“Combinations of
technologies
multiply impact”
McKinsey Global Institute: Disruptive
Technologies (2013)
Credit: Segway Credit: Apple
Double Telepresence Robot
Credit: Wired
Double Telepresence Robot
Credit: Double
Credit: Oculus VR
“Religion on
contact”
Credit: The Arcade Man
Credit: Durovis Dive
Credit: vrAse
Credit: vrAse
Meet the Future! Innovative Technology in Events and Conferencing (June 2014)
Meet the Future! Innovative Technology in Events and Conferencing (June 2014)
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Meet the Future! Innovative Technology in Events and Conferencing (June 2014)

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A presentation delivered to the UK Events and Conferencing industry at the 'Meet the Future' event at Central Hall Westminster on 3rd June 2014.

Lots of notes in the accompanying speaker notes - do take a look here.

Full details of the event: http://www.c-h-w.com/future/event/programme/

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  • As a technologist it’s my job to get excited about technology, and by and large I do – something I’m aware of is this tension with the concept of technology for technology’s sake; there has to be some application or some potential behind the technology. My wife is a great yardstick for this – if I get a bit too carried away and frothy about something she’ll stop me and say something like: But why? What’s the point? And if I can’t succinctly tell her – in 140 characters or less – then either the product has failed, or I have failed (which is more likely) – either way further work is required!

    So, on the one hand I’m delighted to have seen so many technologies here at MTF today that in their own rights are incredibly exciting, but have also been applied to specific use cases – in the events industry - in productive, but also creative and even fun ways.

    But coming back to the whole application of technology and the technology for technology’s sake thing – of particularly interest to me is mixing and mingling existing technologies – ‘mash-ups’ is a fashionable term that goes some way to describing things – to create altogether new offerings.
  • So, in this final few minutes today I want to pick up on a couple of technologies that we may already touched on or explored during Meet the Future but perhaps to offer a different spin on them to reinforce how technology isn’t all about fitting square pegs into square holes, it can be about creativity,.

    As MGI put it: XXXXXXX

    SO - first of all, today we’ve looked at telepresence with the amazing holographic stage just now – terrific technology, very useful, particularly when you are the person hosting/presenting etc.

    Now I’m what behavioural workplace psychologists probably refer to as something like a ‘sociable worker’, and when it comes to conferences and events like this one of the main benefits for me as a delegate is the social interactions around the fringes: the networking, meeting people with similar professional interests and maybe connections, be it in a queue for coffee, at a booth, in the auditorium before a session. Despite the skeuomorphs in most online event platforms and indeed telepresence solutions, none have have quite been able to offer that social experience for me of the real thing.
  • So, in the spirit of a mash up, here are two technologies that - when first released people asked ‘why’, and had trouble defining. Undoubtedly cool technology but, as my wife would say, what’s the point?

    < click >

    First up, who knows what this is? The Segway. Self-balancing scooter, tremendous fun. But never taken off in mass market. Why? Some challenges about legality on on public highways in some jurisdictions – use cases are tricky, because, well, walking is quite cheap, as is cycling.

    Next up,

    < click >

    the iPad (clearly not to scale here) – we take these for granted now, but I remember when they were first released just four years ago how the press and public were highly critical; why do we need an iPad? It’s just a overgrown iPhone, and you can’t even make phone calls on it! What problem does it solve? Of course, what’s happened since then is that tablet computing has become the dominant personal computing platform and has accelerated the demise of the PC, but few saw that back in 2010 – really not that long ago.

    So, coming back to events and event technology – what happens when you mash these together, what’s the impact of combining these technologies?



  • Double Robotics Tele-Presence Robot.

    Gives you a physical presence at work, or at an event or conference, when you can’t be there in person (picture here is of backer Dimitry Grishin, courtesy of a recent feature in Wired).

    Essentially the bottom bit is like a Segway, except you don’t stand on it, and the top – the ‘head’ if you will, is an actual iPad which simply runs an app. Unlike me at events and conferences, its battery lasts for 8 hours and requires only 2 hours to recharge.

    You simply control it from a web browser on your PC or Mac or from an iOS app on your tablet or smartphone. Like a Segway it self-balances and is highly maneouverable, although it can’t do stairs.
  • Essentially the bottom bit is like a Segway, except you don’t stand on it, and the top – the ‘head’ if you will, is an actual iPad which simply runs an app. Unlike me at events and conferences, its battery lasts for 8 hours and requires only 2 hours to recharge.

    You simply control it from a web browser on your PC or Mac or from an iOS app on your tablet or smartphone. Like a Segway it self-balances and is highly maneouverable, although it can’t do stairs.
  • I’m used to Skype, Facetime and so on on desktops, but integrating this into a standalone device takes it a step further – literally standalone I guess, and I won’t call it a robot as it I think makes no pretence to be humanoid in its own right, and anecdotally once the novelty wears off your ‘Double’ almost ceases to exist leaving behind the virtual person.

    It humanises remote conversations in a way that sitting in front of a PC or looking at a large screen doesn’t quite do.

    I’ve actually ‘met’ ‘people’ at events who’ve been behind/inside (whatever you want to call it) a Double and it’s initially a novelty – a great talking point and all - but above all it’s actually very functional.

