Exhibition World Issue 5 – 2021 - Page 16

Stateside with Stephanie

Extended Reality ( XR ) and the exhibit floor

Stephanie Selesnick helps us think about extending the reality of the show floor ’ s future reach
ost-Covid , many exhibitors are and will be actively working to reduce the costs of exhibiting at in-person events . Among the cost-cutting measures will be contracting less booth space - while still trying to maintain an impact on the exhibit floor .
As production costs go down , one appealing alternative to contracting large exhibit space while still attracting and engaging visitors is Extended Reality ( XR ) – a compilation of Virtual Reality ( VR ), Augmented Reality ( AR ), and Mixed Reality ( MR ), and ‘ Realities ’ yet to be invented . The short version is XR , the umbrella term used to describe immersive technologies that can merge the physical and virtual worlds .
Presently , XR is already a part of the consumer experience – and is slowly making its way into the business-tobusiness event environment . Sectors as diverse as gaming , retail store design , military training , recruitment fairs , and destination and hotel tours all use some form of XR . Virtual Reality is an immersive artificial environment experienced through sensory stimuli ( such as sights and sounds ) provided by a computer and in which one ’ s actions partially determine what happens in the environment – or what you see . In a typical VR format , a user wearing a helmet views and interacts with animated images in a simulated environment .
Exhibitors have been using oculus headsets in booths to allow visitors to explore a factory floor or be a passenger in the test drive of a car or demonstrate a new technology . At a SEMA show a few years ago , I virtually rode alongside a driver in the Baja 1000 Road Race . It was completely immersive ( and fun !). During the experience , the driver shared information about the exhibitor ’ s products on the vehicle and why he used them , all while navigating the race . It was very smart marketing , and certainly memorable .
Augmented Reality is a visual
Sectors as diverse as gaming , retail store design , military training , recruitment fairs , and destination and hotel tours all use some form of XR overlay on top of the real world via an app or partial headset . This experience enhances the real world with digital details such as images , text , and animation . Think Pokémon Go , the yellow line on your TV screen during football ( grid iron ) games , or snapchat filters that overlay hats , cat ears on your head or glasses on your face .
AR is an enhancement that may be used with products or equipment in the booth – or even digitally project an exhibitor ’ s equipment into their stand . Visitors use either a headset , smart glasses or smart phone ( with the right app ) to see an overlay of descriptions to the equipment or products displayed . Or maybe the design of clean room technology . Or a smart house ’ s capabilities . The list goes on .
Mixed Reality is the next step of AR – where one can interact with both the physical and digital worlds simultaneously and manipulate the digital images within that world . In other words , using a partially enclosed headset , smart glasses or smart phone ’ s camera , the user sees the real world and digital images ( like AR ), but this time , can manipulate ( move , interact with ) those images .
An example of this is doctors being able to practise medical procedures sans real patient – by virtually removing a spleen or repairing a heart valve . Or an interior designer being able to try different designs out on a remodel , making changes as the client requests them . The possibilities are endless .
Imagine setting up an operating room on the show floor and allowing exhibitors to book time inside the demo area to show their products in MR . That ’ s a lot more interesting than an infomercial delivered by an executive from a stage , right ? Probably a lot more lucrative too .
XR will impact stand sizes and the scope of offerings on the live , inperson exhibit floor . Now is the time to embrace the technology and plan for its possibilities .
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