When I returned to Chicago, I longed for a way to hold onto the motherland beyond the clattering of my waist beads. After all your vacation days or travel money are exhausted, virtual reality may be the next best way to visit the destinations that have been lighting up your social timeline, or are on your bucket list.
As we move through the post-vaccine era, international travel and large events have both been slow to return, so Ceek, a streaming program for virtual events and experiences, aims to fuse wanderlust with concert ecstasy.
“We try to create an experience that takes people through time and space,” says Ceek CEO Mary Spio. While Ceek is headquartered in Miami, it also has offices in Ghana, where Spio was raised. Along with the work they do to simulate the communal experience of attending a live event, Ceek is designed to help people visit locations virtually.
What’s novel about Ceek is how the platform combines technology to rethink concert experiences by giving Africa’s first-time visitors—or the nostalgic like me—a tour of their majestic sights and must-see monuments. The Ghanaian artist Sarkodie starts his show on Ceek by standing on the Black star on the Independence Square monument in Accra before descending onto the stage.
Referring to the Tanzanian Afrobeats artist whose show includes an experience with zebras and lions, Spio says, “Inside of the application, we have all these different venues. You can be in a safari with real animals around you watching a show from Diamond Platnumz.”
Spio explains that the combination of sights and sounds is important. “It’s like we are showering you in sound and you can feel everything.” Ceek’s VR approach uses customized, branded headphones that retail for $250, and a custom VR headset that retails for $99 and includes a three-month subscription to Ceek’s service. If you are not ready to invest in both, you can access the full-360 scenes on a smartphone. The subscription, which hosts Diamond Platnumz and Sarkodie’s content, is available for $10 per month. It’s surreal to know that I could reminisce about New Year’s Eve at Independence Square through Ceek on a smartphone for as little as 10 bucks.
Ceek also allows attendees to challenge their preconceived notions of a destination and to build their itinerary for future trips in and beyond Africa. “For some, their snapshot of Mexico is mariachi,” says Spio. “But by being in these environments and experiencing a different type of music with a different lens, you might say, maybe I want to visit a Cenote in Mexico or an EDM rave in Mexico and experience it for the first time.”
On Your Left
The past year and a half proved that a number of events and conferences needed better, more engaging ways to go virtual, and Venu3D is a VR platform that wants to help. Built to help event organizers host trade shows, conventions, and conferences, the aim is to make remote attendees feel like they are really at an event, while staying safely remote. “Back in March, our Covid Relief Tradeshow had over 800 attendees and more than 135 exhibitors.” says Jeremy Lam, CEO of Venu3D, of the event where virtual attendees hailed from US, Canada, Mexico, India, and Kenya, among others.