It’s an exciting time to be working in the events industry with new and immersive technologies becoming genuine options to provide customers with unique and memorable experiences. I recently attended the EWL (Event Professionals Who Lunch) networking lunch to discuss technology, and specifically how augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) can be used in events.
So firstly, what is AR and VR? VR is currently largely accessed by a headset and creates a virtual word for you to exist and interact within and disregards reality. The extent to which you can do this depends on the software and the device. Popular hardware brands are currently Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive but more is being developed as we are at the cusp of the VR revolution.
AR views the real world through a device, whether it be through the camera on a phone or special glasses, it integrates the real world with technology. For example, holding a phone with the camera on over a still image on paper which has a code recognised by the phone for then you to see the image brought to life on the phone but still remain still on the paper.
If you plan to use experiential technology in your event or activity it’s important to understand why you’re using it. Are you wanting to run a VR game that isn’t related to your product or message to simply pull people into the vicinity of your activity in the hope that their interest will turn to what you want them to focus on? This is probably akin to displaying a bowl of Celebrations on your table at an exhibition. The people will come and enjoy this but then how many will be interested in your product? Can something more effective be done?
Try not to use tech as a gimmick, particularly as it will become less of a novelty in the coming years. How can you use it to enhance the experience of your product? Maybe try a virtual tour of your factory or behind the scenes of a space most people don’t get to see? There was a great example of Meantime Brewery, in Greenwich, selling virtual tours and tastings where the customer simply downloaded the app and were sent real samples of beer so they could take the tour from their living room on their smart device and taste the beers at the appropriate times. A multisensory experience is highly engaging. If you can combine VR with an additional taste, sound, temperature, smell or other experience it will certainly make the activity more memorable.
The technology should be able to make current activities easier or provide an opportunity that cannot be done without it. If you’re selling clothes, why not let your attendees or customers try on clothes virtually and add a bespoke option at the click of a button. Find out about the people you want to reach and what could be done to make their experiences easier or more enjoyable and how can technology bridge this gap?
Generally, VR lets your attendees or customers go to places and have experiences which they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise and AR provides extra information or an additional experience to what they would typically have. Whatever the key objectives you want to achieve from your event or activity, give your customers more than they typically would have without it and an experience they will share with others and won’t forget.