You could do the same old thing… or you could do something better. You could turn a static image into a moving experience. You could transform an empty room into everything it has the potential to be. You could spark imagination, while also going beyond the need to simply imagine. Simply put, you could start with ordinary, and end up with extraordinary. While a lot has changed over the past year and we’ve had to compromise in many ways, when it comes to events, “better” is still more possible and more accessible than you might think. Here’s why.

Augmented reality (AR) has been around for awhile now, but technology improvements and recent world events have removed a lot of the barriers to using it, for both the client and the end user. SOS Charging Solutions began experimenting with augmented reality back in 2019 (sweet, sweet pre-pandemic 2019), when the technology first advanced beyond the need for an app and became accessible through a web browser. 

“We wanted to find a way to level up or enhance the branding we already provide on our charging stations,” says Joel Olandesca, CEO & Co-Founder of SOS. “We were looking at it as an add-on to what we were already doing.”

When the pandemic hit Canada in March of 2020, the team seized on the opportunity to dive headfirst into developing their AR capabilities, digging into deeper research, moving forward on testing and development, and conducting focus groups. They knew they had something big to offer their events industry clients during the shift from in-person to at-home and virtual experiences. 

“We wanted to remove the layer of complexity that is associated with AR historically,” says Mike Metcalfe, VIP Biz Dev and Sales at SOS. “As we saw live events being cancelled and virtual events on the up-ramp, those were hurdles we took on to make this technology a lot more affordable for events to implement.”

The result is SOS WebAR, launched to offer accessible web-based AR, built and managed by the event professionals at SOS. The fact that they’re bringing that passion for and experience in events to the table  means they are absolutely overflowing with great ideas that aren’t just great, but strategic.

“One of the biggest differentiating pieces goes back to how important events are to us,” says Joel. “When we were providing charging [with SOS Charging Solutions], it wasn’t a simple transactional thing for us. We dive deep into the event and the purpose behind it, and we’ve brought that same mentality to WebAR.”

That whole-picture approach means working with your team, digging into the objectives for your event, understanding the audience and stakeholders, and looking for opportunities to contribute to goals and enhance guest experience with AR technology. Imagine a pre-event strategy with a hyper-engaging save-the-date or welcome package, or being able to call up a 3D model during a keynote. There’s also major opportunity for marketing activations, with physical pieces that take the experience to the consumer.

“At a time when virtual events have us trying to establish brands from home, when guests are just sitting at home, AR can truly take people into another world and give them an entirely different experience than the physical setting they are in,” says Mike. 

“AR brings a level of wow-factor that hasn’t been there in a long, long time. We can represent a return to professionalism for brands, plus engagement and gamification, Instagrammable moments – those things matter, and it’s really important to us to be able to help with that.”

Along with the front-end benefits of the technology, the backend analytics bring an added layer of value. The team can track dwell time, how long guests were accessing a particular link, click rates, and a more – all while protecting your guests’ privacy by never collecting or storing any personal data. 

In the wake of the foundation-shaking year that was 2020, there’s something so pure and thrilling about embracing the chance to honestly engage and excite guests with an experience they haven’t seen before. Guest experience still matters, brands still matter, and innovating should still be fun and not just necessary. 

“The programming is almost as infinite as your imagination,” Mike promises. “Any objective you have – we’ve got creative ways to figure that out.”

Photography credit: SOS Charging Solutions