August 20, 2019
By Hannah Huston
Augmented reality and virtual reality are two of the biggest buzzwords in the technology industry right now, and for good reason. The technology, although not brand new, is developing rapidly and has huge potential to impact nearly every industry. From the fun implementation of AR in the popular Pokémon Go game to the life-changing uses in a hospital setting to practice difficult surgeries, there seems to be no limit to the impact of AR and VR on various industries. As an event professional, you are probably more interested in ways you can use this technology at your events. There is an endless amount of ways you can incorporate these new technologies. Whether alone or in tandem, AR/VR technology is sure to engage and excite your attendees.

What’s The Difference?

Although virtual and augmented realities are often talked about interchangeably, the two technologies are not the same. In fact, each technology can enhance and impact your event in their own unique ways.

Virtual Reality

To put it simply, virtual reality transports you into a completely different world using technology to recreate a real-life setting. A VR experience involves multiple devices, such as headgear, gloves, olfactory devices, that are necessary to create a multi-sensory experience, designed to truly immerse the viewer in the new reality.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality gives a digital overlay to the real world. In order to accomplish this, AR requires less equipment than its virtual counterpart. Using just your phone, AR incorporates the environment around you while placing digital effects that you can view and interact with through your screen.  Pokémon Go and SnapChat Filters are probably the best-known examples of AR in action. Additionally, these two platforms appear to be the starting point for when all industries hit the gas on AR/VR technologies.

Virtually Attend an Event

For all the networking and learning opportunities they provide, conferences require a huge time commitment. Time spent traveling and at the event can be huge, especially if the event is multi-day and/or far away from an attendee’s home. This is time spent away from work, friends, and, probably most important, family. For this reason, many people shy away from longer conferences or events that are farther from their homes. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to solve this by “virtually” attending a conference? Instead of spending hours traveling and days away from home and work, you could attend the conference from the comfort of your own home or office, and still feel like you’re right there in the moment! Sounds too good to be true, right? Wrong. With the help of technology, a scenario like this may soon be the new norm. “Virtual Attendees” would be a win-win for both the attendee and the event planner. The attendee would have to take less time away from their other commitments and the event planner would have attendees they might not have had otherwise. This is especially important for VIP attendees, who generally have less time to spend onsite. With virtual attendance, they can pop in and out whenever

Show Them The Impact

Benefit dinners and galas are always exciting nights, but they also need to be successful. In order for this to happen, they're often filled with long speeches to encourage donations. These tactics work, but what if you could completely immerse your attendees in your cause? Transport your attendees to the issue. Show them the need firsthand and increase the success of your event.  Charity: Water decided to take the “seeing is believing” mentality at their annual benefit dinner to the next level. To do this, they gave each attendee a VR device and asked them to put it on. When they did, each attendee was transported to a small village in Africa where they experienced a 13-year-old girl receiving clean drinking water for the first time in her life. The immersive experience was so captivating and moving that the benefit dinner raised far more than originally planned. Other events have created similar VR videos to transport their attendees for a good cause, and the results were the same – increased donations. Attendees of the Charity : Water Event Watching the VR Experience

Virtually Tour a Product Floor

The immersiveness of virtual reality is what makes it a truly unique experience and one that can instantly wow your attendees. Imagine going to a brewer’s festival. Wouldn’t it be cool to actually experience the brewing process? To understand how your favorite beverage is made?  That's where virtual reality comes in. Using a VR headset and audio, attendees are transported straight to the brewery floor. Their senses can be heightened further by the sounds of the brewery, the smell of the hops, and a beer to sip on while they experience how it's made. Even if you’re not a beer lover, this sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? The multisensory experience VR creates is extremely unique, giving the full story of how the beer they're sipping ended up in their hands. Budweiser implemented this exact idea in their beer garage at SXSWi. It was a complete success. Attendees loved the high tech experience and were lined up out the door to test it out. But VR has so many more implementations than just experiencing the full circle of the beer in your hand, and this technology is going to play a huge role in the event sphere. Attendees experience the brewery floor through VR headsets in a room full of hops and other effects to make them feel as if they're there

Give Your Attendees Peace of Mind

As great as VR is, you should be aware your attendees may have some security concerns about the technology. Due to the immersiveness of a VR experience, attendees need to be willing to completely leave behind their current world. This means leaving behind purses, computers, wallets, etc., which may not be something everyone is comfortable doing in the middle of a busy expo hall. In order to help make your attendees comfortable, create a secure VR experience. For example, you may want to set up a smaller room like Budweiser did at their Beer Garage. This allows your attendees to feel comfortable setting down their bags and possessions without the fear of something happening. Even if you can't set up an isolated space, that doesn't mean you can't give your attendees peace of mind. If a separate room isn't possible, create a small storage area at your booth for your attendees to place their possessions inside. Virtual reality is sure to be a success, but for the best possible experience make sure you give your attendees peace of mind.

Augmented Reality Name Assistant

As cool as virtual reality is, it's a big investment of time and money. If you still want to impress your attendees with a unique tech-forward experience but aren’t quite sure you’re ready to jump headfirst into VR, augmented reality may be the perfect solution for you! AR can be used in many of the same ways as virtual reality. In fact, AR may even have a broader range of uses since it requires a less immersive experience. Where VR requires a headset with audio at a minimum, AR only requires your mobile device or AR glasses (think Google Glass or HoloLens) to create the augmented overlay. Sounds cool, but how would it be put into action? Imagine going to your next networking event and running into someone you’ve been introduced to multiple times. You don't remember their name, but it is now socially unacceptable for you to ask them. Imagine walking up to someone and via the facial recognition glasses you’re wearing, their name, title, company, etc. pops up. This completely eliminates that awkward moment when you have to admit you can't remember their name. The technology could even be applied to a mobile device, though it wouldn’t be as subtle.

Augmented Reality Product Features

Whether or not you’ve been to a car show before, you can probably know they require a lot of space. Between the hundreds of cars and thousands of attendees, the venue has to be large. What if there was a way to reduce the number of cars required and at the same time increase what attendees saw? With augmented reality, you can! Simply by holding their phone up to a car, the attendee could see it in every color option, with different interiors and features. Attendees would no longer be shopping blind, and instead could see the exact model they want in any color. This idea could be taken even further by removing cars altogether. It may seem far-fetched now, but in a few years, it may seem weird to have not adopted the technology sooner. Silver car in background with iPad showing how ar can change the car color to green on your device

Displays Using AR

Event decorations are one of the biggest things that tie a theme together. With the uprise in social media, event décor has had to step it up in order to create “insta-worthy” moments and please attendees. Take your event decorations up a notch by using augmented reality to create engaging and unique experiences for your attendees. Not sure how this would work? Check out what this museum did to display their most prized paintings, even though they had been stolen years before and never recovered. With the help of AR, your event decorations can hit home a theme while engaging and “wow-ing” your attendees.    
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