i3 | March 14, 2022

Virtual Vegas Metaverse Party

Gary Arlen
screenshots of a metaverse party

Birthday + CES + VR =

Virtual Vegas Metaverse Party!

This year, I celebrated my January birthday in the metaverse. In a grand hotel suite. With lots of friends, including virtual Elvis.

I’ve spent many birthdays in Las Vegas during CES. But since I couldn’t travel to the show this year, a couple of long-time digital designing friends brought the party to me via virtual reality. Gerard Kunkel and Patrick Donoghue of Next Media Partners (NMP) reminded me that we usually enjoy a celebratory beverage in Las Vegas on “my day.” They decided to create a virtual party as a use case in their C Space suite at the Aria Hotel, demonstrating how an interactive event — business demonstration, party, anything — will work in the metaverse.

The outcome was a blast — literally since they included some (safe) virtual fireworks to shoot off during the party. Their efforts to customize the party scene — with avatars mingling — looked like a traditional gathering in a hotel suite, but snazzier, and with drop-in guests.

While some of us wore a VR headset, the platform — AltspaceVR — enabled many of the party guests to participate via a 2D computer screen: not quite the full immersive experience, but definitely a viable forum for our avatars. AltspaceVR, owned by Microsoft and likely to be integrated into its newly acquired Activision/Blizzard games package, fulfilled its promise to enable live, virtual events for artists, brands and businesses.

Showing the Metaverse at C Space

Next Media Partners were “at” CES C Space to show media and advertising executives how metaverse meetings provide an attractive interactive alternative to the “Hollywood Squares” confusion of existing remote meetings. Donoghue, who has designed videogames, created a lavish two-story suite, filled with fascinating, customized elements.

Since I share a birthday with Elvis Presley, part of my CES routine involves homage at The King’s statue in the Westgate Hotel lobby, documented with a few photos. Donoghue used those photos as wall decorations in the same way he customized business meetings with relevant graphics for clients who came (real life or virtual) to the suite. He also found a virtual Elvis avatar, who swiveled around the party.

Next Media Partners’ mission at C Space became a hybrid process. The NMP “MetaLounge” was a real-time meeting place for virtual chats “about the current state and future of Metaverses.” The group also used the event to introduce its “Blown to Bits” video documentary series about the role of mediatech “as live arts and entertainment pivot during a pandemic.”

Kunkel, Donoghue and their partners Chris Falkner and Sandra Howe, established NMP about two years ago.

A Peek at the Future

“As CES 2022 was approaching, we wanted to have a suite,” Kunkel said.

Their process focused on “What does the end user experience need to be.” That led them to the AltSpace platform because it could reach prospective clients who did not have VR headsets but could put them into a VR environment. Donoghue built the virtual space in about three months, using existing tools and enabling people who did visit the real hotel suite to toggle into “this imaginary world.”

In addition to examples of their previous productions, NMP wanted to display the awards its principals have won.

“I made models of the patents and Emmys and brought in assets from other games and programs we had worked on,” Donoghue explained. The virtual products were easy to see around the meeting suite.

During CES, NXP hosted about a dozen metaverse meetings “to show clients an experience of possibilities for the future,” as Kunkel described it. One goal was to demonstrate “the process of how we work” and to show the VR possibilities.

“They could see us walking around the room as if they were in the suite with us,” he added. “That’s where the magic came in. We could walk with you to various locations. And we could pick up objects such as rockets, paper airplanes or products” in a “really palpable” way.

Kunkel envisions metaverse trade shows as places where “you can be as wild and whimsical as you want. It should be an expression of your brand.”

Donoghue imagines “a journey through a factory or a virtual set, but much more impactful, mixing the best of virtual and real-world experiences.”

We partied in Next Media Partners’ metaverse just a few weeks after Bill Gates issued his annual yearend review and forecast. He enthused about the opportunity to use your metaverse avatar to meet with people in a virtual space that replicates the feeling of being in an actual room with them.

That’s exactly what Next Media Partners created for CES 2022 — useful both as a business meeting structure and a birthday bash.

i3 magazine March/April 2022 cover

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