Augmented Reality (AR) has the potential to enrich in-person events and elevate the attendee experience exponentially.
This exciting, immersive technology enables digital information to be superimposed and integrated into our physical environment. What do I mean by this? Unlike Virtual Reality (VR), where you leave your physical reality behind to enter a completely computer-generated environment, AR is rooted in the real world. Through using tech such as digital glasses, a smartphone, or a tablet, the virtual enters your surroundings, immersing you in content that can include three-dimensional models, graphics, text, and audio.
When thoughtfully applied, AR amplifies knowledge, connection, and creativity. In my book Augmented Human: How Technology is Shaping the New Reality, I explore how AR and related technologies, such as AI, can have a positive impact on humanity — it’s not about leaving our reality behind or supplanting human imagination, it’s about using it to extend our human capacities in new and positive ways.
So, with that in mind, here’s how event planners can use this technology to enhance their work and their attendee experiences:
1. Event Planning and Visualization
AR is a powerful visualization tool. It can help to realize concepts that are real or imagined and share these ideas across a group, whether they’re in the same physical location or in different geographies.
For example, Cirque du Soleil partnered with Microsoft to use AR to visualize and plan their intricate stage sets to scale digitally prior to construction. This helped to communicate the vision and get buy-in across multiple stakeholders and actually see what the audience will experience before spending the time, money, and effort to actually build something.
Likewise, event planners can use AR to instantly transform their venues and preview potential stage set-ups, seating plans, lighting, etc. This can be done both onsite and remotely, with AR also allowing event planners to sketch their ideas live atop reality and turn their brainstorms into action.
2. Immersive Learning and Audience Engagement
Paired with storytelling, AR can render concepts into immersive learning experiences to further engage attendees during and after presentations. For example, through the power of AR, a facilitator can take attendees under the sea to plant saplings on the ocean bed and witness the effect on an accelerated timescale.
In my work at the World Economic Forum, we’re exploring how metaverse technologies like AR, VR, and AI can enhance understanding and collaboration to catalyze action. There’s a big difference between saying something and actually immersing people in what’s being said through highly engaging visuals.
3. Event Navigation and Wayfinding
A recent partnership between Live Nation and Snap demonstrated how AR can make festivals not only more fun, but also more navigable for attendees. This not only includes interactive AR maps for user-friendly wayfinding, but also tools to help attendees find their friends through visual aids like AR pathways that can guide you to their location.
These tools can be applied to events and conferences as well, helping attendees to discover sessions. navigate a trade show floor, network with other attendees, and explore a new city by identifying local landmarks and offering recommendations.
Today, this is all done via smartphones, but with more and more AR glasses entering the market, we’ll soon be doing all of this simply by looking around.
We all know that creating space for and encouraging mindfulness at events can help attendees reset their focus and feel more present and energized.
I’ve been designing human-centred immersive experiences for 18 years and am currently working on a meditative AR collaboration that is powered by a person wearing a Brain Controlled Interface (BCI). The immersive content responds to your EEG neurofeedback, so as you reach certain states of focus or a quiet mind, the wearable device picks up pattern changes and feeds the AR meditation accordingly. This experience is also compatible with an Apple Watch and is responsive to your heart rate.
Examples like this could be used in quiet reflective spaces at events as an aid to restore attendees, calm social anxiety, and even inspire creativity. One of the unique features of Apple’s new headset, the Vision Pro, is the ability to dial up or dial down reality and select your level of immersion. This is another device for event planners to keep their eyes on.
The National Theatre in London is using AR glasses during live performances to provide real-time captioning for audience members with hearing loss. Subtitles are superimposed on the wearers field of view, enabling them to keep their eyes on the stage. Without AR glasses, captions are typically provided on the side of the stage, creating a ping pong type effect between reading and watching the performer.
This is a great example of human-centred design enabling the wearer to be present and enhancing the activity at hand through AR. Event planners can apply this technology to support accessibility across their event and offer real-time translation in multiple languages to engage global audiences.
AR is rapidly evolving, and one thing is certain — it’s no longer just about the technology; it’s about defining how we want to live in the real world and how this new technology can help us get there.
Dr. Helen Papagiannis is a globally recognized authority on immersive technologies and spatial computing. She has dedicated nearly two decades of her life towards this ever-evolving technology, exploring its potential to expand human intelligence and amplify human possibility.
Contact us to learn more about Helen and how she’s helping today’s business leaders prepare for our virtual future.