How to Understand and Use VR and AR

By Jim Spellos, January 3, 2018

Mixed reality tools like virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) are beginning to impact meetings and events in the same way they are other industries. To keep with the times, the savvy planner needs to learn what their current options are and start thinking about how to implement them at their events. Here’s a breakdown.

Virtual Reality

VR is an immersive experience where the user wears goggles to see content in 360 degrees. The user only sees what’s projected inside the wearable device. VR gear fits into three categories: phone-based, computer-based and stand-alone.

> Phone-based devices, like Samsung Gear and Google Daydream, are smartphone apps used with hardware to create a VR experience. Smartphones are placed inside goggles, and voila! You’re in a new world.

> Computer-based gear, like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, are more powerful tools, as the goggles are attached to and operated by a PC.

> Stand-alone machines are their own entity—they cut smartphones or computers out of the equation and power their own software. Right now, there are no stand-alone devices available for purchase, but Google’s WorldSense hit stores in late 2017.

VR has many uses in the events industry. Special events where attendees can try on the goggles and engage with content, like multimedia, photos, videos and even games, is one way. In fact, integration of VR into event gamification can greatly enhance the attendee experience. A number of hotels and CVBs are already using VR to promote their destinations at trade shows and on sales calls. Why talk about a property when the planner can experience it as if they were there? The same applies for event promotion.

Know that 360-degree content isn’t limited to goggles, either. Both Facebook and YouTube support 360 content.

Augmented Reality

AR lets you see content invisible to the naked eye. By looking through a device (phone, tablet), or through a wearable like a headset or goggles, the user will see and interact with content that looks like it’s there in the real world.

We can’t talk about AR without mentioning last year’s Pokemon Go phenomenon. Many folks thought it was the craziest, silliest app ever, but digest these numbers: According to Engadget, the game had more than 100 million downloads and garnered $10 million in daily revenue from both Google and Apple app stores. Not so silly, huh?

Think of AR as QR codes on steroids—you point your device and content comes to life. The difference is instead of a bar code, the scanned object is, well, anything: your event program cover, special signs and displays at the conference, or even session signage. The opportunities are endless.

What’s Next

Clearly, the use of VR and AR in our industry is in its infancy, and it will continue to develop and change rapidly. If you ask me, the sooner you welcome AR and VR into your conference programming, the better. It is the future of how we do our work for both events and in hospitality.


Jim Spellos Understanding AR and VRJim Spellos, CMP is owner and president of Meeting U., as well as an author, trainer and consultant. On a mission to help people become more productive and comfortable with technology, Spellos has more than 20 years of experience in meetings management.

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