As an event professional, you may or may not have heard a lot of recent talk about hologram technology. As they try to adapt their business models to an increasingly hybrid world, many event creators are eager to learn about the latest tech trends. And they should be: It looks like virtual and hybrid events will outlive the lockdown by a long shot. It’s safe to say they’re here to stay, which places added importance on improving virtual experiences.
So what exactly is hologram technology? Too expensive for most of us, that’s what it is right now. But it’s worth discussing- its recent success at large events may well result in the mainstreaming of this technology in the relatively near future. Hologram technology uses special cameras that capture the speaker/setting from several angles to create a 3D effect. In laymen’s terms, it uses laser technology to reflect light in a three-dimensional way. The result: People or objects on screen appear to be in the room with viewers, which creates a much more likelike experience. Considering the fact that travel and attendance are still widely affected by COVID-19, this could be a game-changer for virtual events. But will it be?
Hologram Technology: Worth the Wait?
In a nutshell, we don’t know yet. But we can speculate. Despite being expensive- a PORTL epic machine costs up to $60,000 in the U.S.- the market for this technology is growing fast. In 2019 alone, the hologram market was worth $2.2. billion, and is projected to be worth $5.4. billion by 2024! For those of us whose budgets don’t contain the word “billion”, these statistics could seem far-reaching and irrelevant. Perhaps that’s because the wealthy commercial sector currently holds the biggest stakes in hologram technology. But that could change: Its high engagement factor makes this technology a boon to virtual events, wherein the goal is to immerse the audience in a life-like experience.
For now, holograms are simply too expensive to be integrated into a business model. Yet how many currently common technologies were mere pipe dreams just a few years ago? Especially since the pandemic began, virtual technology has been evolving almost as rapidly as the need for it. Staying competitive means staying informed, even when some technologies are not applicable to us- yet.
Hologram technology has enhanced conferences by better showcasing keynote speakers. It can be difficult enough to engage and relate to a diverse crowd in person, never mind remotely. Audio issues, lackluster visuals, internet buffering, and other technical difficulties can potentially lose a remote audience within seconds. It’s natural to feel somewhat removed from the action when we’re watching it through a screen. Now more than ever, the average person is inundated by so much information overload that being overwhelmed is the norm. Additionally, many people’s workloads have become increasingly virtual, and screen fatigue is a real, physiological thing. thing. Since the start of the pandemic, the phenomenon has been cheekily coined “Zoom fatigue”, and there is a collective effort to combat it. Thus, the importance of engaging your audience to avoid them zoning out is underlined here!
Events, especially large ones that require travel, are still losing massive amounts of money due to COVID-19. There are still frequent cancellations among guests, staff, and keynote speakers because of the virus. For just one example of sweeping losses, San Antonio recently had to cancel five events that would have raked in an estimated $21.6 million. On average, planes are loaded with one third fewer passengers than they were in 2019. The event and hospitality industries have been rocked to the core, and are still backsliding in many ways.
Holograms in Theory
Can holograms help? When it comes to speaker engagement and introducing new products or services, we believe it can. It just makes sense. Engagement and interactivity are two of the key features that make a virtual event successful, and 3D technology is simply more immersive than 2D. It makes people feel as if they’re in the room with speakers, immersed into the world onscreen, or vice versa. There’s a stark difference between a speaker on a screen from afar and actually feeling their presence and being part of their world. Technology and creativity has already taken event creators far in this respect. But if it were to become more affordable and accessible, holographic technology could take virtual events to a new level- thereby potentially mainstreaming them further.
Hologram technology can also curate the impression that the world onscreen has been brought into one’s personal space. And if audiences can experience and interact with products, speakers, and technology without ever leaving the comfort of their homes, it begs the question: Why would they pay travel and lodging costs, thus losing valuable time, when they could have a similarly holistic experience at home?
If nothing else, the pandemic has brought about a collective awareness of health and its integral value to life. For many, it has served as a wake-up call that a better work-life balance is universally needed. Quality time for self-care, family, hobbines, and relaxation can be preserved by attending conferences from home. And of course, costs can be saved, which is more vital now than ever for the majority. Many of us are just getting back to work after lengthy periods of unemployment; for some, the pandemic has fundamentally changed our income, priorities, and availability to attend professional development conferences. Job-related events can easily trump entertainment events, which can be greatly enhanced by 3D technology.
Think about it: Would you rather attend a conference in 2D or 3D from home? Holograms quite literally have the effect of reaching out and pulling audiences into a world of your creation. And therein lies the crux of their value, which is largely experiential. Holograms also boost interactivity by including an audience-facing camera. This camera allows the speaker to see and react to the audience in real time- a feature 2D technology doesn’t offer.
Holograms transcend the barriers of space and time, which is vital when you’re trying to engage a global audience. It enables you to showcase speakers at multiple events simultaneously or at different intervals. Even in-person events can’t seamlessly integrate several versions of the event taking place in multiple locations- but holograms can. This technology potentially broadens your reach and boosts your engagement higher than ever before.
Holograms in Practice
As we all know, technology can work very differently in theory than in practice. Right now, a lot of what we have to go on is theory. This is especially true for small businesses. We’re not saying that technology of any kind is a replacement for the direct contact and interactivity that many people have been sorely missing since COVID-19 rocked our world. But advancements in technology have largely saved this industry during a time when it could have drowned completely- so we’d like to remain optimistic about holograms.
For the time being, they’re not practical or accessible for most of us. However, it’s important to stay on top of evolving trends that could potentially change the way we connect with audiences in the future. Technology has made unforeseen leaps and bounds from early 2020 until now, and it’s expected to keep evolving at a rapid clip. As long as the need and technology is growing, so will opportunities for large and small businesses to improve online experiences. Here’s to learning and growing!