The Maschio Gaspardo Virtual Exhibition, which showcases the industry-leading company's agricultural machinery, is a real exhibition space that welcomes the company's potential customers and serves as a demonstration environment for international dealers, but exists only in the virtual environment. The scenario created is in fact an innovation project that combines architecture and virtual reality for making exhibition spaces for companies. The company's goal was to reduce the exhibition area within trade shows but did not want to give up exhibiting all its most important products. In addition, it was management's desire to decrease the construction of large machinery with the sole function of display or demonstration, consequently reducing the number of raw materials and processing, also with the goal to increasing corporate sustainability. Poplab created an exclusive space in the virtual world, usable with 6DOF stand-alone VR headsets – completely disconnected from the PC. The experience is social, which means that several people can enter the exhibition at the same time. During visits, a Maschio Gaspardo attendant is always present to act as a guide and accompany visitors inside the various exhibition areas. The pavilion features a main space that serves as the entrance hall, a place where visitor avatars can meet on a large red carpet at the beginning of the visit, recognize each other, and practice with their (often new) "digital bodies". A red carpet runs from the main volume, helping visitors through the various thematic areas. The MG Virtual Exhibition was inaugurated in October 2021 at the EIMA exhibition in Bologna, an opportunity for the company to showcase its products to an international audience. On that occasion, there was a VR corner next to the classic product display that expanded the exhibition space. Users could enter the virtual environment and tour the hall accompanied by an expert guide. More than 400 people visited the Virtual Exhibition during the fair. The company chose, for this first opening, to limit the audience to two visitors at a time but there is no technical limit in the number of users who can access it – only of course the number of VR headsets and the space available for the VR corner. Thus, the virtual exhibition is a kind of private metaverse of the company, which is now used not only during exhibition events but also for public and educational projects. In fact, the company's technicians show to the visitors the machinery with the opportunity to get up close, see the inside and understand the working mechanisms. If desired, it is also possible to enter the exhibition space while not being in the same physical location, this feature can be used by the company to present products to customers located in distant places, without the need for long trips with great savings in economic and environmental resources. The Virtual Exhibition is a real place for meeting, visiting and learning, but its design followed different rules than the design of a similar place in physical reality. The concept was first developed on the idea that this place could potentially travel in time and especially in space. It was thus decided to suspend it from the ground, like a flying island, without the need for foundations – that make no sense to exist in this dimension. In fact, the company, which operates worldwide, has the idea of supplying dealers in each country with VR headsets by bringing the products to customers without asking them to move from their home. Here then is the image of a wandering pavilion, ethereal but with a load of content that can update and change over time according to the company's needs. Each room is defined by a polygonal volume oriented toward the sky; some of these volumes, which house the main functions, emerge as towers and identify the focal points of the architecture. Looking at the pavilion from above, one notices how each architectural module develops from an irregular pentagon. Because of its particular geometric conformation, the pentagon system tiles the plane and can grow infinitely. This allows the exhibition space to be able to evolve according to the company's needs by adding additional spaces for subsequent functions. For example, soon will start the development of a lab that will be totally dedicated to training the company's staff members. The architecture is open to the sky but there are no windows. In some places there are patios that house farm machinery and from which one can perceive the landscape in the distance. The scenario can be switched depending on where the experience takes place, the standard one is reminiscent of the hills of Padua near which the company has its headquarters. The lack of windows is also designed to avoid weighing down the scenery. If in the physical world there are constraints related to square meters and raw material consumption here, it is of paramount importance to limit the number of polygons. Every choice is also made based on this fundamental parameter, because designing in the virtual world does not mean having no limits, but having different ones. Even the highly detailed 3d models of the machines provided by the company have been optimized with a great reduction in the number of polygons to be able to run on the headsets, which are not connected to external PCs and thus have limited computational capabilities. The various volumes of the pavilion speak the language of matter, suggesting without really defining materials: surfaces become substance. In addition to the aforementioned uses, the Virtual Exhibition is also a new corporate communication tool, fulfilling the need for spaces that increasingly characterize and strengthen the corporate brand. At the same time it proposes a different and more sustainable way of exhibiting at trade fairs and beyond, consuming fewer resources but without taking anything away, indeed perhaps adding, to the user experience of potential customers.
Poplab is a professional design studio, a manufacturing laboratory, and a research center accredited by MIUR (Italian Ministry of Public Education) based in Veneto, Italy.
We design innovative solutions that connect digital and physical spaces to support human interaction.
The relationship between people and the constructed environment changes rapidly, stimulated by technological transformations and the evolution of social behavior. Our projects are oriented to propose a contemporary perspective for the construction of living and working places, combining possible future visions and practical applications.
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