Have you ever heard of the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive? Surely the Google Glass? If you haven’t, allow us to explain. These are all virtual reality and augmented reality headsets making waves this year. With virtual reality proving to be big in the world of technology, it is important to know how it could impact the event planning industry.
What is Virtual and Augmented Reality?
Virtual Reality (VR):
Virtual reality is a three dimensional completely computer generated 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.
Above: an example of virtual reality
Virtual reality should not be confused with 360° photos and video, which is simply a still image or recording captured in the round. We provide an example of this type of video later in the article.
NBC is scheduled to broadcast 85 hours of the 2016 Rio Olympics in 360° video. This includes the opening and closing ceremonies, and sports like men’s basketball, gymnastics, track and field, and fencing.
Augmented Reality (AR):
Augmented reality combines both computer generated elements and the reality to create an augmented world. With augmented reality, viewers interact with computer generated overlays as they move within the real world.
Above: an example of augmented reality
The overwhelming success of Pokémon Go shows that AR is here to stay. In less than a month, Pokémon Go 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. These staggering numbers not only show the drastic popularity of the game, but that the general public is willing to commit to AR technology.
Why Should Event Planners Care?
Now you may be wondering, what does VR and AR have to do with event planning? With so much potential, VR and AR have the ability to change the way we discuss, attend, and interact at events.
Sarah Yeats, Client Services Director at Sledge, recently discussed her thoughts on the industry's next big thing:
"I think people are realizing the potential and embracing the technology. You can really put yourself or others into an experience / space that you can fully experience for yourself. This is ideal for business in foreign countries as you can bring the place to them if traveling isn’t an option... The tech is becoming more affordable and we are starting to see the opportunity now which is very exciting."
Yeats, an experienced event professional, realizes the potential that AR and VR offer. Not only will this play a big role in the event tech space, but more so, it will allow attendees to garner more fulfilling experiences.
As a planner of an event, you may be used to investing a large poriton of your budget on an event venue, speakers, lodging, food and beverages, and other miscellaneous logistics. However, if you were to hold an 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 must 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. 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. Now a top executive in New York can attend an event in Australia without having to commit to long flight times and inconvenient time-zone changes.
In return, event goers will get the chance to interact with an attendee who would likely enhance the experience for everyone involved.
What if you could give an event attendee heads up turn-by-turn event directions? What if attendees could know who they're speaking with simply by donning a headset equipped with facial recognition software?
These are the sort of things that augmented reality can provide event attendees. Event goers would simply need to use an AR headset, glasses or contact lenses that paired with special event planning software. Then they could engage with your event on a deeper level thanks to rich data overlaying thier event space.
Expereince Products and Spaces
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 paste. Companies like Volvo are already working on technology that would allow potential customers the ability to engage with their cars through headsets.
Soon this technology could change the way trades shows and other events with exhibitors are operated.
In May 2016, Google I/O held a two-hour keynote where CEO Sundar Pichai and his team showcased what the company had in store for the upcoming year. They provided a live stream of the opening address on the Google I/O website and on YouTube.
In the video below, Google's event planners made it easy for anyone to turn into the live stream, and since 360° video was used, those watching remotley were able to feel closer to the action than ever before.
Above: use the directional pad in the top left corner to explore the 360° video.
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. Current, 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.