Augmented Reality at Events: 5 things Pokemon Go has taught us about Audience Engagement

Sometimes trends take a while to set in, other times they happen almost overnight. This Summer, Nintendo and Niantic (creators of Ingress)  launched their new augmented reality mobile game, Pokemon Go,  here in Canada. As I’m sure you’ve learned by now Pokemon Go sends users out into the world to collect and battle cartoon creatures in an effort to “catch them all”. While augmented reality (AR) isn’t exactly new the massive success of the game has shown how powerful and engaging a tool it can be.

In case you’re not familiar with the term Augmented Reality, it refers to the layering of a digital world on top of the real world. In the case of Pokemon Go, digital characters appear on top of images captured through your mobile device’s camera and seem to be in the real world, but there are of course other applications for AR as well. Traditionally (if you can say that for an emerging technology), the most common uses for AR in the events industry have been in trade shows and within the destination marketing/management sector. But Pokemon and its AR gaming experience are bringing the technology to people in a whole new way, so what is it that makes it such a success and how can you put it to use at your next event? Here are 5 of FMAV’s tips to successfully integrating Pokemon Go style AR into your next event.

Take your time during design

Designing a successful AR experience takes a lot of thought and time, so before you rush to add one to your event make sure you are giving yourself enough lead time to develop the content and the interface. Pokemon Go took almost 2 years from concept to launch. Now that doesn’t mean that your application would take the same amount of time, but certainly this isn’t a technology you can add at the last minute.

A quick learning curve with open ended game play

img_6766Within a few minutes of opening the game for the first time players are already totally up to speed with how the game works, and each game session is as long as the user wants it to be. When designing your AR experience, make sure that a user doesn’t have to spend too much time learning how to use the app, a guided tutorial does a great job of this, and that a session has an open ended time commitment so that users can play for as long or as quickly as they want.

Reward users early and often

Reward structures keep people coming back as well, easy to achieve awards get people hooked and more complex rewards keep them coming back, sharable or broadcasted rewards also create prestige in the game, so consider including some kind of reward or sharable progress structure in your AR experience such as a leaderboard or tweets of players progress.

Use icons that people have an attachment to

The other key feature that Pokemon Go has working for it is the built in familiarity with Pokemon, the characters have been in popular culture for 20 years and that brings a level of familiarity and an immediate attachment to them. When designing an AR experience like Pokemon Go you are in essence creating a treasure hunt (like at a trade show) use icons that are familiar to your audience, like the association, company, exhibitor or sponsor logos (these icons can be a great source of sponsorship too).

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Retention is key

Retention in this case refers to the number of times a user will come back to the AR experience. For events this is a critical stage and perhaps the biggest measure of success since each time they open the application is another opportunity for sponsor impressions, or to share useful information. The key to retention is creating unique experiences each time the AR experience is activated. In Pokemon Go this is done with unique encounters with each Pokemon and rotating locations for where they show up. This means that no two playing experiences are the same. When designing your AR experience, remember that you want your users to keep coming back so you need to be able to change things up to keep them interested.

While it is hard to say how long the excitement around Pokemon Go will last but it certainly has shown us the power of Augmented Reality as an engagement tool. The potential ways it opens up for connecting attendees at events and the sponsorship opportunities it presents are really exciting but are just the tip of the iceberg. Pokemon Go showcases the technology as a kind of treasure hunt but there are many other great applications for it that our team at FMAV would be happy to introduce you to.

For more information call your local FMAV office.