since we were able to invite some guests to serve as a live audience, test out the latest Dev Hub demos and headsets, and just get to mingle among faces still familiar from a couple years ago.

This allowed us to hold presentations and panels on-stage, making the interactions feel more present and personal – no more talking over each other due to lag! This was especially important to the Future of Metaverse panel, in which 5 industry professionals took a look into the future on everyone’s minds. Two interviews were recorded in AltspaceVR in advance, providing opportunities for companies to present their latest projects. 9 were supposed to be held on the stage, but a few fell sick and joined the audience through a video call instead, taking care of safety first.

The virtual guests had many options to follow the live event stream: on our YouTube channel, on the Aurora Amphitheater stage in AltspaceVR, and as a part of the VRDays conference in Virbela. Additionally, some of our partners streamed the event into their partner worlds. To our delight, people took the opportunity to ask questions from the speakers using the chat option, driving the live/virtual engagement.

For those attending, the face-to-face event was a refreshing experience after so many months of sitting behind their computer screens. According to our feedback, the live event still felt like a more natural place to make connections and hold conversations – especially about the topics brought up in the metaverse presentation and panel. Thus we truly hope that in the future we can once again open our doors for larger live audiences!

HXRC Showroom during Match XR 2021.

HXRC Showroom during Match XR 2021.
Photo by Lauri Tiainen.

A person using the Hololens headset and smiling.

Having fun with the demos.
Photo by Lauri Tiainen.

Dreaming in digital

Over the summer, two people worked on the VR Pavilion Finland, originally built for Match XR 2020. They took feedback from last year and redesigned the space to better fit the needs of this type of event; surprisingly enough, sometimes smaller is better! It was quite an adventure of its own, so you can read more about building the VR Pavilion Finland 2.0.

Day 2 of Match XR 2021, on the 18th of November, was hosted entirely in this AltspaceVR world. The VR Pavilion Finland was used for mingling and discussions, and the Aurora Amphitheater to hold presentations. The speakers came on using headsets, so the wild hand motions made everything seem quite natural and engaging!

Although the YouTube stream was an easier option to follow, we were happy to see people coming into the AltspaceVR space. At any given time 25 to 35 avatars were hanging around, watching the presentations, and engaging in conversations.

Additionally, we followed our own tradition and encouraged our partners to build their own AltspaceVR worlds to be linked into the VR Pavilion Finland. Ultimately the visitors had 25 partner spaces to visit – see the organizations’ creativity and showcases, and talk to the employees! You can see all the Partner Worlds on the Match XR website.

You can visit the VR Pavilion Finland at any time in AltspaceVR using the entry code YSY515. From there you can also teleport to the Aurora Amphitheater, or visit the aforementioned partner worlds. If you are unfamiliar with AltspaceVR, make sure to read our AltspaceVR FAQ.

 

Virtual audience watching a Match XR 2021 presentation

Watching a presentation in the Aurora Amphitheater.

Lessons learned from the last year

Match XR 2020 had some unfortunate technical inconveniences, such as the AltspaceVR breaking a few hours before the event. Luckily, the platform has improved over the last year, making it easier to control and update.

We also minimized our own technical needs by hiring show technicians with professional equipment. They operated the live event’s stream, camera, and voice production, and the virtual event’s stream control. Thanks to them and the AltspaceVR improvements, we were even able to set up a multicam stream to enhance the viewing experience for the YouTube stream.

Another new addition to the event was a professional host. Rikumikko Kangasmäki, also known as T-Panda, guided the audience through the two days with an enthusiastic showmanship both on the live stage and as an avatar in AltspaceVR. He truly boosted the vibe of the event by engaging the audience and stirring them for great questions for the presenters.

Lastly, this year some of the interviews were recorded in advance in AltspaceVR. In addition to being a great way for organizations to showcase their spaces and projects, they also served as a buffer in case something went wrong – though somehow nothing major did!

Rikumikko Kangasmäki as an avatar and in real life.

Rikumikko Kangasmäki as an AltspaceVR avatar and in real life.
Photo by Lauri Tiainen.

Thank you to everyone for participating in Match XR 2021!

These two days would not have been possible without every single person: the Helsinki XR Center core team, our dedicated student volunteers, the amazing speakers, the show technicians from Torvinen Showtekniikka, the teams holding demos… and of course every single visitor who made this into the best and biggest Match XR so far!

Additionally, we would like to thank our main sponsor Business Finland as well as Tampere Game Hub for their important support. Match XR 2021 was also supported by Metropolia UAS, Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council, and Finnish Virtual Reality Association FIVR. Our media partners were VRDays Europe and XR4Europe.

We’re also thankful for the feedback we received from the participants. While people were overall pleased with the event (with our average score being 4 out of 5), we will use it to make improvements in the future.

If you missed the amazing show, the recordings can be found on the HXRC YouTube channel. We will also upload all content separately with subtitles; the first presentation, held by Tommi Merelin, can be found below!

Thank you!

Match XR 2021 team. Photo by Lauri Tiainen.

The team behind Match XR 2021.
Photo by Lauri Tiainen.

Photos by Lauri Tiainen.

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