In recent years augmented reality has convincingly hit the mainstream, but what does this mean for the events industry?
Organisers are perhaps justifiably sick of constantly being told (often in EN) about the latest game-changing event tech, but it’s hard to deny the possibilities of augmented reality on the show floor.
It’s on the exhibitor side that the technology is starting to noticeably make an impact on the trade show floor. On a large scale, augmented reality can bring significant footfall and interaction to exhibition stands, with one example developed by creative agency Ekstasy in 2017 photographed by visitors over 2,000 times over four days at Bett. Visitors could see themselves mirrored on a big screen, as a hidden camera tracked their movements and then an animation interacted with them in real time.
The company’s case study of the project noted that, “VR headsets would have limited the need for a mass participation experience” – an issue often cited around the use of virtual reality at events.
From the event organiser side, there has been an intriguing growth in augmented reality wayfinding using mobile phones.
While visitors using the technology on the show floor to find their way to stands and events may be some way off, advancements in Bluetooth beacons have prompted some companies to explore AR wayfinding in buildings such as airports (including Gatwick).
“AR a really good way to drive additional revenue, ROI and to make your event space work harder,” Dave Mather, senior marketing manager at Zappar, tells EN.
Zappar’s specialism, as Mathers puts it, is being the bridge between physical and digital.
“Alongside that you’ve got data collection,” he adds. “It’s a way of collecting data in a fun, new and exciting way.”
Zappar largely uses codes, on something like a poster or graphic, which event attendees or exhibitors can scan using their own devices through an app. Looking through their phone cameras, users can then see the augmented reality experience in 2D or 3D and potentially interact with it.
Mathers acknowledges that Pokémon Go, which became a global (if brief) phenomenon when it launched in the summer of 2016.
“Most journalists cite Pokémon Go as the key, pivotal moment where AR went mainstream,” he tells EN.
Research released by Zappar and global media and marketing services company Mindshare quotes Apple CEO Tim Cook as saying: “There was this initial round of apps, and people looked at them and said, ‘this isn’t anything…’ And then step by step things start to move…and now you can’t imagine your life without apps. AR is like that. It will be dramatic.”
The report stated that, while “awareness and usage of AR is currently low, over half (55 per cent) of the people we surveyed agreed that ‘it would be a good thing if you could point your phone at any object and get additional information’. Despite the current AR landscape predominantly delivering one-off experiences, over a third (36 per cent), rising to half (50 per cent) of 18-34-year-olds agreed that they can ‘think of many ways that AR could fit into their lives’.”
Inconclusive, perhaps, but while it may be early days for AR at exhibitions the tech may well be one to watch.