Apple iOS 11 is coming this September and augmented reality (AR) will be baked in, making it the biggest AR platform in the world. Read on to find out how that will impact events.
A recent beta version of the iOS update revealed a little more than expected. An iOS developer recently found a new wayfinding arrow tied to the Maps application. Nothing exciting there, except he also found some code which advises the user to tilt their phone towards their face to navigate when in walking mode. The code also reveals that device cameras will be used in the mapping app.
AR Navigation Vs GPS
It's not too much of a leap to assume that all of that means some kind of augmented-reality-based guidance for directions when walking. This is exciting for your average user who needs help getting around the city but it's even more exciting for eventprofs - in fact, this could be a huge game changer.
Where standard mapping and navigation rely on GPS for positioning data, AR information can be anchored to objects or specially designed markers in the real world. By not relying on signals from satellites, it will be possible to bring turn-by-turn navigation indoors; straight to your tradeshow or conference. Not only this but event signage could also become interactive, further helping attendees navigate the event.
The AR Adoption Boom
AR, like VR (virtual reality) and MR (mixed reality), has been hanging around for a while but until now remains fairly niche. It is all going to change when iOS 11 rolls out, putting the power of AR right into the hands of millions of users. Apple's ARKit has been in the hands of developers for some time now too, so that means that there will be a whole bunch of apps delving into the world of AR. Naturally, that will ultimately include event apps too.
What About Android Users?
Like the iPhone, it's already possible to make AR applications for Android but again, adoption has been slow and consequently, development hasn't been that quick either. This too will change. Android users will want to get in on the action when it does pick up and there are plenty of Android devices out there powerful enough to get the job done. How long before we see an official Android ARKit equivalent?
What Opportunities Will AR Devices Bring To Events?
With no headsets or long trailing cables, mobile devices with AR functionality will be perfect for many different aspects of events. Here are some of the biggest opportunities we're seeing for AR in events right now.
Turn-by-turn Navigation at Trade Shows
This one is a big deal and we already know it's coming. Even with a map, it can be hard to track down that particular booth or stall. And if a last-minute change means a stall has to move, the map isn't much use at all. Indoor GPS is something attendees of large conferences and exhibitions have been screaming out for. Not only will AR be able to deliver turn-by-turn navigation but it could also augment existing event signage or even create virtual signage on the go.
Exhibits/Booths Become Active Content
AR can allow content creators to attach virtual content to just about anything in the real world, meaning every part of a trade show booth could effectively become a piece of digital content. If an attendee wishes to see more information about a particular product on display, all they would need to do is raise their phone as if to take a photo of the product and the extra information will appear. This would be a great opportunity for capturing leads on request of more information.
Sponsorship - Virtual Hyperlinked Banners
With AR, event planners can theoretically put a sponsor's message anywhere they like. If you want a giant banner, spanning the entire ceiling of your event, that might be tricky in the real world. Not so much in the augmented world. No need for ladders, lifts or scaffolding. Just drag and drop your banner into the virtual space. Like anything in AR, sponsor's banners can be clickable calls to action.
One huge benefit that very few people are talking about right now is the increased ability to track attendee movement and engagement. The increased number of digital touchpoints means that event planners will have a much better idea of who is where and what they are (or are not) doing. This could be further improved by adding gamification into the mix. You might already be familiar with iBeacon scavenger hunts. Similar activities could be possible using items or locations recognized by the AR device.
Potential Pitfalls of AR at Events
Lower Face to Face Engagement
Remember when Pokemon Go first came out and the streets filled with people wandering around staring at their phones? It's likely that a similar scenario will happen with AR devices. If attendees are staring at their phones all day, they might miss out on important human interaction. Perhaps when kitting out your AR venue, it might be worth considering some ways to get people to put the phone down.
As handy as mobile devices are, they can also be a massive distraction from the real world and subsequently the event experience. AR will take this one step further by keeping attendees engaged with their devices for much longer periods.
More technology always means that there's more to go wrong. In the case of AR, that could not only be embarrassing but also potentially quite dangerous. Because AR takes a person's focus away from the real world and fully immerses them in what's on their phone, accidents will happen. At the very least, you're probably going to find people bumping into each other. At worst, you could send someone wandering unknowingly into serious danger. For this reason, AR and its users may be something event planners need to include in their assessment.
Which Devices Will Be compatible with Apple ARKit?
According to the official Apple ARKit developers' website, Apple's new AR features won't just be limited to the upcoming iPhone 8. ARKit is designed to work on any iOS device with an A9 or A10 processor. In case you don't know which models are included, here's the list:
Devices Compatible with ARKit:
- iPhone SE
- iPhone 6s
- iPhone 6s Plus
- iPhone 7
- iPhone 7 Plus
- 9.7-inch iPad Pro (2016 model)
- 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2016 model)
- 9.7-inch iPad (2017 model)
- 10.5-inch iPad Pro
- 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2017 model)
The release of iOS 11 and its built-in AR functionality will create another huge shift in the way people use their mobile devices. For eventprofs, that means many opportunities to leverage that technology to benefit everyone involved. AR could hold the key to better attendee engagement and indoor navigation will definitely make it easier to find things. However, people glued to their devices can be counterproductive, so there's a lot to consider when adding AR touches to your event.