The virtual event technology industry has exploded over the last several months due to a global pandemic that has forced companies to only rely on the virtual world for events. Associations, corporations, event agencies and planners have pivoted to digital channels to establish and nurture business relationships with employees, customers and colleagues. While we are all grateful that 2D web conferencing platforms like Zoom and WebEx were on hand to help make this transition possible, they leave users hungry for more interactivity and connection.
This need for connection has spawned growth in more immersive platforms spanning from 2D representations of physical spaces to fully interactive, 3D environments. One huge differentiator among these platforms is the use of avatars. Avatar-based, virtual event platforms are becoming a hot commodity although avatar technology is nothing new. There is a bevy of research over the last few decades that proves the benefits of allowing users to interact online with a virtual representation of themselves. Accessible 3D event technology (no headset required) goes hand in hand with avatar-based platforms and you can learn more about why to choose 3D for your next event in this recent Venturebeat post.
Let us dive into specific benefits surrounding avatar-based platforms by examining the basic capabilities and features of avatars within the virtual event space.
What is an Avatar-based Event Platform?
An avatar-based event platform is any technology that represents event attendees with a virtual representation of their physical presence. Instead of profile with a headshot or a 2D video screen broadcasting a webcam, avatars depict the user from head to toe and allow for real-time interaction. Avatar quality, including how lifelike an avatar looks, varies from platform to platform and can be impacted by the user’s hardware along with how they are connecting to the internet.
Avatar-based platforms DON’T require a VR headset and can be accessed with a laptop, tablet or even a smartphone. Building a virtual event that allows attendees to customize and navigate a 3D space with an avatar does not require a customized solution, cost a fortune or event take months to develop. The best avatar-based event platforms have done all the heavy lifting already providing a streamlined, easy to use platform that can be white labeled and up in running in weeks.
The Top 5 Benefits of Avatar-based Virtual Events
So why would you want to consider an avatar-based virtual event platform in the first place? There are many obvious reasons given the current situation and restrictions on face to face events. Event organizers are hungry for new ways to engage attendees and stakeholders are demanding more value than the traditional 2D platforms can provide. However, research provides evidence-based benefits of using avatars for events. Here are the top five.
Co-presence is the feeling that you are in the same space as another person. Creating a virtual space that can be accessed together and establishes a sense of co-presence allows for shared experiences. Research suggests that virtual environments accessed with avatars helps to increase this sense of co-presence and further that avatars that included more lifelike gestures
and facial expressions increased a user’s feeling of co-presence.
One of the biggest challenges of working from home is feeling isolated from colleagues and fellow employees. So many of us are craving connection and avatar-based platforms help to increase feelings of connection and community among users. Providing an avatar of a user and allowing interactivity between avatars helps to increase social interaction and community. A
2020 study on the benefits of avatars and co-worker familiarity found that representing workers with an avatar on a leaderboard increased helping behaviors and increased motivation among workers that had not previously met. Applied to virtual events, where many of the attendees have never met, providing avatars and gamified activities via a leaderboard helps to build a real connection.
We’ve all experienced Zoom fatigue or at least have read about it in the headlines lately. Most workers are spending hours a day on Zoom or some other web conferencing platform trying to focus on work while dealing with distractions at home such as restless children, deliveries, chores, and a myriad of other pressing concerns. Providing a new experience, one that is easy
to navigate, but not the typical video call helps engage at-home workers. Avatar-based platforms allow for more agency or put simply users have more control over their experience. It becomes more of a ‘choose your own adventure’ instead of simply passively watching an advertising spot.
4. Self-expression and Inclusion
Avatar-based platforms that have a large library of skin, hair and eye colors along with thousands of clothing choices allows for virtual attendees to show their personality and be more accurately represented in the 3D space. A study on the emerging technology of avatars found that they can help users who are typically reluctant to speak up in real life feel more comfortable speaking and participating in the virtual space. Avatars can help facilitate social interactions by providing a library of gestures, actions and enabling several different methods of 1:1 communication such as group chat, private chat and private video calls.
This same study on the emerging technology of avatars found that people trust virtual information presented by avatars more than identical interactions without avatars. This stands to reason as generally people trust information from known sources. Avatars provide non-verbal queues and other information that helps to build familiarity between users that have
never met in-person.
MootUp Offers a Robust Avatar-based Solution
Not all avatar-based platforms are created equally and in order to reap these benefits you need to carefully examine specific platform capabilities. In order to get the most value out of an avatar-based environment – I recommend you look for the following capabilities:
- Large library of customizations that can be fine-tuned based upon the needs of a specific event Animated expressions that mimic the sentiment of the speaker Scripted gestures that users can easily activate to communicate sub-text and emotion
- Animations such as dance moves, postures and interactions that help users express themselves within the 3D space
- Easily allow users to navigate and direct their avatars around the environment
- Provide many methods for avatars/users to communicate including 1:1 video conferencing, 1:1 chat and 1:1 voice calls
MootUp was developed to provide all these capabilities across the widest range of devices possible including smartphones, laptops and tablets. Let us show you around our platform, book a demo today and have your event up and running in weeks.
By Danny Stefanic, CEO and Founder MootUp