In the future, says Dannette Veale, global manager of the Cisco Live and Networkers Virtual event, there will be no more live vs. virtual discussions. The two experiences will overlap so completely, that what we now perceive as two separate environments glued together through some “hybrid” sleight of hand will merge into a single, seamless stream of content, entertainment, and engagement that can be accessed from either end of the physical to virtual spectrum.
Although Veale will speak more about content authentication and syndication when she gives her presentation on Hybrid Meetings and Digital Events during the Virtual Edge Summit, she has some definite ideas on how games, mobile, augmented reality, and video technology will enable the physical and virtual worlds to merge.
The convergence has already begun with games. “You will see tighter and tighter integration between online and offline audiences using games and online formats that both can engage in,” Veale says. Think about a scavenger hunt extended to a virtual audience. “The same search for clues will exist but the game won’t be strictly location based,” she explains.
The creators of the “Heroes” television show created an augmented reality game called “Conspiracy for Good.” Using mobile phones, players venture out onto the streets of London looking for clues from live characters and QR codes planted in various locations. Veale believes that similar scenarios will become reality in the event space of the future. Exhibitors, sponsors, event hosts, and organizers can use the same tactics to engage live attendees and help them interact with virtual content.
Augmented reality could also be coming to a trade show booth near you, Veale explains. Imagine walking into a booth, pointing your cell phone at a product’s QR code, and receiving layer upon layer of information about the company, sales outlets, contact information, product applications, white papers, videos, maps, and location-based information. Mobile devices will be the gateway for virtual attendees to engage with content from the live show and for live attendees to engage with content from the virtual space.
Augmented reality kiosks have surfaced in Japan and Germany. Veale describes how the kiosks work. “Bringing a car to an event can be costly. With an augmented reality kiosk, you can bring 30 to 40 cars to the show virtually. You have one kiosk where visitors pick up different flyers with QR codes indicating specific car models. They hold a flyer up to the scanner at the kiosk and get a 3D augmented reality rendering of the vehicle,” she says.
Other technologies will enable the real world and virtual world to meld together. Cisco’s TelePresence video conferencing technology “has helped remove the idea that conference speakers have to physically be there,” Veale says. And their new Videoscape platform is another example, she says, of how technology “will start to layer the video experience.”
In the future, there will be no more hybrid events—a term that implies the cobbling together of two separate realities into one hiccuppy, Frankensteiny, excuse to multi-task. The future of events as Dannette Veale envisions it is one where the learning is über compelling, the engagement is exhilarating, and anyone can participate.
Adrian Segar says
Michelle, I wish I were as optimistic as Dannette Veale when she predicts that live and virtual will “merge into a single, seamless stream of content, entertainment, and engagement”.
It’s the last term, engagement, where I part company with Dannette. Unlike content and entertainment, which can be easily and effectively streamed now, engagement cannot be captured by a single stream because it requires many-to-many channels, the number of which increases as the square of the number of participants.
We have a hard time providing a few simultaneous streaming channels now; let alone the hundreds or thousands that would be needed to effectively compete with live attendance at an event. Including a chat room for remote attendees, as Cisco does now, is a pale substitute for the rich real-time interaction that routinely occurs face-to-face.
Currently, the best hybrid events do a decent job providing text-based back channels for remote attendees to comment and ask questions, and remote emcee ambassadors can help to bring these attendees into the room and offer them some compensatory content, e.g. presenter interviews, that the local audience doesn’t necessarily get. But without individual, real-time, two-way AV channels for remote attendees, their experience will always be significantly inferior to that of local participants, and I don’t see this state of affairs changing soon. (Though I’d be happy to be wrong!)
I totally understand where you are coming from and I suspect that the progression into a seamless hybrid experience won’t be without difficulty. On the other hand, I’m inclined to agree with Dannette’s vision of the future. The real issue here is not the inevitable change in the “experience” of merging the two mediums (live and virtual) together, but what event producers and participants will do when that happens. As a believer in unconferences and alternative types of meetings, I’m guessing that this is an issue that will greatly affect your thinking and your work in the future. Personally, I’m both excited and optimistic about what’s to come.