Our tech team recently went to Amsterdam for Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) 2020, to stay on top of the latest trends in event technology. James Connell, our Director of Technical Production, shares his thoughts on which technology is likely to have the biggest impact on the event industry.
The atmosphere at ISE 2020 this February was fantastic - there was a really positive buzz about the place. My main interest was in the emerging technologies that could be used by our clients at their events. We’re always on the lookout for ways to create immersive experiences that stay with attendees long after they’ve left the venue. Here are my tips for what’s going to take off this year.
Face-reading tech that reveals your audience's reaction
Despite it being one of the smallest stands in the trade fair, the company offering emotion-reading technology was receiving a lot of attention. This tech interprets footage of your attendees’ facial expressions and body language, giving you a real-time picture of how your audience are reacting to an event. Technology like this has been around for a while now but the range of emotions it is capable of recognising is far wider than in previous years. That makes it more accurate. Happy, sad, confused, angry or bored – you get a clear picture of the level of engagement, the type of emotional response and a sense of how strong the reaction is. Surely this is gold for most clients - who doesn’t want to know how well their event has gone?
Happy, sad, confused, angry or bored – you get a clear picture of the level of engagement, the type of emotional response and a sense of how strong the reaction is.
Clients have always wanted a quick and reliable way of assessing how well their event has landed with the audience. Session feedback already exists but the results reported often sit at the extreme ends of the spectrum – very happy or very unhappy. That’s if attendees bother to fill in feedback forms at all. Confusing the feedback further is the fact that complainers are more likely to respond than people who were mildly or extremely satisfied.
With emotion-reading tech, you could place a camera at the exit of a specific session to accurately assess how people feel as they leave the room. You could even sample areas of a plenary and offer live feedback to your speaker on stage to let them know if they’re hitting all the right notes or if they need to get people more excited.
A great salesperson can read a person’s body language and change their approach in response. Imagine the implications for your events if you could read an entire room’s body language at once and adapt accordingly. Although GDPR needs to be in the forefront of people’s minds, the footage itself isn’t recorded nor any personal data required, only the emotions, so there’s no invasion of privacy involved. This is definitely a piece of kit to keep an eye on.
Dynamic projection mapping to wow attendees
Projection mapping technology lets you display images and videos on the surface of static objects, such as the side of a building or the windows inside a venue. The key word here is static. It’s hard (a.k.a. time-consuming and expensive) to map onto moving items or irregular shapes.
ISE 2020 saw the latest advancements in mobile projection mapping in action, allowing items to be projection mapped and then moved around a room. The projection data would continue to track the object as you moved. This opens up a world of possibilities that are only really limited by the creativity of the user’s imagination. So expect to see plenty more of moving projection mapping technology in the coming months.
This opens up a world of possibilities that are only really limited by the creativity of the user’s imagination. So expect to see plenty more of moving projection mapping technology in the coming months.
A sustainable and integrated approach to stage design
Event agencies tend to construct their stage and set frameworks from wood. It’s affordable, adaptable and easy to work with. However, it’s not ideal for sustainability as the machine-worked and painted wood is hard to recycle.
We’re constantly exploring how we can make our events even more sustainable - which is why this next initiative really caught my eye. Enter stage left - aluminium frameworks.
Aluminium frame systems have been on the market a while now but ISE 2020 revealed how certain systems are getting more affordable and even easier to use. Clients looking to boost their sustainability credentials can benefit from this lighter and stronger alternative to wood. Sets can be reused many times and, at the end of its life, aluminium is 100% recyclable.
The major step forwards is in the integration with technology. The benefit of aluminium over wood is that certain LED panelling is designed to integrate within the frames. This means video displays blend seamlessly with the set design, allowing event agencies like us to quickly install large video walls for exhibition stands and sets. The range of panels that you can integrate is impressive, including compound and convex curves, rooves and floors.
The main obstacle at the moment is that aluminium frameworks still require significantly larger upfront investment than wood. But with companies increasingly looking for ways of becoming more sustainable, it’s probably only a matter of time before we make the switch to aluminium.
The latest in cutting-edge video technology
Innovations in video technology seemed to be everywhere I looked at ISE. It feels like just yesterday we were talking about 4K displays and how they were set to revolutionise the way we show content. Well, the hot topic at ISE 2020 was 6K & 8K displays. While the video quality is akin to being stood face to face with the characters in your favourite movie, I wouldn’t expect this to take off right away in the event industry. Not only does it come with a hefty price tag but clients are still sceptical about investing in 4K content to be made, let alone 6K or higher! This is one to watch in the longer term.
There’s a huge variety in the event market in build and picture quality – you really do get what you pay for.
LED panels have also had continued development over the past year with more manufacturers entering the market, at a range of price points. There’s a huge variety in the event market in build and picture quality – you really do get what you pay for. The manufacturers leading our sector are the ones who focus on reliability and usability. Given that these electronics are fragile, our market is a harsh environment for this technology with constant installations and truck journeys. The manufacturers who create products that are readily serviceable and easy to install are stealing the march on some of the cheaper ranges. Pixel pitch has also progressed to a level we all believed to be unimaginable 3 years ago. There was a time when a 5mm pitch was fairly standard and anything tighter was the stuff of dreams. Now, we regularly use pitches of 2.8mm with the costs of sub 2mm coming down all of the time. Major manufacturers at ISE 2020 were showing off their latest screens with an incredible 0.6mm pitch! In real terms that means your guests can be less than 1m from the screen and still see a completely clear image.
While this has exciting implications for the future, particularly for events that rely heavily on high quality video for the experience, it’s still a long way off being practical. The screens themselves are very heavy, phenomenally fragile and also come with a large price tag. But as the progress of video technology continues to speed down the autobahn, don’t be surprised if this technology becomes more practical and easier to implement.
If you’d like to speak to James at Event Concept about any of these technologies, feel free to give him a call on 0207 064 3562 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.