Tech Memo: Fair Game for Augmented Reality

With the help of augmented reality, the agricultural fair goes digital.

Augmented reality—the technology that made Pokémon GO an instant hit two years ago and that powers the Snapchat filters that transform your face into silly characters and animals—may seem like all fun and games, but associations are proving there’s more to it than entertainment value.

Augmented reality superimposes a digital image over the user’s view of his or her surroundings. Unlike virtual reality (VR), no glasses are required. Augmented reality creates digital experiences in the real world.

It’s a tech tool with some intriguing practical uses for associations, says Brittney McBride, member services coordinator at the International Association of Fairs and Expositions. She’s spearheading IAFE’s first foray into augmented reality with an application designed to deliver digital learning experiences to agricultural fair and expo attendees. The program, set to launch in September, was awarded $10,000 by the ASAE Foundation’s Innovation Grants Program to use toward development.

We’re working with developers to make content that will load once a trigger image is scanned.

“This is a very hands-on, feet-on-the-ground project,” McBride says. “It was evident that we needed to do something with technology and that we needed to do something with agricultural education. We had already seen a fair take hold of a virtual reality experience, so we wanted to take it one step forward to develop an augmented reality experience.”

When IAFE’s project is complete, attendees will be able to download an application to their smartphone and, using the phone’s camera lens, turn two-dimensional banners into interactive learning experiences.

“We’re working with developers to make content that will load once a trigger image is scanned,” McBride says. “We’re mocking up storyboards about corn production, dairy cattle, and ranching practices.”

Come this fall, specific banners will be hung at fairs around the country, instructing users on how to access each augmented reality experience about farm-to-plate production.

“We wanted to lead on this technology effort because a lot of fairs are pretty traditional,” McBride says. “We found some good examples of companies using augmented reality, but in the association world, I haven’t seen very many examples.”

That could soon change. According to Looking Forward 2017, an environmental scanning study from Association Laboratory, Inc., augmented reality is predicted to be a disruptive force in the near future. In the survey, 36 percent of association leaders said that augmented and virtual reality will likely affect members within the next three years.

VR and augmented reality ranked highest for potential use in association communications and presentations, meetings, simulated exercises, product development or prototyping, workforce training, product sales, and virtual/remote workforce recruitment or management.

At IAFE, McBride’s team already has some ideas percolating for what augmented reality could do next.

“We are pondering if it’s possible to use augmented reality for sponsorship opportunities,” she says. “Turning it into a scavenger hunt for members at our convention. Or using it to direct people around the convention floor and our new host city, San Antonio.”

(kamisoka/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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