FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELTS — TECHNOLOGY IS HERE TO STAY!
May 2016 | By Hala Bissada, CFRE
It is clear that technology impacts our day to day lives and the event space is not exempt. It has become something we cannot live without–the genie is out of the bottle. If you are not using and embracing technology at your events right now – from using check-in and auction software and event apps, to creating immersive environments with projection mapping and lighting, then you are not current. Attendees will find your guest experience behind the times and worse will tell their friends, colleagues and family about it.
Technology can be overwhelming; for some even alienating. But as event planners we need to be comfortable in this high tech, increasingly virtual world so that you can remain relevant. Technology will help shape your guest experience to an unprecedented degree. In this article, I talk about the future of events and what is coming down the pipe.
PROJECTION MAPPING & LARGE FORMAT LASER PROJECTION
I worked on the Royal Ontario Museum’s (ROM) 100th anniversary gala and had the opportunity to use 3D projection mapping on the Museum’s multi-storey white walls to create an immersive and unique experience for the guests. However, this was only possible because of the huge in kind contribution of the technical company and the multi-media company providing content. In the future, technological advancements will make projection mapping more accessible; it will be easier for technical companies to execute and content creation will be less expensive. The mapping will be faster and the projection quality better—for example, you will be able to project floor to ceiling and wall to wall for a completely immersive environment within a reasonable budget. It will become more common and more expected and it will to some degree replace physical décor.
While laser projection is in its infancy now and cost prohibitive for most, it will provide unprecedented brightness, colour, and image quality, and will set the stage for the next generation of large-scale visual experiences. Giant screens, 3D cinema, theme parks, projection mapping and other colossal productions can now be scaled-up to previously unattainable levels, enabling the most memorable and impressive spectacles imaginable. Content creators, designers and directors have the ability to marvel audiences like never before.
WEB-CONFERENCING & WEB-STREAMING
Web-based real time communication has been around for some time now but continues to improve in quality and capacity. It has changed the way we do business on several fronts, including being able to access experts from around the world to contribute their talents towards building your guest experience. Platforms like the BigMarker give hosts the ability to not only accommodate as many as 100 participants at a time on a web conference, but also the ability to allow nine of those participants to share live content via webcams. These platforms include both recording and playback options in terms of screen sharing and videos shared in the conferences, as well as the ability to upload recorded content for group review.
Live streaming your event used to be expensive and very technical, often requiring satellite uplinks. Technological advancements have already started to make sharing your events easier, faster and more cost effective, especially now that it can be done through the internet which is also now more reliable and widespread.
BYOD (BRING YOUR OWN DEVICE)
Today, people do not go anywhere without their mobile phones and other personal devices and this is a key way to personally connect with your audience, especially at large events. You want your guests interacting with social media, using event apps, etc. therefore it is important that there is no interruption of service.
Interconnectivity for events with large audiences has become incredibly important. For example, Rogers has spent $5 million dollars on infrastructure in the Roger’s Centre so when there are 40,000 spectators in the venue they have appropriate network capacity. In addition, portable capacity and the ability to beam in capacity for a 100km radius is now possible. This is ideal for events like outdoor concerts held in rural areas so that you do not overwhelm the local system.
Look at what Google’s Project Loon is accomplishing. Many of us think of the Internet as a global community. But two-thirds of the world’s population does not yet have Internet access— that is 5 billion people. Project Loon is a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters. Having this access to the Internet is changing lives.
ROBOTS & DRONES
Because Arduino chips (used to program robots) and products like Raspberry Pi (tiny computers) are getting to be affordable and much more powerful, it is becoming a reality to use robots to create a wow factor for the guest experience—for example perhaps checking people in or directing guests to the event as greeters, taking photos of guests or shooting videos, serving drinks, or even making drinks. There is already something called Bionic Bar on a cruise ship, where robotic arms are making drinks and serving them to guests.
Event planners may even become obsolete one day, replaced with virtual event planners or robots. But for now, I think we are safe. They don’t quite have creative and social intelligence…YET!
Drones are already being used to deliver food, invitations, or gifts for your event. They can also be used to capture aerial footage of your events. There has been explosive growth in this area, despite the fact that the consumer technology is still in its infancy. The potential for using them at your events is limitless.
Today, we have more information than ever. The importance of all that data will extend to how you will customize your events in the future. You will have a better understanding of your audience even before they arrive. You will have access to their preferences like never before so that you can create the perfect event just for them.
Attendees will also have incredible access to other attendees and key things about them. You will be able to use your phone to identify people you want to meet in the room and know exactly where they are. You will be able to send them a meeting evite to see if they will talk to you right then, right there.
Venues of the future will be more turn-key than ever before. You will have incredible infrastructure built into the venue. There will be no need for AV companies and décor companies to bring in massive loads of equipment and physical décor pieces. At the touch of a button on a panel you will be able to create immersive experiences with lighting and projection. Powerful projectors will be the size of phones. All built into each venue’s existing systems.
This is becoming huge and more accessible on the consumer level. The use of 3D printing has blown up in the past couple of years and it has already made its entrance into the event industry and the potential applications are huge. There will be everything from 3D printed food to décor pieces sculpted with a 3D printer.
Virtual reality is seeing resurgence.
Although cost prohibitive for most, in time you will be able to use virtual reality (VR) to give guests the opportunity to experience your event even if they are unable to be there in person. VR is a computer-generated simulation of a 3D environment that transports a person by using a high-resolution head mounted display (HMD). Virtual Reality (VR) is the next frontier of immersive experiences. VR takes users to another world, a world of endless possibilities.
We will be using VR to trump 2D and 3D floor planning tools by helping planners visualize events in ways never before possible. You will just need to pop on your VR headset to view concept renderings. These renderings will be brought to life, surround planners with a 360° preview of their future events including lighting, staging, table set-up and décor.
Wearable technology is being used now and will become more commonplace. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) wristbands already allow you to track guests’ movements, accept cashless payments, connect guests to social media accounts, and replace paper tickets.
Ever since Google launched its Google Glass project, the reality of wearable eyewear for the masses seems to be inevitable. Since then, developers from around the world have been trying to take on Google Glass by creating their own wearable display glasses making the landscape more competitive. Instead of just being able take a photo or video, smart glasses have the potential to do so much more. With capabilities such as being able to integrate augmented reality with your own, feeding you live information during your activities, projecting images at a high resolution, and even letting you manipulate 3D objects with ease, it’s only a matter of time before smart glasses become a part of our daily lives.
Down the road, the bracelets or glasses may not even be needed as you may be able to use your fingerprint or retinas to register for events or make payments.
For some, technological advancements may be a very scary proposition. But I think we can all agree that it is here to stay– so fasten your seat belts.
This article was inspired by the CES Live 2016 Future Watch Panel: What Will Events Look Like in 2025?
Hala thanks the contributions of the following:
- Rob Sandolowich, Vice-President, Westbury National
- Alan Smithson, Shokreative
- Grail Noble, CEO & Founder, YellowHouse Events
- Hongkiai Technology Design Inspiration Blog: 10 Forthcoming Augmented Reality & Smart Glasses You Can Buy
- Christie Digital
- Google Project Loon
This article was originally published in the May 2016 issue of Canadian Special Events Magazine.