The report studies the two-day business and innovation event SHIFT, which took place in October 2020 and was held for the first time virtually on the VirBELA digital 3D virtual platform. The person who purchased the ticket to the event downloaded free software to their device, logged in to the SHIFT event, and created an avatar, a user-generated digital visual virtual character, to interact with ... [Show full abstract] the event. The report is based on an online survey of 46 participants in the event (organizers, speakers, company or organization presenters, and regular participants) as well as participatory observation by the report author on the virtual platform during the event.
The vast majority of respondents (57% men, 43% women) were highly educated experts in the field. Almost all (94%) had a university degree and the majority (60%) had participated in SHIFT before. Almost all (95%) did at least part of their work at distance in the autumn of 2020. During their participation in the SHIFT event very many (83%) also worked simultaneously at least a little.
Respondents had no previous experience with the VirBELA platform except that some (41%) tried VirBELA's OpenCampus just before attending SHIFT. Four out of five respondents (80%) felt that the virtual platform and internet connection worked technically well enough and 68% found the use of avatar pleasant. At SHIFT, two out of three used avatar to have a conversation with a previous acquaintance (68%) and also with a new person (68%). The majority (53%) thought that a virtual platform could support the emergence of innovation: on the other hand, many (35%) did not know how to comment on this, but only few (12%) thought that a virtual platform could not support the emergence of innovation. Very many respondents (88%) shared their experiences of using the virtual platform after the event. In the future, three out of four (74%) want to participate in innovation events on a similar virtual 3D platform (15% cannot say, 11% do not want to) and 72% recommend others to participate in innovation events on a virtual platform.