The worldwide health crisis around the coronavirus has gripped the live events industry, particularly in the tech sector, with the cancellations of Mobile World Congress, the Game Developers Conference, Facebook's F8, Google I/O and now South by Southwest.
But one conference, focused on immersive computing, is looking to ride out the current storm and still hold its annual meeting, which is 78 days away.
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"We are still [two and a half months] out from the AWE event and are optimistic that containment and treatment of the virus will improve significantly during that time," said Ori Inbar, co-founder and executive director of the annual AWE conference, the most popular annual event dedicated to augmented reality and VR businesses and users, in a statement.
"That being said, concern is warranted and we will do everything in our power to ensure a safe and successful show for our attendees, exhibitors, and speakers. We cannot stress enough how important it is for the public to follow the recommendations of The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, World Health Organization, and other health officials to avoid exposure to the virus and help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases."
The event, held yearly in Santa Clara, California, is usually a hotbed of immersive computing innovation, with some of the best new and established hardware and software companies coming together to show off the start of the art in the space. But with all the recent tech even cancellations, some have wondered if AWE might also get canceled or postponed.
Now that Inbar has weighed in, we have our answer — it's still happening, for now. And to alleviate concerns regarding the meeting, AWE's organizers have released a list of measures that they'll be taking. These include: "Increased and intensified cleaning and disinfection of all high-volume touch points, equipment and furniture; availability of effective cleaning and sanitizing materials for public use; staff and volunteer screening and training on CDC prevention instructions; mic change protocol and disinfection solutions between speakers," as well as other efforts.
Nevertheless, as the coronavirus outbreak seems to be at the start of gathering steam in the US, some may be concerned about events that are even months away. For comparison, consider that Google's I/O, which would have started on June 2, has been canceled, and Facebook's F8 conference, scheduled to begin on May 5, has been canceled. However, there's still no confirmed cancellation of major tech meetings such as Apple's WWDC, which usually starts on the first week in June in San Jose, California.
And while the world grapples with the tragic loss of lives and ongoing health struggles related to the virus outbreak, what's becoming ever more apparent is that AR and VR will indeed play a significant part in the way we meet and conduct business moving forward. In recent weeks, AR and VR hardware and software solutions have been thrust into the spotlight as companies look for alternative remote meeting options that transcend mere video conferencing.
There's no way to know how long the coronavirus situation will continue to curtail travel and force the cancellation of events. Still, in case things remain unresolved by May 27, when AWE kicks off, the organization has confirmed that it is also working on "live streaming or some virtual attendance option(s) for those unable to travel."
If, on the other hand, attendees opt to cancel their attendance, AWE is offering a refund (minus a 3% service fee) until April 15. For more details visit AWE's website.