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Virtual Is Becoming Reality, and Expo Exhibitors Will Show How

SPRINGFIELD — Plenty of folks who donned the virtual-reality goggles at the Western Mass. Business Expo last year were wowed by the experience of stepping into a different world. But Ed Zemba, a principal with Link to VR, says he wants to do more than blow people’s minds. No, he wants those minds to consider the potential of virtual reality — and augmented reality, which layers the physical world with virtual elements — in various business settings.

“Last year, Link to VR introduced virtual reality to the Western Mass. region, and for many businesses and individuals from the community, that was their first chance to see what was possible with virtual reality,” said Zemba, who is also president of Robert Charles Photography. “But virtual and augmented reality also have applications for the medical, education, and business spaces.”

Link to VR will be back on the floor at this year’s event, produced by BusinessWest and the Healthcare News, and retitled the Business & Innovation Expo of Western Mass. to reflect its growing status as a showcase for cutting-edge technology in addition to a wide range of traditional businesses.

“A big part of what we’re talking about at the show is answering the question: why are companies the size of Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google investing millions of dollars in virtual and augmented reality, and why are regional organizations like MGM, UMass, Bay Path, and others announcing that they’re investing time, energy, and resources into determining how this could impact their industries?” Zemba said. “It’s one of the most significant technical shifts I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

But Link to VR won’t be the only high-tech attraction on the Expo floor at the MassMutual Center on Nov. 2. Here are a few others:

• Kitchens by Curio will demonstrate virtual-reality demonstrations of their kitchen and bath remodels. Attendees can chose cabinet colors, flooring, countertops, etc. and view a completely remodeled room in augmented reality.

• Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School will be represented by its Collision Repair program, which will bring a Sims virtual paint simulator, a trailer-hitch cover project, and a virtual-welding simulator. The school’s Machine Technology program will demonstrate a 3D printer and bring along a sampling of various machine projects students have worked on.

• The Graphic & Visual Design Program from the Lower Pioneer Valley Education Collective will showcase how they make packaging using 3D modeling, while the collective’s Information Support Systems and Networking Program will demonstrate how they build their clear computer cases.

• The Community Service Institute will demonstrate neurofeedback. Over the past 30 years, researchers have discovered it is possible to retrain or learn different brainwave patterns. The brain is taught to engage in the tasks of living with greater efficiency and ease. This leads to improvements in concentration, relaxation, and clarity, and has been compared to physical exercise or physical-therapy training for the brain.

• Open Pixel, an animation company based in Western Mass., will present a program called “Become a Character!” Participants will choose a character they wish to become from a variety of options and stand on a marker. The camera will watch their motions, and as they speak, so will the character. Attendees can also enter a raffle for a chance to have Open Pixel create an animated logo for their company.

The Business & Innovation Expo of Western Mass. will also feature more than 150 exhibitor booths, educational seminars, breakfast and lunch programs, and a day-capping Expo Social. Current sponsors include Comcast Business (presenting sponsor), Johnson & Hill Staffing Services and Wild Apple Design Group (executive sponsors), Inspired Marketing (show partner), MGM Springfield (corporate sponsor), Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst (education sponsor), Xfinity (social sponsor), Elms College (information booth sponsor), Smith & Wesson (Workforce Support Center sponsor), Savage Arms (JoinedForces parking sponsor), and the Better Business Bureau (contributing sponsor). Additional sponsorship opportunities are available. Exhibitor spaces are also available; booth prices start at $800. For more information on sponsorships or booth purchase, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100.

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