Above: One of the many virtual environment attendees of the 2014 AEVC were able to occupy.
Last week, we took a look at the AEVC (that’s the Adult Entertainment Virtual Convention), which this year wasn’t just an online adult industry convention, but the biggest online convention ever held anywhere for any industry. Here at BaDoink, we have been lucky enough to be able to speak the founder, director and producer of this technologically advanced, incredibly innovative project, AEVC’s head honcho, the keen-minded Anna Lee. What follows are the highlights of our conversation…
AEVC IS RELATIVELY NEW. WOULD YOU SAY THE WHOLE CONCEPT OF VIRTUAL CONVENTIONS IS NEW?
The concept for virtual conventions is not a new one, however we have been in the virtual world market for over 10 years now. For the first six years or so we were working on the technology that made it possible and allowed you to stream visuals and have presentations. The one thing that does set us apart from some other previous conventions is the immersive quality that we have.
AT SOME POINT YOU’LL BE ABLE TO AEVC BY POPPING ON A HEADSET
I was demonstrating the use of our technology with a headset in Prague and that went fantastic. It’s the next big thing. It literally puts you right into the world. You know, you’ve got this headset on, you look down… and you can see your own body, you can look around and see the room and the walls right in front of your face in real time… you’re completely immersed. It’s the missing link to breaking that fourth wall.
YOU’VE SAID THAT THE INITIAL IDEA TO START HOSTING THE AEVC CAME FROM YOUR EXPERIENCES ATTENDING MANY OF THE INDUSTRY SHOWS. WHAT EXPERIENCES ARE THOSE EXACTLY? WHAT DID YOU THINK WAS LACKING OR NEEDED TO CHANGE?
First, I have to say that live trade shows will never be replaced. There’s something to be said for skin-to-skin contact when you meet somebody. But a lot of trade shows make it difficult for everybody to be in one place at one time. It’s cost-prohibitive, definitely for some, especially people starting out in the business. And obviously you don’t have to travel.
Also, sometimes you can go to a show and you don’t really make any business connections because there is a bit of a party atmosphere to these things. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of good business does get done, but I think if you were able to take advantage of some of those other extraneous sections, you’d get a lot more done.
One thing that I found that was quite a wonderful phenomenon was the quality of the speakers you get is enhanced. There are several factors to this. It’s a lot more relaxed; you wouldn’t feel that stage fright that comes with people who are not comfortable with performing. So you get a lot of speakers who wouldn’t normally attend. Take our keynote speaker, John Stagliano; he doesn’t do live appearances anymore! So you get access to people you normally wouldn’t have.
The most incredible thing is the population. We had 17,000 people come through this year. When was the last time you saw AVN have that many?
WHAT ABOUT THE ACTUAL ENVIRONMENT ITSELF? HOW MUCH DESIGN WORK WENT INTO THAT? WHAT WAS YOUR CONCEPTION OF IT?
The conception was to have something as close to realistic as possible. My purpose with AEVC was to make a sort of soft transition for people in the industry. You know, tech is becoming a bigger scene within the industry and people are coming round to it, but there are still a lot of old school guys out there… so why not create an environment that they could relate to, that they felt comfortable in?
It started out as a very traditional sort of convention floor. That being said, during the first two to three years, we did some tweaks and I believe we found a formula that actually works, that actually helps promote traffic in various areas. When an avatar drops into the world, they’re directly confronted by sightlines, and we took into account what people see the instant they drop in and enter a space. We designed and developed the space so that we could maximize that, creating shapes and placements and avatars that would be more conducive to higher volumes of traffic for the people paying for those spaces.
IN THE FUTURE, DO YOU ENVISAGE AVATARS DROPPING IN AND TALKING FACE-TO-FACE AND INTERACTING WITH ANOTHER AVATAR IN REAL TIME?
People, universities, are doing that already. I think that it will become more acceptable with the help of things like Oculus Rift. Once that headset becomes the norm and people become used to having that kind of equipment at home, it’s going to make the environment even more immersive. In terms of AEVC, I can only imagine that attendance is just going to go up. And acceptability by the industry will increase as well.
WOULD USERS BE ABLE TO STEP INTO THOSE WORLDS WITH THEIR OWN AVATARS?
One of the nice things about the new software that we launched in January and we’re hoping to put out in beta next year is the ability to transfer avatar design. There’s a whole concept in technology about owning what you’ve created and what that means. The ability to transfer your creations from other platforms and import them into our world is definitely something we’ve taken notice of and incorporated into the construction of our new environment.
WHAT WAS YOUR INITIAL REACTION TO THE SUCCESS OF THE AEVC? WERE YOU EXPECTING IT TO TAKE OFF IN SUCH A BIG WAY?
Our first year, I wasn’t expecting anything. I’ve been to enough shows and I knew what people were expecting from them, but I wasn’t sure how they’d respond to the first show. It was a bit tough going in the beginning, finding speakers who understood the concept. The first year was a little short on information, a little short on speakers, so I think we did really well and I was impressed with the turnout. I think we had 4,000 people come out and I didn’t expect that at all.
The next year, word had gotten around that there was this new concept, so it was a little bit easier to get talent. We had James Deen, and Diane Duke, who was a keynote, so it was kind of nice. And we had 8,000 people, so we doubled it.
And then this year, asking people to speak was a breeze. Because they already knew about it and heard from other people how fun it was. So getting people to come out and attend this year was so much easier and I can only imagine where it’s going to go. It was so nice to have such a high caliber of people coming out and talking.
I’m really happy the industry has embraced the medium. That was always something I was kind of concerned about. But now people are familiar with it and they’ve talked about it, and a lot of people have attended, we’ve had some very good feedback.
Each year the show doubles in size and the caliber of speakers, information and content delivery keep on improving beyond our initial vision.
One thing that we do is that we’re able to provide statistics to people and this something I think people really enjoy. We can provide statistics on how many people walked in to your room and saw your booth. I can tell you exactly how much traffic you got, how much clicks you got, in a matter of minutes. All speakers get a report at the end that tells you how many people saw your presentation and how much traffic you received… you know, a lot of information you don’t get from a normal show.
SO WHAT LIES AHEAD?
Immersion. Definitely immersion. We keep fine-tuning the software itself; the graphics are going to be so realistic. As Oculus is acquired by Facebook, you’ll see this come to the forefront, more mainstream, as people become comfortable with the notion of putting a headset on.
Imagine attending a conference putting a headset on and, say, meeting your favorite porn star and you’re standing there and maybe even sleeping with her! You can look down and get to see what you’re doing!
Next year we’re going to see the beginnings, the advent of all of that… and I’m really excited about it.