Artificial Intelligence & Virtual Reality: A Path to Event Success or Increased Noise?

 In Industry Advice

Artificial intelligence and virtual reality technology have both existed, in some form, for decades. However, they are also among the key emerging technology trends, due to recent advances in AI capabilities and virtual reality hardware, as well as increased availability of consumer products based on these technologies.

According to Statista, the number of active virtual reality users is set to reach 171 million this year, compared with just 6.7 million active users back in 2015, 43 million users in 2016, and 90 million in 2017. Artificial intelligence has seen similar increases in adoption rates, thanks to recent technology like Siri and Alexa.

Of course, this adoption has also moved into the worlds of business and marketing, and one of the areas this is most noticeable is with exhibitions and events. In this article, we take a closer look at the role of both AI and VR in this field and consider whether they are the path to success for an event company, or just increased noise.

The Use of Virtual Reality

While the concept of virtual reality is arguably most closely linked to video games, the benefits of VR technology extend far beyond and have been adopted by a variety of businesses, event organisers and exhibition design companies. Its inclusion within events has the potential to greatly enhance the experience for attendees.

One of the most basic uses of virtual reality, which can be easily implemented by almost any event company, is the use of 360 degrees photographs, which can be viewed using a VR headset, offering excellent immersion. A key benefit of this is that 360 degrees photographs are supported by Facebook.

To provide a real-world example of VR in action, the Coachella music festival has started distributing a VR app. By using this app, attendees can experience 360 degree photos from previous years and even explore the layout ahead of the event through a VR tour, allowing them to familiarise themselves with the venue beforehand.

Used correctly, virtual reality technology can allow businesses to transform the physical space they are operating in, or effectively transport attendees to another place entirely, whether through photos, videos or games. When this is combined with intelligent branding, it means a truly immersive brand experience can be offered.

Benefits of Artificial Intelligence

According to research from Gartner, there are now more than 8 billion devices connected to the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), with more than 3 billion of these being business-use devices. This goes some way towards highlighting the opportunity for businesses and exhibition design companies to make use of IoT and AI technology.

With the widespread focus on experiential marketing at events, the benefits of artificial intelligence may be less immediately obvious to some. However, AI has a potentially game-changing role to play in terms of processing, analysing and providing event staff with data when they need it.

“Imagine being able to pull detailed company, product or client statistics instantly on the show floor,” says Amy Benes, Marketing Manager at Nimlok, in an article for Exhibitor Online. “You can instantly tailor your conversation to match booth visitors’ company size, industry or product interest.”

Additionally, AI technology can be used to analyse data from previous events and provide more accurate forecasts of demand, allowing for supply to be optimised. This could be used to make provisions for catering, or to ensure the right number of a certain product are available, based on time, location, weather and other factors.

Avoiding the Common Pitfalls

There are obvious benefits to utilising both virtual reality and artificial intelligence technology within exhibitions, trade shows and other business events. That being said, the simple inclusion of these elements does not guarantee success and can, in actual fact, be detrimental or counter-productive in some instances.

The key to using virtual reality is to ensure it has a genuine use, which not only improves the experience for event attendees, but also has relevance to your organisation and what you are trying to achieve. Including VR elements that are not relevant is only likely to increase noise and distractions, with few benefits.

Artificial intelligence is perhaps less likely to be detrimental from an attendees’ point of view, although it can be if used in place of actual human interaction, especially in situations where such interaction is necessary or expected. Ultimately, it should play a supporting role in assisting the event staff, rather than replacing them.

Data analysis is an effective usage, and technology like Siri and Alexa can have a role to play, but this needs to be thought through carefully. Those attending your event are unlikely to see the benefit in standing around while event staff try to utter the right commands, so their implementation should be trialled ahead of the event.

The Final Word

Artificial intelligence and virtual reality are two of the fastest-rising technology trends within the business world and both can be implemented into business events and exhibitions. When utilised effectively, they can simultaneously improve the experience of attendees and make life significantly easier for event staff.

Nevertheless, both AI and VR also have the power to disrupt, cause distractions, and detract from the real purpose of the event. As a result, it’s essential that these components are implemented in a way that is relevant to the aims of the event, and in a way that enhances the experience while improving brand immersion.


Reno is a founder and director of a leading exhibition and event company Enigma Visual Solutions, specialising in exhibition stand, event branding, event production, exhibition services and much more. He enjoys sharing his thoughts on upcoming marketing ideas and design trends. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.

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