    It’s available right now – from the Apple store, and from other resellers.
  • I’ve been writing about Augmented and Virtual Reality for a number of years now, and I’m delighted that some of these technologies have featured here today. Oculus Rift has become the poster boy of consumer virtual reality since its successful Kickstarter campaign a couple of years ago – constructed pretty much from off-the-shelf smartphone components, I describe it as pretty much like having an IMAX-enabled ski mask strapped to your face. I love technologies that provoke or inspire emotions and Oculus Rift certainly does that – as you can see on the image here, and some of you may have experienced already.

    The genius is that what Oculus has done is to lower the barrier to entry for Virtual Reality. Previously we were looking at thousands, 10s of thousands or more for equivalent capabilities, often specialised and bespoke. Oculus Rift development kits – remember, this still hasn’t officially been released to the public yet – retail online for a little over £200. By aiming at the consumer market first they’ve amassed an army of enthusiastic evangelists who have spread the gospel far and wide and successfully converted pretty much everybody who has tried it.

    Rightly so, CTO of Oculus VR John Carmack describes trying Oculus for the first time as experiencing ‘Religion on Contact’. Converts now include Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who liked it so much he bought the company earlier this year – for $2 bn dollars.
  • It’s not a niche product. Although embraced and somewhat owned by gamers, as we’ve seen virtual reality is about far more than gaming and experiential. That said, at countless conferences and events I’ve attended recently, any number of brands have incorporated technologies such as Oculus Rift into their booths and stands and have had queues around the block full of people wanting to experience virtual reality for the first time. Some have been incredibly creative – one of my favourites saw me go sky diving, lying face-down complete with a wind turbine blowing into my face.

    But, coming back practical applications and ideas for event organisers, while Oculus Rift has lowered the bar, opening VR to the masses, the bar can go even lower…
  • At the Wearable Technology Show in London a couple of months ago I was introduced to a new class of consumer virtual reality devices. Look at the publicity image here for Durovis Dive and it looks very much like another head mounted display along the lines of Oculus Rift – and essentially that’s what it is. But there’s a key – and potentially very exciting – difference.
  • This is the vrAse head mounted display – I’ve actually tried on a prototype model of this. You’ll notice at the front there’s a cutout that reveals the headset features a smartphone – there’s the smartphone camera to prove it. And that’s getting closer to my point.

    As we said earlier, Oculus Rift was constructed from – essentially - commodity smartphone components. Technologies like vrAse and Durovis Dive take this one step further and simply use your existing smartphone.
  • You see a smartphone already contains the foundational technologies for Virtual Reality – a high definition screen, motion sensors and processing power. All you do is load up some content onto your smartphone, slide it into the headset, and away you go. The headsets themselves contain no technology other than some optics to help your eyes focus on the screen and, as such, are incredibly cheap. Smartphones contain mature platforms/ecosystems for apps, video content etc which already have thousands upon thousands of developers. Your YouTube app on your smartphone already has lots of compatible 3D videos, for example.

    It’s not a huge step to apply this to the events and conference industry. Many larger events (and now even not so large events, this one included) have their own smartphone app – as we know, an event app is a platform for engagement value-added content which uses delegates’ own hardware. VR headsets such as these, purchased in bulk, are essentially very cheap commodity devices. Bring the two together and a new immersive platform begins to take shape. What about content – to a certain extent, that’s up to you and your partners…

    BUT, here’s a thought – smartphones include cameras; with these smartphone VR headsets (point to screen) the camera remains exposed when it’s slotted into the display. As well as all-immersive Virtual Reality, the camera opens up the opportunity for Augmented Reality. We saw some interesting use cases for Google Glass earlier on – incredible technology, although limited at the moment, and on the expensive side. These commodity headsets again leverage the technology that every delegate at your conference will already have in their pocket to enable both virtual and augmented reality.

    I said I’d tried one of these for myself a couple of months ago – I slotted onto my face a Samsung Galaxy Note II loaded with an app and was shown a furniture showroom demonstration – simply by placing a small card onto the floor I was able to walk around a virtual sofa on the floor.

    Combine this with GPS, or even the iBeacon technology we looked at earlier, and the opportunities for augmenting delegates experiences at events and conferences are limited only by our creativity and imagination. Again, I recall the queues at recent events just to try on Google Glass and Oculus Rift – without a doubt there is huge public curiosity and interest in this area, something I can’t wait to see at events I’m attending soon.
  • Be creative – as I said, technology isn’t about square pegs and square holes. Mix and match – or mix ‘n mash!

    I can talk for hours about this stuff, I’ll be around, come and grab me.
  • Meet the Future! Innovative Technology in Events and Conferencing (June 2014)

    1. 1. “Combinations of technologies multiply impact” McKinsey Global Institute: Disruptive Technologies (2013)
    2. 2. Credit: Segway Credit: Apple
    3. 3. Double Telepresence Robot Credit: Wired
    4. 4. Double Telepresence Robot
    5. 5. Credit: Double
    6. 6. Credit: Oculus VR “Religion on contact”
    7. 7. Credit: The Arcade Man
    8. 8. Credit: Durovis Dive
    9. 9. Credit: vrAse
    10. 10. Credit: vrAse
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