What kind of stuff can Augmented Reality (AR) do at events right now?
We’re certainly now starting to see AR feature more heavily in the event space, from gamification in the vein of Pokémon Go, to AR photo booths transporting delegates into an augmented world. Brands are leveraging the technology for attendees to experience and explore products without the physical product in existence through the use of their smartphones (e.g new car launches). With training events we are also seeing the technology being widely adopted, as it allows for far more interactive sessions and a greater learning experience without the need to be in the physical training environment. This can also apply to product demos, and providing the ability to see deeper within the product. We’re also seeing the technology assist presenters, with augmented components immersing their audience more heavily into their desired environment.
How far could we go with AR in the future?
Judging from this year’s CES, we can see that users are moving slightly away from gaming applications of the technology and are hungry for enterprise or daily-life applications. The introduction of AR technology into smartphones has made it far more accessible and mainstream but with a phone, the user isn’t able to fully optimise their field of view. The bulky wearables headwear currently on the market creates for many social and economic barriers, but there’s now an influx of companies such as Magic Leap and Vuzix who are looking to eliminate this with more accessible and comfortable designs. Therefore whilst we expect to see an influx of AR focused apps, we imagine the real advancements will be made in the wearables market. We consequently expect to see a war of the tech giants on who can reach the ultimate goal; an always-on streamlined set of glasses that blurs the lines between the virtual and physical world. We’re also already hearing talk of a future with ‘smart’ contact lenses, which whilst they are a long way off, would take the technology to new immersive heights. And with the recent news that Elton John wants to create a ‘post biological’ self through Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality, it will be interesting to see what this type of innovation means for user experiences across such a wide range of potential applications.
What are some exciting examples of non-events related AR in the wider world?
We are starting to see some really exciting advancements in AR. Big tech players like Apple, Facebook and Google are beginning to seriously invest and so this is just the push that the industry needs. Google’s recent announcement of their decision to bring AR to their browser is really impressive. Users can surf the web, find what they’re looking for, place it in their room and physically walk around it; this opens up huge opportunities for brands to really get in the hands of the consumer. For us some of the most exciting examples of AR usage in other industries are in the healthcare industry. Recently, surgeons wore a Microsoft HoloLens whilst operating so they could essentially have x-ray vision of the patient. Similarly there is now AR technology for nurses to locate veins on patients, effectively making the miss rate zero.
How can AR improve attendee engagement?
There are multiple ways AR can engage the attendee throughout the event cycle. With the introduction of Apple’s ARKit, companies can now more easily implement AR into their apps therefore creating far more opportunities for organisers to create engaging moments. Attendees wont’ have to seek out information, as it will be laid over their current environment, engaging them in situations they might not have initially sought out. We will see organisers tapping into more gamification opportunities, where they encourage attendees to interact with content and move around an event. Concert fans can create the experience that best suits them, whether that is altered stage sets, lyrics flying through the air or creation of their own personal music video. Presenters can fully immerse their audiences in their content, whether they’re presenting on the vision of their business or showcasing a new product launch. Equally though, organisers need to ensure that any use of AR has a clear purpose and there’s no risk of ‘visual clutter’ or distraction of the attendee through badly planned and placed content.
Can the technology be commercialised, e.g branding opportunities within an app?
Absolutely! We think there are lots of opportunities for brands to leverage this technology to both fuel their growth and drive a better attendee experience. For sponsors or exhibitors there are multiple ways to get their brand in front of the attendee, whether that’s building in gamification, loyalty programmes, or ways the delegate can view more content around particular products or services. As we look more closely at B2C events, we would expect to see large consumer brands in the technology and automotive sectors for example, presenting AR technology to customers as a way to get closer to the brand experience, creating even more immersive experiences that build greater brand loyalty.
Could it be used to help design an event space?
The technology will be really beneficial for organisers to showcase their vision to clients, whether that’s visualising a stage set in a ballroom, to how their festival style party will look in an empty field. Having the ability to see how the room could be used, and annotate notes for future event planning would be a very valuable and time saving process. Unlike VR, the end result is far more tangible and realistic as the user is exposed to their current physical surrounding rather than being placed in a fully virtual setting.
What great examples of AR have you seen at events or used at your own events?
At Banks Sadler we have started to incorporate elements of AR into our events as we look to meet our client’s appetite for greater technological adoption. This has included the use of the technology at a recent new car launch, through to interactive product displays for a large aerospace manufacturer. Looking forward, we continue to explore similar options around the FMCG and fashion industries, with customers having the ability to see overlaid digital content over physical products, building a richer, more data driven and immersive experience.