Augmented Reality Is the Next Step for Live Events
Live events have historically been a huge part of the music, sports, and performance art industries, with promoters and managers constantly looking for new ways to attract and engage live audiences paying high ticket prices to enjoy an event. However, key live event attendance, especially in the sports space, has been tenuously flat or dropping in recent years. As a result, many people are looking to technology to provide a new path to sustain and engage audiences. Augmented Reality (AR) is very likely to be part of this new path in a big way.
Information Literally at Your Fingertips
A key draw of AR has always been the ability to provide immediately relevant and helpful information to people in ways that improve the overall experience of a place or interaction. With live events this could take several forms, all integrated into a cohesive AR app experience.
Need to find the hot dog stand, beer tent, or nearest toilet? Augmented reality is now at the point where location-based tracking can not only locate the exact venue amenities you want, but also provide walking directions to get there and give you status on wait times, prices, available promotions, and more.
Want to know the current number of assists, points, and rebounds for every player on the basketball court at once or the top 5 singles for the current band on-stage at a glance? Augmented reality can provide all of that information as a low-intrusion overlay right on top of the action so users don’t have to miss a second of a live event to get the details they want.
Why bother with printed schedules and maps when AR interactive guides can provide an order of magnitude more information? From behind-the-scenes content to season recaps and fantasy sports integrations, AR is a perfect tool to deliver intelligent event interfaces that provide content users actually want to see.
New Ways to Interact
Beyond information availability, AR also provides the opportunity for performers, brands, and venues to increase audience interaction to a new level. From improved gamification to virtual performer interactions, AR provides new opportunities to make audiences feel like they are actually a part of live events.
New Brand Interactions
In-venue display-based games and interactive entertainment have been a part of live events for many years, spanning the gamut from trivia-based intermission games to kiss-cams, dance-offs and on-court/field audience member skill competitions. Many of these are sponsored by brands looking to find ways to build positive mindshare with audiences, but the brand side is often easily ignored. AR provides a platform for brands to not just entertain, but also interact with audiences during live events. From previewing how team branded clothing would look on you to providing AR-only mini-movies of events like a soda flood unfolding in the venue, innovative content based on AR technology can be both more memorable and more sticky than traditional sponsorships.
Snapchat’s virtual avatars have proven there is demand among audiences for for “virtual self” participation in the real world via augmented reality. Live events offer a new and exciting way to integrate the virtual self in fun and shareable ways. For example, your virtual avatar could play games with team mascots, participate in half-time shows, or even dance along on-stage with your favorite performer. It might seem gimmicky, but these kinds of interactions are surprisingly popular with audiences that crave more personal interactions with the teams and personalities they pay money to see.
A growing portion of live event audiences participate in ongoing team and performer interactions outside of live events. For example, Fantasy Sports has become a surprisingly large industry engaging millions of fans worldwide. AR provides a unique opportunity to integrate beyond-the-game information into live events. Imagine the players and stats from your own fantasy team highlighted during a football game and updated in real time as plays happen. This kind of integration can drive long-term engagement with teams and venues in a way that traditional updates lack.
What It Will Take to Build
Much of the technology required to make quality AR experiences a part of live events already exists. However, two key needs must be fulfilled before AR can deliver on the promises outlined above. First, event venues and promoters need to invest in developing high-quality mobile apps that leverage the AR capabilities of modern phones. Beyond the core offerings from Apple and Google, there are a number of additional AR platforms like Vuforia with the capabilities needed to develop comprehensive AR experiences. However, as with all immersive apps, strong user interfaces, interaction models, precision positioning, and data back-ends are mandatory to creating user experiences that do more than bore users.
Next, venues need to put in effort to digitally map their spaces in three dimensions, provide highly accurate event information, and develop clear visual cues that can be used by AR apps to generate meaningful overlays where it makes sense. Partner content and brand interaction desires also need to be defined and curated well in advance of live events to ensure they provide real value and meet audience expectations. By combining development effort on both these sides (app and venue), AR event experiences can raise the bar for what it means to be “in the moment” at live events of all kinds.