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Opinion: The Experience Generation – visuals are everything

Charlotte Hone, business manager of Pro Displays at Epson UK, takes an in-depth look at the power of high-impact visual displays

Charlotte Hone, business manager of Pro Displays at Epson UK, takes an in-depth look at the power of high-impact visual displays.

The tendency to buy experiences rather than things, may have begun with millennials, but it has now spread throughout our society, with people of all ages increasingly inclined to ‘do’, rather than to ‘acquire’. What is more, now that everybody has a smartphone, these experiences are being shared both in real time and in perpetuity – that networking event, concert, festival, conference or gig is not only being streamed live by your visitors, but will have an existence online for years to come.

This new attitude, this hunger for experience, has fuelled demand for hospitality and events. In these sectors smart operators have realised that modern consumers are still consumers at heart and have high expectations whatever they are purchasing. Buyers now want a customised and immersive experience that takes reality to the next level, providing them with the opportunity to amass memorable experiences rather than things.

Fortunately, the ability to transform the viewers’ experience with immersive and customised approaches is becoming increasingly available even to small and medium-sized businesses. In the early days of the experience boom, AV technology was less refined than it is now and more expensive. Typically, an event organiser would hire an external company to provide AV and associated services and rely on their ability to interpret the organiser’s vision from within an impressive, but limited, remit. Now, things are different.

Endless possibilities
Consumers now expect higher quality and more interactive experiences whether they are visiting museums, car showrooms, festivals or entertainment venues. These aspirations for more interactive and immersive environments, mean that businesses need to keep reviewing and upgrading their user-experience, utilising the latest technology available to keep up with increasingly sophisticated consumer expectations.

Today, large venue projectors have evolved in technical capability to the point where visual entertainment is limited only by the imagination. Modern laser projectors and AV equipment make it possible to map multi-media content onto 2D and 3D surfaces, to create several distinct areas within a single space using just light alone. For a company putting on a display, projection offers a versatile and immersive solution that can be used to bring the walls, floors and objects to life – and transform any product or space on display.

And the immersive experience does not end there. A host of apps and interactive technologies now let event visitors interact with their environment, giving them access to personalised and/or enriched content and services even as they experience the event. Reality can be further augmented for organiser and attendee alike via new technologies such as drone photography, OLED smart glasses, responsive and 360-deg projections and multi-sensory applications that respond to touch, rhythm and tone.

Buy, not rent
Even though AV’s potential has grown exponentially, prices have not. Today, smart glasses, that are ideal for drone photography, are now so affordable that high-spec models are commonplace even among hobbyists. This combination brings professional level drone photography – ideal for large gatherings like festivals and concerts – well within the reach of small- and medium-sized businesses.

The same logic applies to laser projectors, which are at the core of any really good AV experience. Projectors that were ground-breaking several years ago, that are able to project images several metres in height without losing resolution, are now widespread and some are even marketed for domestic use. Production is paramount as part of the whole experience and immersive technologies that connect and engage with the ‘experience generation’ are critical to an event’s success – which has been reflected in pricing across the board.

If a company, band, performer or other organisation runs several gigs or events each year and hires AV expertise for every single one, now is definitely the time to sit down and work out whether renting or purchasing makes more sense.

Looking ahead
Allowing for the fact that nobody can predict future trends precisely, it seems that virtual reality (VR) remains the technology most likely to transform AV and event production values. While many associate VR with the somewhat unwieldy headsets sold into domestic markets, the fact is that AV professionals have barely begun to exploit the full potential of VR. We know that customers want experiences, and currently there is no technology that can transport the user to other worlds and contexts anywhere near as well as VR can. Over time it is likely that the means of delivery will change (we won’t be seeing headset-clad festival-goers any time soon), but the basic concept will remain and inspire ever more realistic experiences, accompanied by ever-improving visuals. And in an experience economy, who can really ask for more than that?