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Easy A(R): Simple Ways to Add the High-Tech Trend to Events

Here’s how to incorporate the technology into events without making a big investment.

By Michelle Bruno December 4, 2018, 7:00 AM EST

An attendee at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), which took place June 4 to 8 in San Jose, California, tested out the game SwiftShot in the AR game room.

Photo: Courtesy of Apple

Augmented reality isn’t a new technology. But in terms of events, it’s still in its infancy, slowly inching its way into the industry. The Pokémon Go craze of 2016 (when a high-tech version of the computer game allowed users to catch digital creatures in real-life locations) was perhaps the first time planners began to understand AR’s potential, leading them to look for methods of integrating it into their events.

“The real power of AR and VR technology is to deliver experiences not possible any other way, to give people superpowers, and to show them more than meets the eye,” says Dave Lorenzini, the founder of Event FX, a Phoenix-based provider of augmented- and virtual-reality experiences for events.

And according to Orbis Research, the global augmented- and virtual-reality market is estimated to reach $66.68 billion by 2022, and the event industry will undoubtedly be part of its growth. But using it effectively and successfully is a process that is still developing. Here’s how event planners can incorporate AR using low-commitment, inexpensive practices and products.

Start with simple add-ons.
AR technology runs the gamut from simple and inexpensive to complex and pricey. However, event planners don’t have to jump into the deep end of the AR pool to get a taste of its benefits. For example, Hi-Lites are “visual-effects” glasses that transform light (stage lights, street lights, Christmas lights, fireworks, etc.) into custom shapes that the wearer can see—think hearts, smiley faces, or even company logos. They don’t require any wires or circuits and the frames are fully customizable and brandable.

“There's a lot of hype right now around augmented reality and virtual reality. And quite frankly, I think we're not quite there yet,” says Noah Lichtenstein, C.E.O. of Hi-Lites, who sees the glasses as a frictionless way to deliver AR to event attendees. “Many people are starting to play with it, but it's really expensive. We can do it in a way that is lightweight and affordable for everyone,” he says. Hi-Lites, which start at $15 a pair (with bulk pricing available), have appeared at music festivals including Coachella and Neon Carnival, as well as at activations for the 2018 film Ready Player One and iHeartRadio.

Avoid reinventing the wheel.
If event planners are looking for a more complex AR activation, such as one involving multiple technologies like GPS, Bluetooth beacons, or Bitcoin wallets, they can build a platform internally (if they have the resources) or partner with an augmented-reality developer, both of which can be very expensive options, especially for a one-time event.

But Apple's AR development platform ARKit may overcome those high costs and do some of the heavy lifting when it comes to the technology, including creating AR-enhanced navigation for trade show floors and virtual display banners.

Tie the tech to social media. 
By adding in AR, planners are able to bring an event and its elements to life—even popsicles. FrutaPOP, a company that produces all-natural, alcohol-infused ice pops, recently introduced its own AR experience using the product’s packaging. Consumers who download the company’s free mobile app are able to activate augmented-reality displays by scanning the FrutaPOP labels. In addition to initiating AR, the Instagram-integrated app also includes branded filters (such as picture frames) that can be superimposed onto an image along with a hashtag and then shared to social media.

For example, at a performance by country music singer Chase Bryant, held at Niko’s Red Mill Tavern in Woodstock, Illinois, in June, concertgoers were able to scan the Tito’s Vodka- and Patrón-flavored pops to activate the augmented-reality visuals, as well as add in comments and post the videos to social media.

“Incorporating a social media A.P.I. into the app not only increases social media engagement and social sharing, but it gives event planners a whole new world through which to express themselves,” explains FrutaPOP co-founder Laurance Rassin.

The animated pops also made an appearance at M.P.I. New Jersey’s annual golf tournament, which was held in June at the Crystal Springs Resort in Hamburg, New Jersey. Agnes Zaranski, director of national accounts at the Waldorf Astoria’s Boca Raton Resort and Club in Florida, a tournament sponsor, explains, “[They] sparked conversations and afforded us time to network with new customers.”

A version of this story appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of BizBash.

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