Augmented and virtual reality: the future of connected events

You may not have heard of Augmented Reality, but you’ve probably heard of Pokémon Go. The Pokémon Go phenomenon took over the world in 2016, sending people of all ages wandering the streets looking for Pokémon that may be hiding in their neighbourhood. This ground-breaking app uses a technology known as Augmented Reality (AR), which combines virtual and real components, such as projecting virtual images onto a real background utilising a camera on a smart device. Virtual Reality (VR) is another technology gaining popularity in the commercialised space, which allows users to have interactive experiences in a purely virtual world, often requiring additional hardware such as Virtual Reality goggles or headsets.


Air NZ HoloLens editedIn the travel space, Air New Zealand made history in May this year when it announced the new augmented reality HoloLens headsets for cabin crew, becoming the first airline in the world to incorporate the technology. The HoloLens headsets allow the crew to receive instant information about each passenger simply by looking at them, enabling them to better serve customers during their flight. The headsets use facial recognition technology to identify each passenger and then displays specific details such as their name and dietary requirements.


So, what are the opportunities for AR and VR in creating more memorable and connected events?

Event professionals are always looking for opportunities to create and deliver more memorable experiences for their clients. The potential for AR and VR in the events industry has proven to be significant, with many recent events incorporating augmented or virtual elements to enhance the attendee experience, from the website registration process through to the take-home gift bags.


NZICC editedBefore the event:
Venues and hotels are adopting these technologies to help sell their property as the perfect event location. The New Zealand International Convention Centre has included interactive floor plans on their website to show-off the venue’s facilities at a 360-degree glance. This VR technology adjusts the layout accordingly when users select capacity levels and specific event types, providing assistance when planning events such as large conferences or smaller incentive events.


Audi Q7 event editedDuring the event:
A famous example of VR in events was at the Audi Q7 launch event in 2015. Attendees were guided into a large room and given VR headsets to wear. Guests witnessed the launch of the car by watching a synchronised VR movie, showcasing the interior of the vehicle and its powerful driving capacity. The use of VR allowed each guest to experience the vehicle from the best seat in the house – the driver’s seat. The Audi launch event created viral noise with guests sharing the experience and excitement with their social networks, amplifying Audi’s reach tenfold.


Opera House event editedThere are also opportunities with VR to allow others to experience parts of your event, even if they missed out on a ticket or could not physically attend. In August 2015, the Sydney Opera House and its principal partner Samsung recorded parts of the sold-out Future Classic 10th Anniversary concert and created a virtual reality experience made for YouTube’s 360-degree video function. More than 20 remote-controlled cameras were used to create the video, which was shared on YouTube after the event for the public to experience from the comfort of their home – the perfect solution for those who dislike large crowds!


AR Business Cards editedAR is becoming particularly popular at exhibitions and trade shows, allowing exhibitors to pitch large devices and equipment within a limited space. Attendees can zoom, move, rotate and manipulate products to take a deeper look into the product’s features and even the smallest of details. Transparent LED or OLED displays create AR windows for attendees to experience a product in a three-dimensional, virtual environment. Alternatively, augmented business cards can be handed out to attendees who can scan them through an app on a smart device, which then projects a virtual replica of the company’s products – acting as a virtual catalogue.


What are the challenges for AR & VR in events?
As exciting and opportunistic as it is, it’s important to keep some level of realism in mind as certain limits lie in the accessibility and quality of the technology available. Recent movements in AR and VR have been primarily driven by the gaming industry, with smartphone companies still trying to play catch-up. The lack of AR and VR integration in smartphones means the technology isn’t as accessible or as high-quality for the everyday consumer. This would require event organisers to supply the hardware needed to access the technology, adding extra costs and resources. Furthermore, the time and resources required to develop AR & VR content also propose challenges for event organisers, especially with AR as 3D product models and apps can be expensive and difficult to develop.


Looking to the future…
Ahead of the launch of the iPhone 8 in September this year, Apple has hinted at an AR partnership, competing with Microsoft and Google in the race to be number one in AR. As smartphone companies perfect the AR & VR implementation, the app ecosystem will explode, generating more event management apps based on the technology further increasing the demand and driving down the prices for accompanying hardware. The AR & VR landscape is expected to change dramatically in the coming months, and the impact this will have on the events industry is not to be underestimated.


AR and VR are the future of connected experiences, and guests will soon expect more immersive, engaging experiences, putting pressure on event organisers to deliver above and beyond anything they’ve ever done before. When choosing a corporate events company to assist with your next event, make sure you partner with an event management company that can deliver on creating memorable experiences utilising the latest developments in event technology.


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