©2017 Guest post by Tim Brown, GES

Augmented Reality (AR) is an emerging, but nevertheless effective technology platform that is beginning to impact the event industry in various ways.

AR uses a device to view a real-world environment that is augmented by other digital elements, giving consumers new and exciting ways to experience content.

With AR revenue projected to reach $90 billion by 2020, it’s apparent that smart event marketers, exhibitors and venue owners need to harness the potential of this new technology. Whether you’re hosting an exhibit or just attending a conference, AR will soon become the norm for events far and wide.

Here are five major developments in AR that will impact events, exhibitions and venues in the next few years.

1) The Introduction of AR Smartphones

AR has been growing in the trade show industry for a while now, but the lack of adequate mobile platforms has left many event managers with a bad taste in their mouth. With the development of AR-enabled smartphones, exhibitors now have more opportunities to connect with attendees and consumers through immersive experiences.

For example, the Asus ZenPhone and Lenovo’s Phab2 Pro smartphones feature native AR capabilities, fully integrated with Google’s Tango platform.

Launched in 2014, Google’s Tango is an AR computing platform that’s being integrated into various consumer devices, like smartphones and tablets. With the release of the aforementioned devices, they’ve created the first Tango-enabled smartphones on the market.

This isn’t just proof that AR is on the path to becoming a mainstay feature of future smartphones, it shows that Google is investing heavily into the technology as well. As these become integrated into more and more devices, event goers will be better outfitted to take advantage of the technology.

2) Better, More Powerful AR Chipsets

The development of new AR chipsets has been slow up until recently. But, with the rise in consumer interest for AR devices, the need for compatible chip technology rises with it. This year, we’ll witness the tipping point in AR hardware development, with new products like the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 for Android and expected announcements from AMD and Intel.

While this may not be the most exciting news to the everyday consumer, developers are certainly taking notice of the growing capabilities of a once inconsistent technology. This year, developers will create better-performing AR, giving trade show exhibitors more advanced technology that is flexible enough to meet their different needs.

3) AR – An Effective Force for Retail Exhibitors

With the transformation that AR is currently going through, retailers have finally started embracing the technology. Unlike Virtual Reality (VR), AR does not obstruct the view of a user’s surroundings, but rather, supplements the real world with images, text, video, graphics and more, making it especially effective in retail. Wondering how that couch rwill look in your living room? With AR it’s easy for retailers to provide imaging and technology to help consumers make more informed decisions they can feel confident in.

Since 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone, it’s perfectly reasonable for retail stores to transform those devices into marketing tools. These features can also help deliver timely, relevant sales, coupons or deal alerts.

If you’re attending an event for the retail industry, you can apply some of these same techniques to your exhibit. You can place products out on display to be scanned, which can then provide coupons to the attendee. Or, you can do something similar to Lowe’s AR app, which lets the user see what flooring, appliances and other store products will look like when combined in a kitchen, for example.

4) Industries are Hiring More & More AR Developers

The growth of AR developer jobs has been exploding in the past year, with Salesforce reporting that AR developers receive one of the highest salaries among tech specializations. With the growth of the industry, you can bet that there’ll be more demand for AR developers in the months and years ahead.

If you’re company wants to implement AR at an upcoming event, your event manager will need access to a smart, skilled AR developer in the near future who can implement the technology into the exhibit.

5) AR is Beating VR in the Popularity Race

The development of both VR and AR has been somewhat side-by-side for the past half decade, but that’s all over now. While VR has been producing some powerful headsets and other hardware, AR is more applicable for everyday technology users. After all, you most likely wouldn’t go walking through an exhibition floor wearing an Oculus Rift.

The market is trending towards AR for the masses, while VR will still have its advantages for users more interested in gaming, entertainment and fully immersive experiences. Consider carefully which industry you serve before choosing VR technology, and recognize the advantages that implementing AR over VR has in your overall event plan.

Tim Brown is a marketing associate for GES. He is excited about the giant opportunity presented by trade show marketing and helping represent brands with live-event technologies.

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