Augmented Reality for Events in 2019: What You Need to Know

3 July 2019

Over the last few months a real buzz has been building around augmented reality (AR) in the events sector. Recent statistics show the AR software market booming - it's forecasted to be worth $35+ billion by 2022 (Statista). And with usable, affordable AR tech increasingly available, innovative businesses across sectors are looking to AR to help them engage new customers, partners and resellers at events.

Recent Statista figures also predict that the live events sector’s use of AR will grow by nearly 400% between 2020 and 2025, and it’s easy to see why – the technology offers incredible opportunities to engage, inform and entertain prospects, partners and colleagues.

It’s a brave new world. Let’s dive in!

What is AR?

Unlike virtual reality (VR), which completely immerses people using a visual headset (often with extras like headphones and touch-sensitive gloves), augmented reality (AR) keeps people in the real world.

Using more budget-friendly and sociable equipment – often just a mobile phone or iPad – AR adds a digital overlay to the world around the user when viewed through a device. That allows organisations to ‘add’ new objects into a room, or place digital effects or annotations on things that are already there.

Probably the most familiar pieces of AR tech today are the game Pokémon Go (which allows people to search for digital creatures in the real world), and Snapchat filters (which add digital elements – make up, animal ears, accessories etc. – to videos of people’s faces in real time).

How can AR be incorporated into events?

AR represents a unique opportunity to create high impact, memorable experiences that will stay with attendees – the tech itself introduces an unforgettable element of the unexpected, and can be utilised to increase interactivity and engagement across an event.

Let’s take a look at just a few of the best ways of incorporating AR into events:

Product Launches, Exhibitions and Demos

Imagine how much slicker, more compact and more attendee-friendly a product launch or exhibition could be if you could reduce the amount of physical product being displayed, while maximising the products or variants your attendees could see.

AR is the answer here – take the classic example of a car show. With similar tech to IKEA’s Place app (which allows people to view true-to-scale digital images of products in situ in their home), exhibitors could massively reduce the number of vehicles they need to transport and display, while offering attendees the opportunity to view any car in any colour or spec.

AR can even be used to launch products before they exist – American telecoms giant Sprint launched their 5G offer before the tech was commercially available, utilising AR to take event attendees on a journey into a 5G-enabled future city.

Facilitate Better Administration and Relationships 

Facial recognition is a useful AR function for events. For organisers, it could be used as an administrative tool to speed up registration – as well as the potential to streamline the process, this could add a memorable ‘futuristic’ aspect to events for tech brands.              

For attendees, facial recognition software integrated into wearable tech (like Google Glass) could display other guest’s names, companies and job titles when they looked at them, removing the need for awkward introductions and enabling natural, high-value networking.

Augmented Site Visits 

AR also offers a huge opportunity for venues to really set themselves apart from the competition, and for clients to be certain that a venue is right for them.

Often venue site visits are to an empty room – when it’s hard for any event space to really shine – or to a space that is already set up for an upcoming event – when it can be hard to picture it set up differently.

But imagine being able to view the room through the camera of a phone or iPad (or slipping on a pair of AR glasses for an immersive 360° experience), and being able to dial through overlaid images of the room set up for different events. That adds huge value – and it’s an offer that we’re expecting to become standard in the next few years.

AR more than deserves the buzz it’s currently enjoying in the events sector. It’s not just about catching a Pikachu or adding bunny ears to your selfie video anymore – AR offers big opportunities to streamline an event’s delivery, increase its memorability, and improve attendee engagement and brand loyalty.

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