Event organizers and marketers must be aware of the fact that wearables are poised to change the way we live, and by extension how we create, organize and attend events. This is not much of a surprise. Wearables are being adopted at an aggressive rate with an estimated market size of 148 million devices within the next 5 years. Wearables are an extension of our smartphones – they act to bridge human output with technological input to deliver a more intuitive digital experience. Wrist bound devices like the Apple Watch or Samsung Gear are just the beginning of this movement toward complete cyborgian synergy.
How Can Event Organizers Benefit From This Tech?
There are some more obvious applications that wearables can offer event organizers. For instance, wearables will change the way we do ticketing. With Near Field Communication (NFC) technologies, attendees can check into events using their watches or phone without the need for QR or barcode scanning. They can additionally link their credit cards to their wearables to send payment for anything sold at an event. Many music festivals already use Radio-Frequency IDentifictaion (RFID) wristbands to register ticket holders quickly in order to alleviate high volume gateways. RFID is also used to sell refreshments and merchandise on-site. This application is valuable to any event, but will be especially impactful to those with high traffic entrance.
Wearables and Virtual Reality at Events
While Virtual Reality (VR) has received a lot of buzz in recent years, the opportunities for event organizers to take advantage of this technology are just starting to present themselves. Even though many people view VR as isolating, virtual reality is really just another medium for social interaction. Those who embrace this will be rewarded. The virtual reality industry, a space that is being designed and defined all at once is where events will see a more pronounced shift. This, as a result of the continued release of and market acceptance of commercial wearables like Google Cardboard which transforms any smartphone into an entry level VR device.
Virtual Reality in Events and Entertainment
Ana Serrano, Chief Digital Officer at the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) helps us paint a picture of what the event space will start to see as virtual reality and augmented reality devices begin to take off. The CFC is at the forefront of innovation within the global entertainment sphere, working to promote and invest in original projects that help deliver content through collaboration. This includes a growing portfolio of VR and augmented reality facing devices like the Bublcam –the first spherical camera in the world that aims to make 360 degree video capturing more accessible.Ana notes that it is unlikely that VR will ever replace live events as they tend to be the core piece of many artists business model. Instead, the makeup of live events will likely begin to see change with VR technology being leveraged to drive engagement and create novel experience at events. Josh Farkas founder of Cubicle Ninjas, a full service creative design agency that is already building VR and augmented reality experiences for businesses, builds off of this idea. He notes that wearables have the ability to turn the crowd into an active participant at an event. Event organizers have the opportunity to use these devices and the data they collect in memorable ways that can help make their event unforgettable. This is even more the case with VR devices as they help democratize experiences. You no longer need to be physically located in a space to experience a concert, watch a sporting event or even travel to a distant land. The entertainment industry for instance will see this shake up first hand with companies like VRC, backed by Steven Spielberg offering 360 degree live streaming and experience creation where the viewer is a part of the narrative.
VR technology will build off of the hybrid events that we are already starting to see more of. Events where the event itself is being streamed in parallel through a photostream like groupiecam, a live twitter feed like hootfeed or a live video-stream like Twitter’s Periscope.
Consumers might not be interested in watching a live 360 stream of their favorite artists just yet, but the opportunity for profound lecturers, politicians and business leaders to run their keynotes through this technology has presented itself. It’s already happening. Oculus Connect is a developer conference for Facebook’s VR headset the Oculus Rift which live streamed its keynote to fans using VR. Members of the VR community and its content creators like Elli Raynai of Cinehackers want to see more of this. To him, companies need to jump into the space and continue to create opportunities because not everyone can attend an Apple or Microsoft launch, but many want to feel like they’re there. It can only help consumers buy more headsets and further the scope of VR innovation.
This shift towards increased wearables adoption will quickly see events as we know them today begin to adapt in order to engage. With organizations like TED offering exclusive chat access to its paying members, this might not be the case. Ana proposes that events like its own TEDx circuit could perhaps leverage 360 streaming to VR headsets to augment its lower ticket prices for instance. Josh highlights the opportunity for event organizers to scale their premium experiences through VR with no real added costs. By doing so, the event organizers that do take advantage of this will find a powerful new revenue stream without cannibalizing their current audiences. In addition, these experience not only scale but they don’t expire. Capturing your events in VR will allow you sell tickets to your events for several years after the fact.
The value of wearables does not exclusively lie in the use of them for entertainment events. VR devices will allow participants to engage in training simulations from tactical military drills to CPR procedures. Education is a large part of many events and conferences that can be delivered in a more engaging manner to attendees both on and off site.
What Does This Mean For Event Organizers?
The opportunities are ripe for event organizers to engage and attract attendees by integrating wearables into their planning. With the rapidly approaching onset of commercial VR headsets such as the oculus rift and Samsung Gear VR, 2016 is bound to be a turning point for event technology. Event professionals will be able to engage their attendees in more depth at their existing events, and expand their audiences without necessarily having to be tied to a geographic location. We should all look to livestream our current events and start working to engage our attendees by leveraging the power of wearables.