Augmented reality and virtual reality technologies have stepped off the shelf – almost literally – and into our eyes and brains. The idea that these powerful modes of transmission were limited to entertainment alone is long gone. Several industries are already implementing hands-on versions of these technologies into their daily practices. For example, using AR/VR to learn and practice complex heart surgery, or defuse landmines, etc. These fun and interactive tools are also helping businesses with their marketing, creating bigger impacts on potential customers, especially at trade shows and product launches.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Growth TrendsOne of the fastest emerging technology trends is in the area of Extended Reality (XR), which encompasses Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR). To understand Extended Reality (XR), we’ll begin by defining three of its main components: virtual, augmented, and mixed reality.
Virtual Reality (VR) applications use headsets to fully immerse users in a computer-simulated reality. These headsets generate realistic sounds and images, engaging all five senses to create an interactive virtual world.
Augmented Reality (AR) is not a new reality, but a layer on top of your existing one. Rather than immersing users, AR relies on a device – usually the camera in your phone or tablet – to overlay digital graphics and sounds into a real-world environment. Pokémon Go and Snapchat filters are commonplace examples of this kind of technology.
Mixed Reality (MR) lies somewhere in between VR and AR. It blends real and virtual worlds to create complex environments where physical and digital elements can interact in real time. Like AR, it overlays synthetic content in a real-world environment; and like VR, this content is interactive, and users can manipulate the digital objects in their physical space.
Extended Reality (XR) is changing the landscape in a number of industries. It’s expected to grow eight-fold, reaching an estimated market size of more than $209 billion by 2022.
(Forbes, Bernard Marr, Jan. 14, 2019)
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Technology at Trade ShowsWhile trade shows can be a fun marketing platform to exhibit, launch, and demonstrate products, they’re an extremely competitive space. With increased footfall, it becomes crucial for companies not just to capture the attention of potential customers, but also retain it. Leaving behind a memorable impression of your company’s products and services can be especially helpful in converting prospects. Businesses are constantly seeking out the newest, most cutting-edge ways to marketing their products. AR and VR tech is the perfect way to achieve this, providing exhibitors the opportunity to create highly immersive experiences without boring onlookers with typical slideshows or video presentations.
AR and VR Trade Show Examples
- Gamification of Marketing: Gamification is a powerful tool that helps users learn through fun and interactive methods. The popular demand for visual platforms to learn about real-life problems and solve them through intuitive thinking and reasoning has led to the use of XR for educational experiences that provide high levels of immersive entertainment (known as “edutainment”). Organizations can create quick and colorful games to educate trade show crowds about real-life issues like logistical delays, product safety, and transport routes. These games allow people to engage with topics that might not be the most interesting things to stand around and listen to at a conference. AR/ VR instead gives audiences a first-hand glimpse into the workings of the organization.
- Virtual Product Demos: Not every industry can lug around a product sample to show off. For example, consider the automobile industry. Can car manufacturers ship around demo models of all the different types of sale to all car shows around the world? This would be a logistical nightmare – not to mention impractical, unsafe, and expensive. The same goes for any industry with laboriously big products – or even products that are currently in development. AR/VR tech gives companies an easy way to let customers demo the product as if it were the real thing. Trade show booth visitors can explore and interact with the features of the product in an almost surrealistic way through a single platform like a tablet or a PC. Highly realistic 3D renderings that interact with the user’s surroundings through images, text, videos and animation tactics can give them an outstanding experience of the product, regardless of the industry.
- Visual Entertainment: Almost everyone has either glimpsed or used products like the Microsoft HoloLens, HTC Vive Pro/Focus and Oculus Quest/Go. These devices are the perfect option for visual learners. Mixed reality smart-glasses can project 3D objects into the natural setting of the user’s surroundings – this creates a fine blend of virtual reality and actual reality. Visitors to your trade show stall can then interact with all of your organization’s digital content. Users are free to test drive flights across the world, drive brand new SUVs across rocky terrains, and check out how they look in brand new clothing, all from the comfort of your trade show stall. This gives them a semi-realistic idea of how the product functions and if it is compatible with their skills and requirements.
Benefits of Using AR and VR Tech at Trade ShowsVisualization is a super powerful tool for demonstrating your product. You could stand for hours and drone on about the benefits of your products or show conference exhibit visitors videos about how well it can solve their problems, but the chances of these tactics working are slim (unless the person listening is already interested). The experiential marketing brought to the table by AR/ VR tech gives customers a great idea of what to expect from the product. This saves your time while giving users an immersive experience that they’re guaranteed to talk about. AR/ VR also lets you harness data to provide highly personalized visitor experiences to each and every person who visits your booth space. There’s always something magical about seeing products custom-made to your personal preferences.
AR/VR tech also lets you maximize floor space. Booth spaces usually aren’t big – you can use AR/VR to create an entire world for the user to immerse themselves in. This allows you to get extra creative and elaborate with the demonstrations.
Spot virtual and augmented demonstrations lets you train prospective clients on how to properly use your products. Instead of implementing hiring schemes or test models, you can use an AR/VR setup to properly run through the practical uses of the product.
You can also use AR/VR demos to show users the cutting edge features your product offers, while garnering immediate feedback from the on the spot.
Another benefit from a business development perspective is that XR applications can be implemented whereby the trade show attendee will need to provide you with their contact information in order to try out the experience. Whether it’s scanning an attendee’s QR code on their badge with your lead retrieval system or asking the user to provide their name and e-mail address to get on to a leader board, there are many ways to integrate lead tracking into the experience to allow for data analytics after the event.
Speaking of after the event, when considering the creation of any XR application, make sure that you consider how your company is going to reuse this digital asset after your trade show is over. For example, perhaps you could re-purpose the content and provide your sales department with AR or VR assets that they could take with them on the road. Or how about putting some of this information on to your website? If developed properly upfront, most XR experiences can be redeployed in other parts of the organization to maximize your return on investment.