For those that work in event management, the search is always on for the latest ideas that will make the next event more powerful and memorable than the last. Conferences, conventions, and trade shows are continually competing for attention. They are competing with a variety of new events produced each year. They also compete with tightening budgets that are limiting travel. And now, with the always-on digital world, they are competing with online opportunities that can often offer a dynamic experience without the need to travel or book a hotel. To keep people coming and ensure that they have a memorable experience, savvy event management pros are turning to Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) to add an entirely new dimension to the event experience.
The Difference Between AR and VR
Understanding the difference between AR and VR can help event management better understand which type of technology is best for the setting and purpose. There are applications for both technologies at events. There may be opportunities to use both AR and VR at the same event, using the unique features of each to achieve different goals.
AR enhances what we can already see with our eyes. In some cases, AR is a simpler technology to begin with, because it can be used without specialized equipment. With the right software, attendees can just use their smartphone or tablet to view information and digital effects overlayed on the physical world seen through the device’s camera and screen.
VR used correctly, can create an even more powerful experience by actually transporting attendees to a different world. VR is far more dependent on equipment, which can make things more difficult and expensive, especially for a large number of people. At its most basic, VR requires a headset to engage the user in the visual experience. For even more immersive opportunities, headphones, haptic feedback gloves, and other accessories can help create an authentic multi-sensory experience.
Using AR and VR for Events
Enhancing an event with AR or VR comes down to a melding of technology and creativity. For AR, it begins with event management professionals considering what part of the event they would like to bring to life. For instance, if the event is featuring new product demonstrations, AR can be used to allow attendees to get more information by merely aiming their smartphone at the items. Through the lens of their smartphone, they could see more detailed product information or even have the chance to customize the product in real time. For instance, aiming a smartphone or tablet at a new fashion item could reveal pricing, sizing, and ordering information and also allow the viewer to see the apparel in every possible color. AR can also bring an entire event space to life, allowing participants to engage with objects that are only virtually present. Contests and virtual scavenger hunts can a great way to leverage VR to make an event more fun and memorable.
With VR the possibilities are virtually limitless. With the right equipment and software, your participants can be transported anywhere. Some have suggested that, in the future, participants could attend an event using VR without ever leaving home or the office. However, since most event planners are still trying to get people to participate in person, it starts by considering how the event could be enhanced by allowing participants to be somewhere else. Attendees could be transported to a manufacturing plant where products are created. Imagine allowing people to see, first hand, new manufacturing technologies at work. Or, they could witness the impact of an organization on the other side of the planet without leaving the event. VR can even be used to simply give attendees a chance to get out of the walls of the convention center and take a break on a beach or mountaintop.
The average event management professional may be overwhelmed by the technology and possibilities of AR and VR. It can seem that way if you try to implement every option at once. Just remember, it doesn’t start with the technology. It begins with creativity. Begin by thinking of different ways you can enhance your next event with AR or VR. Once you have ideas, then begin to look for equipment and software providers who can help you bring them to life.