How Event Professionals Can Think About “Reality” Technologies: Part Three – Augmented Reality

There has been a lot of press lately about how technologies like Virtual Reality and Augmented Technology (aka “Mixed Reality” or MR) are going to change events. In the first article, we looked at one of the best and easiest to deploy of these technologies, 360 video. This week we look at Augmented Reality (AR). AR is, perhaps, the most exciting of these technologies both in terms of its potential and ease of deployment.

So what is AR? Augmented Reality stands out because it combines both the computer digital world with (analog) reality. In its most basic form, AR overlays graphics on top of a real world image. For example, imagine looking at a blank coffee table using a viewer such as a smartphone. With the AR app you then are able to see (virtual) books on top of the table. The next step of AR is to allow you to interact with these images. In the previous example, visualize picking up a “virtual” coffee table book with your device and then viewing the contents.

In a little over twelve months, we have seen AR go mainstream with two dazzling successful implementations. Pokémon Go saw the first massive deployment of AR for the purposes of gaming. In the first month, the Go app saw over 30 million downloads. Snapchat’s popular Geofilter technology has been a key part of the company’s rapid growth and eventual IPO. This software allows users to generate photos or videos with graphics (of the user’s own choosing or creation) on top of them. As indicated by the “Geo” portion of the name, these filters are built with locations (think venues and destinations) in mind and so have great possibilities for events.

For example, check out SnapChat’s New World Lenses feature that allows both graphics overlay and human interaction:

Until SnapChat came along, AR was difficult for the average person to create. Despite launching a great foray into AR, the problem with SnapChat is that videos posted by the product are, by design, only available for viewing for a short period of time. This makes Snapchat great for promotion onsite at a conference, but not so great for pre-show promotion.

Apple is betting big on AR with its newly released ARKit. So is Google with a similar release for its Android products. Initially, these packages should only benefit software developers, but this should encourage the creation of more apps for easy to build AR.

Because of the many ways it can enhance the attendee experience, it is likely that AR will become very popular at events. Here are some of the possibilities:

  • Enhanced trade show floor experience. This can happen on a number of different levels. For the exhibitor, AR can enhance their product displays – imagine the ability to overlay a product like a car with different visual possibilities, such as the color. The trade show floor itself can be enhanced to have virtual displays such as popup promotions in the aisles or around booths.

  • Gamification. The world of mobile event app games will also increase. One possibility includes enhanced scavenger hunts where people find virtual objects side-by-side with real-world displays.

  • Virtual Sponsorships. If you are able to get real ROI on your AR product, think of making additional sponsorship revenue with AR display. Or you can do what SnapChat did at the Golden Globes – letting your remote attendees view the show through the “eyes” of a real attendee.

  • Enhanced Site Tour. For the planner and venue sales team, think of using AR to conduct virtual design of your production. Room diagramming and stage design are some of the more obvious possibilities.

By the time your read this, Apple’s iOS 11 will have been released. This AR friendly update will provide a new arsenal of tools for event planners. Just check out this video from Air Measure that could help you with your logistics!