- Finland’s annual May Day celebration in the capital of Helsinki was cancelled because of coronavirus.
- Virtual reality company Zoan created a virtual version of Helsinki that anyone can access.
- The city hosted a virtual gathering and concert to celebrate May Day, and more than 10% of Finland’s population tuned in.
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Finland turned to virtual reality to compensate for some of the lost celebrations due to the coronavirus.
May Day is a major holiday in Finland, when people gather outside for parties and concerts. While a mass gathering isn’t safe right now because of COVID-19, the city of Helsinki came up with a way to move the celebration online.
The country hasn’t been hit especially hard by the coronavirus, but a city-wide party could be a big setback. Traditionlly, as many as a hundred thousand people gather in only a few parks. The city of Helsinki formed a partnership with VR company Zoan, which had already been working on virtual Helsinki, host a concert.
Finland has a population of around six million, and 700,000 viewers tuned into the virtual concert, according to the city of Helsinki, meaning that nearly 12% of the country watched the event. Of those attendees, 150,000 went beyond just watching and created avatars to participate.
Here’s what the first virtual May Day was like.
Zoan had already been working on virtual Helsinki for over five years, after founder Miika Rosendahl first had the idea.
Over the past three years, 10 full-time designers and other freelancers worked on virtual Helsinki.
Images of the city became places people could visit virtually.
May Day celebrations typically begin the night before, so the concert was Thursday night.
Zoan’s project now has a completed version of every building in Helsinki.
Finns could watch through a browser, which could handle hundreds of thousands of viewers.
In the browser version, viewers could make avatars to represent themselves at the concert, and respond with emoji, much like recent “Minecraft” concerts.
Source: Business Insider
Or, people who had VR headsets could use those to experience the concert.
The mayor of Helsinki gave a speech before the concert.
For the musical part of the event, performers sang in front of green screens.
Meanwhile, designers made effects that went with the performances on stage, placing performers in the center of Helsinki.
A spokesperson told Business Insider that this concert was the largest XR (cross reality) event in history.
Watch part of the concert here.
The event was also successful in keeping the center of Helsinki empty, as people stayed home instead.
In the future, Zoan has other plans for virtual Helsinki beyond COVID-19.