Digility 2017: Germany’s biggest VR AR conference and expo
From the 5th to 7th of July 2017, Digility 2017 – the largest virtual and augmented reality conference in Europe – was held at the Koelnmesse, Cologne. Immersia founder Adam Geoghegan was fortunate enough to attend; and the remainder of this blog post covers his view of the event.
My first time in Cologne, and I doubt it will be my last. The city quietly harbours the largest tech scene in Germany after Berlin, and upon arriving at the Koelnmesse (an impressive building in itself) I was blown away by the number of startup companies in attendance.
I found out about Digility at the last minute – my contact at the Berlin landing pad forwarded me a link a couple days before the event and I knew it was a must-see. As such, I secured my ticket, organised accommodation and transport, and flew in the evening before the largest immersive technology event in Europe started.
Upon entering the Koelnmesse, attendees were provided personalised AR trackers to be worn alongside the old-school name tag. The trackers meant that using smartphones attendees could experience a small AR experience by scanning each others tags. A neat gimmick, and something I expect to see more of now that Apple’s ARkit has been launched.
Across the two days, attendees had the pain staking task of working out which sessions to attend at the expense of other tracks. The event featured a smorgasboard of incredible keynotes, workshops, product launches, Microsoft HoloLens demos, the best expo space I have ever seen, and of course networking areas where founders like me loitered to extract the best possible value from the event.
I haven’t the time to write about everything I saw at Digility, but here are 3 of the highlights:
Microsoft HoloLens presentation
A personal highlight for me – Microsoft HoloLens has been on our company shopping list for two years now, and the demo served as a reminder that augmented reality is coming – and when it does, it’s going to be huge. Microsoft commissioned a startup to present their project for Lufthansa, in which customers, investors and so on could use the headset to experience a new aircraft – projected onto the nearest desk – and then have that aircraft take off in the middle of the room. Extremely cool, and I have no doubt similar marketing exercises will soon be executed by all the major global brands over the next 24 months. Microsoft then showed the packed-out audience how HoloLens works before demonstrating some more crazy stuff – an astronaut and a ballerina dancing next to one another in the front row (just above the audience) – and an awesome experience from a Japanese developer that allowed users to experience Mount Fuji in a completely new way.
As mentioned earlier, this was incredible. I find it difficult to be impressed by tech demos – I’ve seen some mind blowing tech in California – but the innovations on display in the expo area were next level. Companies ranging from fledgling startups to global brands such as Audi showed their latest applications for VR and AR; I’ll post a link to a video of me bouncing up and down a trampoline while having my hands and feet tracked in real time in the comments.
VR for journalism
One of the major panels, with speakers from some of the biggest media agencies in the world. The boom of social media has spelt a death sentence for journalists, and artificial intelligence has resulted in these organisations searching for creative ways to attract the public to their content. Fortunately, virtual reality (and 360 video) provides a window, albeit a short one (we will all be able to create 360 content soon), enabling journalists to take their viewers on a journey to the world’s breaking news events. As such, we saw demos of immersive storytelling in VR, and it was neat to hear the panel talk about the use of the technology as an empathy machine. We travelled through time in Germany, over the space of 100+ years, watching the transformation of a major street from pre WWI to the devastation of WWII to the fall of the wall and finally the current day. Interestingly, rather than showing just a 3D model of the street, an animated human being (who spoke German, so I’ve no idea of his name) spoke to the audience throughout the experience, and while he never really existed, its interesting to think that this 3D representation of a human was generating emotions for a crowd of thousands of people while we felt what it was like to travel through time.
Overall, Digility was one of the best conferences I’ve attended, and I’ll definitely return next year (hopefully with enough notice to attend as a speaker – where I hope to replace the HTC Vive representative that talked about the application of VR for education and training!)
Would you like to know more about Digility – or perhaps the virtual and augmented reality scene in Europe generally? Subscribe to the Immersia blog, comment below or follow me on Twitter @immersiadam.