In the world of events, transformative technologies like AI and AR/VR are reinventing the game with a focus on unique experiences and a customer-centric approach. Nearly 20% of meeting planners expect increased pressure to stay ahead of the curve by integrating the latest technology in the next five years, according to a report by IACC. Here is a look at the key tech trends in the events sector:
Virtual & Augmented Reality
Immersive technologies such as AR/VR are becoming the backbone of a growing trend in the industry known as “experiential storytelling” – a way for brands or organisations to engage more closely with users. For instance, Six Square – Austin’s Black Cultural District - teamed up with city exploration app creator Vamonde to launch virtual tours of The District for SXSW 2019, Austin’s annual film, interactive media and music festival.
Meanwhile across the pond, the Las Vegas tourism board launched a VR experience in May in London to encourage people to book a trip to Sin City. The ‘Vegas: Alter Your Reality’ activation, available through a VR headset, featured graffiti artist Insa’s interpretation of the city with a real DJ set and drinks to offer a realistic flavour of the city.
A subset of VR/AR, hologram technology is increasingly attracting the attention of event organisers. Ever since the sensational Tupac Shakur appearance in hologram form at the 2012 Coachella festival, so-called “digital resurrection” has become big business for the industry, with a plethora of deceased artists brought back to life in digital form to perform at a live concert.
Holographic effects can also be used for live event presentations such as talks and conferences. Animated content floating around a presenter on a stage can produce a more exciting and engaging experience. Leading hologram experiences company MDH Hologram went even further by making it the heart of the show at the 36th America’s Cup Overture in Cowes, UK, where it unveiled the design of the new America’s Cup yacht in holographic form to an audience of captivated VIPs.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Since AI will become ubiquitous to assist humans in daily tasks, it has applications for all aspects of event organisations. One example is in production. The BBC’s R&D team is currently researching ways to use automation to cover the hundreds of stages at the Edinburgh Festival or broadcast every music festival in the UK – efficiently and at reduced costs. AI-based systems could cut between virtual cameras or manage lighting and sound on their own. At live events like festivals or concerts, smart chatbots can guide visitors or answer their questions quickly through an event app or a messaging platform. “AI technology allows [us] to use data, multiple interfaces (messaging apps, voice) and multiple communication channels to increase event attendee engagement and provide unique event experience,” says Eventumbot, an event communication and automation platform powered by AI and chatbot technology.
AI, of course, can also be used for various live stunts to attract crowds and generate publicity: this year, for instance, the Netherland’s Rewire music festival featured a hybrid human-AI performance by British musician Actress and Young Paint, the artist’s AI learning programme.
Digital payments technology
A recent survey of more than 800 festival goers commissioned by tappit revealed that there is currently a high demand for cashless methods of payments at festivals. “84% of festival goers don’t want the hassle of waiting in line alongside with their ongoing concerns about carrying cash – it’s all about enjoying the live experience with friends and family,” said Jason Thomas, Global CEO of tappit. Beyond obvious benefits to improve the customer journey, RFID payments also offer organisers the chance to increase their revenue with greater spend and increased efficiency.
It’s hard to predict how and which technology will reinvent the world of live events, but one thing is certain: it’s not about innovation per se, but using tech as an enabler to provide the seamless and enjoyable experience attendees increasingly expect.