In 2015, the global B2B events industry was worth an incredible $29.3bn – and 2018 looks set to continue the trend of steady growth and increased investment for this vital and thriving market.
That’s good news for emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR). AR in particular is gaining popularity in the events industry, with innovative events professionals, brand managers, and planners employing it for a variety of reasons. Trade shows, exhibitions, conferences, and festivals all rely on customer engagement, entertainment, and education, and Augmented Reality applications can help deliver all of that, and more.
If you need a quick reminder, Augmented Reality adds real-time digital information, graphics, and video to the real world environment, typically via a smartphone, tablet, or headset device.
Stand Apart by Using Augmented Reality at Events
Being an exhibitor at a busy event is a little like being a peacock. You need to be noticed, and to achieve that aim, you need to spread your big, colourful feathers, and stand apart from the crowd.
The overarching objective of using Augmented Reality for events is to differentiate your brand and your offering from the competition. Of course, beyond that primary goal, there are a range of other event goals worth pursuing by using AR. These include increasing sales, implementing product and service showcases, and enhancing event engagement.
And the good news is, events professionals now have a selection of Augmented Reality technology from which to choose when attempting to meet their goals.
Types of AR:
- Device-based AR – The simplest way to employ and enjoy Augmented Reality, device-based AR is simply a smartphone or tablet device used to interact with AR content. The most obvious example of this type of AR is Pokémon GO, but with the introduction of ARKit and ARCore on iOS and Android devices respectively, we’ll soon see a number of new and enhanced AR applications. This is easily the most accessible form of Augmented Reality, and perfect for the events industry.
- Wearable AR – The now defunct Google Glass was an early example of wearable AR, while the HoloLens from Microsoft appears to be a viable alternative. In contrast with VR headsets, a wearable AR user will still see their immediate real-world environment, but with virtual elements overlaid. Wearable devices are typically the most immersive way to experience AR, as users can freely move their heads and use their hands.
- Mirror AR – As the name suggests, this is a reflective surface upon which additional imagery or information is displayed. Mirror AR has been used in salons and clothing stores, allowing customers to view different hair and clothing styles without the need to change clothes or break out the clippers. In an event setting, mirror AR can help draw a crowd, offering a unique way to demonstrate products or entertain patrons.
- Transparent AR – The newest and most advanced form of enjoying Augmented Reality, transparent AR looks like something ripped from the pages of science fiction. But it’s very much real, utilising a transparent LED or OLED display to create a virtual, three-dimensional environment. Groups can crowd around the display at all angles, without the need to wear headsets or use their phones, and experience an immersive product demonstration.
How to Use Augmented Reality Apps for Events
The list of reasons for using Augmented Reality applications in an event setting is an ever-expanding one. The potential is quite simply limitless. But to give you some food for thought, we’ve boiled it down to three of the best:
1. Seeing is Believing
Product demonstrations are part and parcel of trade shows and conferences. But for some industries, it can be difficult to wow a captive audience. Video will only go so far to capturing the imagination of attendees; exhibitors need something more engaging. Enter Augmented Reality.
Its interactive nature allows visitors to explore content and experience another level of understanding when viewing a product’s capabilities. For example, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, car manufacturer Ford used AR to allow visitors a look under the hood of three different vehicles. This gave car enthusiasts the chance to examine the technology that underpins the latest models.
Watch the video below to see it in all its glory.
2. Drive Traffic to Your Pitch
The success of a trade show or exhibition is largely down to your ability to attract people to your booth, and keep them there long enough to listen to your pitch. You might try to entertain attendees with games loosely related to your product, offer hands-on demonstrations, or bribe them with food or drink. But one of the best ways of driving traffic is by using Augmented Reality. AR is still something of a novelty for many, and the magic has yet to wear off.
Take, for example, Pfister Faucets’ use of AR at KBIS 2017, the kitchen and bath industry’s largest trade show. They managed to make their product stand out in a room full of competing taps and pipes by offering something different.
See it in action below.
3. Create a Bigger Buzz
Engagement is vitally important, and one of the metrics against which all successful events are measured. Augmented Reality can help boost engagement levels and create buzz on social media by encouraging attendees to interact with content and share the results.
To help promote internet safety, Smoothwall used AR to stop visitors to the BETT Trade Show in their tracks, before asking them to search for a dedicated hashtag to see their pictures online.
View the interactive booth below.
Augmented Reality is still very much in its early stages, but its potential to impact the events industry is huge. Considering the current AR trends, it’s likely that exhibitions and trade shows will become less reliant on physical objects and video content when demonstrating products, which in turn could save events companies from transportation and setup costs.
And engagement levels are likely to increase, with events being gamified via AR applications, and traffic being driven by the latest and most innovative AR technology.
All in all, the future looks very bright for both the events industry and Augmented Reality.