More than 100,000 attendees arrived in Barcelona this week to join the world’s biggest and most influential mobile event, Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016. After a busy few days supporting exhibiting clients, there’s been time to explore the show and take in the trends that may impact the events industry in the future.
As expected, virtual reality (VR) is the main experiential draw for a number of stands at MWC. SK Telecom, Ford, Lenovo and T-Mobile are all using VR experiences to encourage attendee engagement but, for me, the standout one came from Samsung and its partnership with Oculus.
Long queues of intrigued attendees, me included, snaked around the Samsung stand waiting for a turn in the Gear VR Theatre with 4D, where groups of 28 attendees could enjoy a fully immersive roller coaster experience. The super-realistic screen content was accompanied a safety briefing, seat belts and seats that moved in time with the footage. Queuing time averaged 15-30 minutes but was worth the wait.
Once the session started and my carriage ticked its way up the first big climb, my chair tipped back and I felt my heart rate increase just like it does with the real thing. Into the downward twists and loops, my chair tipped forwards, jolting in time with the content. Despite knowing full well that I was in an exhibition hall, I found myself gripping the armrests, grateful for the seatbelt.
Used well, there is no doubt that ambitious brands can do great things with VR. But beware – used badly, it’s just another technology gimmick.
While there were few big innovations at this year’s show, 5G is the hot new thing that everyone was talking about. The technology promises a huge boost to internet speeds and network capacity, exactly what is needed to support high resolution content such as holograms, augmented reality and virtual reality as well as a multitude of products now connected as part of the Internet of Things (IoT).
Whilst many of the major exhibitors talked a lot about 5G, in reality, it’s not going to happen until 2020, and then only with massive global investment in infrastructure.
For brand experience planners, a 5G reality will make video THE content marketing tool. For event venues and public spaces, it means a new investment to keep pace with the expectations of those marketers and their event attendees.
In the past when I've visited MWC, if I ignored the logos, it was sometimes difficult to distinguish between the many super-bright white stands. These stark and sometimes clinical spaces were often roped off, visible to the visiting masses but with access allowed for just a select few.
This year, I've seen many more examples of more inclusive designs, with less access control to the main booths and a greater use of colour and texture to create a more welcoming and sophisticated environment.
Microsoft, Huawei and Sony each used natural wood textures to add warmth. T-Mobile/Deutsche Telekom, LG and Lenovo used colours from their brand palette to add visual interest. ZTE, Intel and Huawei used enclosed ceilings to create both interesting architectural features but also to dampen external noise – Huawei, in particular, created a peaceful sanctuary for visitors away from the crowded main aisle.
This more inclusive design approach feels sure to support efforts made by the organisers of MWC to increase attendance, something they’ve done successfully over the last few years.
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