While most of us tuned in to watch last Monday’s presidential debate on a tv or computer screen, a select few tuned in with the latest technology: Virtual Reality. With VR’s enormous potential to directly connect brands with audiences, why is no one talking about this?
NBC and AltspaceVR came together to provide the first entirely virtual interactive space to watch Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump take the stage on September 26th. This is the first time in history audiences have experienced a presidential election in Virtual Reality.
Dubbed “Democracy Plaza”, the corner of W 43rd St and Rockefeller and the surrounding streets were lined with lit skyscrapers and adorned with American flags. People gathered when it was time for the debate, and were encouraged to discuss the debate as it happened.
The room had space for around 30 people, emojis flittered through the air, and the occasional jokes were cracked among audience members. Everything ran smoothly and the experience was not only technologically impressive, but a feat of political correctness: the people gathered to watch the debate were respectful and fun to be around. You could even take a selfie with the presidential candidates.
The VR Debate: “Undercovered”
The one thing we at Edgy Labs can’t understand is: why is no one else talking about this historical moment? AltspaceVR is on the cutting edge of technology, NBC is a major TV network, and this was a presidential debate. The VR Debate Space was mentioned, but Democracy Plaza didn’t get much attention when the VR debate experience took place.
The lack of coverage seems to indicate that VR technology is still underestimated as an immersive yet enjoyable way to engage with audiences.
Therefore, this inaugural virtual reality event isn’t impressive just because it ran almost glitch-free or it’s the first of its kind; the experience’s innovative use of VR tech is also a clear example of how existing mediums (television) and companies (NBC) can incorporate VR experiences into their practices to attract and communicate with audiences.
Redefining “Voter Participation”
While there was even a vote at the end of the virtual debate in the spirit of the election-themed event, the experience focused mainly on creating an interactive and fun way to directly explore popular questions. For the VR experience finale, participants found themselves under a veil of fireworks and were ushered into another virtual space where a disco dance party ensued (complete with glow sticks).
The debate party might be over for now, but this VR experience demonstrates how all kinds of companies and projects can leverage VR technology to communicate directly with potential clients and transmit a brand with a full-sensory experience.