With each passing year, technology continues to propel the events industry to new heights. Whether it be improvements in the form of more robust event tools, or stronger event data security, the collective advancement of technology plays a significant role in the evolution of the events industry. And among the event trends that continue to shape the space, virtual and augmented reality have become key catalysts for innovation.
Contrary to what Hollywood would have you believe3, Virtual & Augmented Reality aren’t just for making video games. VR and AR are leading the charge in creating unique and singular experience for attendees. As the use cases and accessibility of this technology continues to expand, we should expect to see VR and AR make an even larger impact in the years to come. This article looks to educate on the recent developments of this technology and how it has already influenced the event space.
WHAT IS VIRTUAL REALITY?
Virtual reality is a completely computer-generated three-dimensional environment. Users usually need to wear a Virtual Reality headset and may also need compatible gloves or handsets to be able to effectively interact with this world. Here’s an example of a VR experience used during the promotion of the Joseph Gordon Levitt led 2015 biopic, The Walk.
Though very similar, virtual reality is not the same as 360° photos and video (a still image or video recording captured in the round).
WHAT IS AUGMENTED REALITY?
As the name implies, augmented reality combines computer-generated elements with reality to create an augmented world. In AR, users interact with computer-generated overlays while moving around within the real world. AR is more accessible to the general public than VR. Everyday examples of AR are the viral video game Pokémon Go and some of Snapchat’s filters. Below is a video from 2017 when UBER took some of its customers on a virtual tour of different locations at the Zurich main train station.
The success of Pokémon Go when it was released back in 2016 (generated over 30 million app downloads, $1.6 million in revenue from the iOS store per day, and increased Nintendo’s value by over $9 billion) proved AR’s ability to have a significant impact on consumers.
The main difference between AR and VR, in a nutshell, is that while VR takes you out of the real world and puts you in a completely computer-generated world, AR augments the real world with computer-generated elements.
WHY SHOULD EVENT PLANNERS CARE?
As a planner of an event, you may be used to investing a large portion of your budget on an event venue, speakers, lodging, food and beverages, and other miscellaneous logistics. However, if you were to hold a conference or a trade show through virtual reality, many of those costs would be eliminated.
To create a truly virtual event, organizers would have to create a computerized event space. Doing so may be expensive now, but once the technology is more mature it will likely be much less expensive than existing event planning costs.
Thanks to advancements in telepresence tools, event organizers can make it easier for people to attend an event remotely. Tech startup company, Double Robotics, developed a remote control robot equipped with an iPad, making it easy for attendees to interact with other event goers remotely. Event organizers could make these robots available to VIP guests unable to attend an event because it clashes with their schedule. In return, event goers will get the chance to interact with an attendee who would likely enhance the experience for everyone involved.
Venue spaces for trade shows often need to be cavernous in order to accommodate all of the different items on display. Cars shows, for example, require hundreds of thousands of square feet to accommodate all of the different vehicles on display. Augmented reality could make the need for giant venues a thing of the past. Companies like Volvo are already working on technology that would provide potential customers with the ability to engage with their cars through headsets.
EXAMPLE OF VIRTUAL REALITY USED AT EVENTS
During 2016 SXSW, Anheuser Busch’s experiential campaign consisted of a full-on beer garage that involved all things Budweiser. From a comfortable lounge to a bar with Budweiser beer on tap, the garage was full of multiple sections that created an entertaining atmosphere.
Using Oculus VR headsets, participants were given a full tour of the brewing plant, engaging all five of their senses. When entering the refrigerator, cold air was blown into the room for a realistic effect. When the virtual tour took them to the hops room, Budweiser employees would hold a jar of hops under the participant’s nose so they knew what the room actually smells like.
This entire experience helped participants become more aware of the Budweiser brew process, developing a deeper understanding of the product and brand.
EXAMPLE OF AUGMENTED REALITY USED AT EVENTS
The advantage that AR has over VR is that the former is more accessible to consumers. (Snapchat and the iPhone X have AR functionality built into their software.) That is why this example was so easy to execute. At the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, the film Hidden Figures was promoted through AR technology by having attendees use their smartphones to discover the hidden statues of the film’s main characters. There were multiple pedestals at which specific QR codes were placed and attendees had to scan the code with their phones in order for the statue to appear. Each statue was accompanied by a short description that was provided within the app. Experiences like these incentivize attendees to engage with their surroundings in ways that would be impossible with AR technology.
Virtual reality and augmented reality present great new opportunities for event organizers to create truly novel experiences that capture the hearts and minds of event attendees. Currently, people are excited by these new experiences and are eager to try them.
Event organizers should think about how they can design event experiences that can help attendees to engage with one another, speakers, sponsors and exhibitors more effectively and in many cases, it seems that these new pieces of tech can help.Next Insight