Story by Melanie Farmer

For the past 20 years, Laval Virtual has been keeping it real with virtual reality, emerging as the prominent platform and exhibition space for everything related to VR and its future. And, at this year’s annual multi-day conference—expected to draw 20,000 attendees—Laval Virtual continues to serve as the destination for those in the industry, or curious about the industry, to get a firsthand look at the innovation and promise of one of the fastest growing mediums in technology.

Laval Virtual, which will be held April 4 to 8 in Laval, France, is set to welcome more than 300 exhibitors, representing a diverse range of industries, including film, entertainment, art, health and science. As in previous years, Laval Virtual is spotlighting every corner of innovation and creativity relevant to the expanding landscape of VR and augmented reality (AR).

Keynote speakers at the event’s VR International Conferences, a global forum for researchers and engineers co-sponsored by ACM SIGGRAPH, will include industry and academic experts from NAIST, Google, University of Southern California and Walt Disney Imagineering. Laval Virtual cofounder Simon Richir, a pioneer in French VR research and its applications, and Marc Pallot, senior research associate at Arts et Metiers Laval Virtual Institute, are scheduled to deliver a joint talk on day one on how immersive technologies are set to change the world around us.

In addition to a series of talks and forums geared for industry researchers and professionals, a good portion of the event is devoted to pure innovation in the space of VR/AR via the conference’s competitions and awards program; seven competitions in total.

Of the 159 submissions received for the Laval Virtual Awards category this year, 12 winners will be honored at the conference and will showcase their award-winning projects. In the ReVolution award category, an international competition that rewards the most innovative projects in VR/AR, scientific yet playful submissions are being considered. One selection involves VR swimming with dolphins and another is focused on VR training for piloting paragliders. Ten startups will vie for best startup award, and a student competition also will be held, bringing attention to 12 young finalists who will demo their work in the VR/AR space.

The general public, as in previous years, will get a more popular overview of VR and new technologies. Among the major themes to be addressed in the public program are VR in the treatment of phobias; blockchain and cryptocurrency; and the future of games and entertainment. New, in honor of its 20th anniversary milestone, Laval Virtual also intends to set up an art and technology gallery, showcasing work by artists who use virtual and mixed technology as an artistic medium.

Indeed, from upstarts to tech giants and seasoned experts to young, emerging talent, virtually every inch of the advancements in VR/AR will be covered at this year’s annual event. Happy anniversary, Laval Virtual!