The rise of experiential tech

Emily Gibson, senior account manager at Projection Artworks, on immersive experience and the wave of new technology hitting the exhibition industry. 

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When was the last time you paid any real attention to a big screen? Smart exhibitors know the key to optimum engagement lies in the experiential, but it can be difficult to deploy such technologies in brightly lit, highly restrictive environments where space comes at a premium.

 

Fortunately, there are dozens of new technologies emerging that can help designers create the experiences delegates love and – more importantly – remember. These include Minority Report-style touch screens, live social media feeds and projection mapping, a technology best known for large-scale spectaculars on building exteriors.

 

It uses tailor-made 3D effects and specially designed media servers to map animations to objects, which in the exhibition world can include logos, products or custom-made presentation sets.

 

This ‘small-scale’ projection has only just been made possible by recent developments in projector hardware, so it really is some-thing exhibition-goers haven’t seen before.

 

This technique worked really well for stormwater management specialist Wavin, who exhibited at Ecobuild this year. They wanted something that would showcase the features of their pioneering stormwater management systems, but without separating the display and the product. We responded to the brief with a set of integrated displays that projected directly on and around key products, allowing visitors to examine the ‘real-life’ objects up close, while learning more about them through a digital overlay.

 

Projection mapping can also be used in small experiential ‘pods’ to create a pop-up immersive environment on a stand or in a breakout area. “It’s impossible to underestimate the transformative capabilities of projection mapping,” says Lizzy Chase, Projection Artworks’ head of indoor projects.


“And you can add interactive elements to create an even deeper level of engagement. A projection pod we installed at GITEX for Noor Islamic Bank include voice recognition, fingerprint scanning and advanced data capture technology.”

 

As the projection ‘pod’ idea becomes more established, brands are getting more creative. Nissan has a permanent pod in place at its Innovation Station at the O2 Arena, but in the form of one of its LEAF electric vehicles mounted on a rolling road. Visitors sit in the car and go on a journey, driving it like they would an ordinary car.


Graphics are rear-projected on the windscreen and passenger windows, and rendered in real-time according to input from the pedals and steering wheel. The overall effect is a surreal, ultra-realistic virtual test drive.

 

But how about the ultimate in immersive experience: virtual reality? As VR becomes a viable tool for on-stand engagement, new possibilities seem to take flight every other week. The technology first arrived on the scene to breathless fanfare, but wasn’t much good for anything more than a gimmick. Now that developers have had time to tap its potential, higher quality and more creative applications are surfacing everywhere. One of our more experimental pieces was for a migraine drug that accurately recreated the effects of a migraine through a customised Oculus Rift headset, allowing non-sufferers to (very briefly!) experience the condition artificially.

 

Although the initial outlay of creating VR content can be high, brands can boost ROI by taking it to the wider world after their event.

Until recently, this had to be done via apps, released to the public via Google Play and the Apple App Store (and a mountain of red tape).

 

Now, tech heavyweights like Google and Facebook are unleashing easily accessible VR channels upon a rabid global audience, thus increasing the potential exposure of content. Facebook now supports 360° content, for instance, and Android users can view 360° videos via YouTube app using one of the many consumer headsets now available, including Google Cardboard. (The technology is anticipated soon on iOS.)

 

With so many exciting new developments in the exhibition industry, it’s hard to predict exactly what we’ll be seeing in the next 12 months or so.

 

At Projection Artworks we’re paying special attention to even more customised experiences for delegates, including displays that tailor-make themselves to the viewer, in real-time, using technologies such as RFID.

 

Wherever the future takes us, we can expect to see a rise in ‘immersive’ technologies, and I, for one, can’t wait to dive in.

 

This article was first published in the November issue of EN. Any comments? Email Annie Byrne

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