Transformative Tech- Before the Curtain

As originally featured on Design Dawgs

Today, my door unlocked simply because my wife walked up to it. Then it sent me a message saying she was home. Today the NYC Marathon has the ability to automatically play encouraging videos from a runner’s family members when they pass specific mile markers. Today, technology is shaping the way we interface with the world and changing the way it interacts with us. The same thing is true of events.

From immediate on site registration, to cashless purchases, and instantaneous connection with like-minded (and previously unknown) people during an event, event technology is transforming the way we “do” events. With that in mind, I want to take a look at some technologies that are transforming the way we “do” event design, and the way that event design could be shaped by that same technology.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll dissect some of the coolest event technology transforming event design, and how we can use some of them right now. In addition, we’ll do some “dreamineering” and brainstorm some ways that existing technology could shape event design in the future. We’ll focus on six main points through all of this, pre-event, sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell, and show how these diverse technologies impact many of these components of the event design experience.

Let’s start with the pre-event experience.

Whenever I have the opportunity to speak with groups of event professionals, I’ll ask them a simple question: “How many of you have done floor diagrams/seating charts in your career?” Invariably, just about every hand raises. “How many of you enjoyed the experience?” Just about every hand drops (there’s always one masochist in the group). Why is that? It’s because people are used to the “tried and true” method of room diagramming. There’s a big sheet of paper, some circles, a lot of pencils, some Post-It Notes, and I’m sure a fair amount of fairy dust and magic incantations, all with one aim in mind- creating a room diagram that everyone is pleased with.

Once the room is set, it’s typically shipped off to some exceptionally talented person who understands the mysterious language known as “CAD” and who is able to take the seemingly random scribblings of an over worked (and over-wined) event planner and turn them into something that a creative and logistics team can work with. It’s a long and laborious process fraught with much frustration. Several years ago, the team at SocialTables sought to change all that. Now, table diagrams are as simple as dragging and dropping them onto an existing floor plan (to scale I might add), moving them around and putting people’s names where they belong. You don’t like where someone is sitting? Drag them somewhere else — it’s as simple as that. SocialTables has taken the first step towards transforming the event experience by allowing event designers to focus on the thing they love to do — designing the event.

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Another pre-event element that elicits almost as much ire from #eventprofs as seating — the site visit. You start with a (hopefully) scaled diagram, add in pictures provided by the venue and taken from your phone, mix in a healthy dose of anecdotal commentary by an engineer or two, and you’ve got something (moderately) approximating an accurate site map.

Google’s (relatively) recently announced Project Tango seeks to change the way our digital devices see the world, and (potentially) become a strong tool in the event professional tool belt. It’s still in super-ultra-mega-secret beta right now, but the projected applications are promising. In essence, Google has created the mother of all smartphones, outfitting them with a host of sensors and cameras that allow it to understand and record the world around it more like we do. By taking into consideration an objects’ relative size and shape, and plotting them in a three-dimensional rendering of the world it just captured, you will no longer have to snap a picture of a balcony from the floor of an arena and hope that you remember the distance to the first row of seats. Using a Project Tango phone, you’ll be able to walk around the entire room, capturing every detail, floor to ceiling, while the phone simultaneously records distance and height. Wondering about that balcony? Drag a line from the floor to the ceiling and instantly have the measurements in the palm of your hand. As Johnny Lee of the Google team developing this project says, “The goal of Project Tango is to give mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion.”

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The potential applications for Project Tango are pretty astounding and our friends over at Event Manager Blog do a great job of outlining some different ways we could use the device in the near future. There’s even a video showing it in early use by the team over at TechCrunch (which is a blog the inner nerd in you should definitely check out). But, just in case, it’s also below.

Technology is literally transforming the way we operate at events, and the pre-event experience is just the beginning. I’m excited to focus on a few other #dawgtreats over the next few weeks that play to all of our senses, so be sure to stick around.

Next time, we’re talking about transformative tech for visual design. It’s looking like a great article so far (see what I did there?).