Yes, you read that right – we’re discussing audio augmented reality for events today! And yes, we’ve discussed the topic of augmented reality before. We touched upon it on the Event Tech Podcast. And we even dedicated a couple of #EventIcons episodes to it. But what we’re discussing today is a very specific sub-section of the topic. While the whole thing seems like a word salad, it’s still a conversation you’ll want to pay attention to!
And who better to get things going than our resident geeks? Will Curran and Brandt Krueger are once again ready to nerd out with you. So buckle up and press play – it’s time for a master class on audio augmented reality for events!
Let’s Get Reacquainted
Brandt begins by going back to the concept of virtual reality. “Usually in today’s context, when we’re talking about augmented reality, we’re thinking of some kind of glasses we put on. But really the simplest definition is that it’s reality augmented. You’re layering something over reality. So it’s not replacing reality. It’s layering it over. When we talk virtual reality, we think of these immersive worlds or storylines. Or maybe even just 360 videos, those kinds of things. But it’s meant to put you someplace else compared to augmented reality. Which is where we’re still firmly planted in the world, but we’re getting information or having some kind of sensory input layered over reality as we see it and know it”.
Audio Augmented Reality: A First-Hand Account
Brandt has already dived into the world of audio augmented reality with a pair of bone-conducting headphones. “In this context, if we’re talking about audio augmented reality, that means we have to layer on top”, he explains. “We’re not replacing. When we put on a big giant, big muff headphones or noise-canceling headphones, the goal is to block out the rest of the world. Really get into our own head”.
“Much like virtual reality glasses versus augmented reality glasses, when we start talking about augmented audio, we’re talking about layering audio over realities. These “headphones” that I have because they’re not really headphones, sit just in front of my ears. They do wrap-around the back of my head. They sit quite comfortably and then they sit right in front of my ear”, he adds.
“My ears are actually still open to the world. I can hear everything that’s going on. What these bone-conducting headphones do is they’re actually vibrating a little bone right in front of the ear. And that just wiggles its way through and activates your eardrum as if you were hearing it being broadcast out loud. Much like today, if you want a good bass response, you need to have the big over the ear headphones in order to get a decent sound. That’s why the Beats and things like that are so popular. That’s kind of how these sound. You can listen to music. They’re perfect for podcasts because it’s just spoken word”.
Audio Augmented Reality For Events
Brandt expands on the possibilities that his new particular gadget offers him. “One of the interesting things to me is using the Google Assistant through these headphones”, he says. “When I say the magic words if I have those headphones on, my phone will beep and I can respond, and the assistant responds, in the headphones. And I’m starting to find ways to fit that into my workload or workflow. Especially for calendar appointments. That’s super handy”.
“Another idea that I have potentially for how this is using more traditional technologies of headphones, which is translation. One way you can do it is you just log on an app or a site and you plug in your own headphones and use it”, says Will. “I’m almost thinking how augmented reality allows you to hear a little bit of the world with a translation over it is important versus just hearing the translation”.
“I find my audio engineers are doing this all the time. They call it the bed, a little bit of the English speaking original below it. So that way you hear inflection, you hear pauses, you hear them laugh, that sort of thing. Then also the room needs to be put into that mix as well. Because you’re putting headphones in. You’re eliminating a lot of sound going on in the room. I feel like this could be really, really improved”.
“Because what you do is instead of saying, room audio, sending a little bit the English, they just put on the translation on the augmented reality headphones and they hear only the translation. It allows them to hear the music and the and the laughter and all those things like that mixed in with just the translation of the spoken word”, he adds.
Bringing Audio Augmented Reality To Event Apps
“These event apps are constantly pushing notifications. But we’re also pushing for this white space and a disconnected world where we’re not looking at our phones”, says Will. “But at the same time though too, there is something really important about the ability to send notifications to. The way I imagine this is you have an event app and there’s an emergency. If someone has augmented reality headphones on and has the ability to hear the outside world, they’re not hearing things, they’re not constantly listening to things. An emergency happens and you could say, “There’s an emergency happening.”
“Usually you’d have to do that by piping it through the whole venue, putting all the speakers around. What if you could do that via audio augmented reality headphones instead? I’m also thinking about it in a personalized way. Where, for example, your event app has your schedule. Let’s say it knows you’re not in the room for the general session. The general session is about to start in five minutes and you said you were going to the general session”.
“Sometimes I miss it completely because I’m so involved and not looking at my phone. But a notification that’s not disruptive enough where I would get pulled out of a conversation, but yet I’m notified of what’s going on. I thought that’d be kind of cool”, he adds.
Two Places At Once?
Brandt brings up how expo halls tend to get so loud, and how great it would be for vendors to get away from all of that. On this note, Will recalls how they’ve talked about “how they love how people could literally go walk the entire trade show floor and switch between sessions as they’re going along. But what if you could do that via an app? And what if instead, you could still hear the world around you as you were listening as well? I think that could be hugely beneficial”.
“The level of customization that that opens up is if you’ve got the ability for each attendee to be able to individually control their own volume. I can’t tell you the number of times, and I know you’ve dealt with this too where one person’s coming up to you telling you it’s too loud and the next person’s coming up telling you it’s too quiet”, adds Brandt.
An Interesting Future
Will is already thinking about what audio augmented reality can bring in the future. “Also triggering sounds based on the user’s head gestures and movement as well. I have no idea how this would be used in events. Voting may be, for example. Someone’s like, “Okay, for A, shake your head yes. If you say no, shake your head no,” and boom, the vote goes automatically to the Slido count and does the vote and everything like that. That’d be pretty cool. Maybe it’s something like as your head is nodding down to fall asleep during the finance presentation, it starts playing some rock music underneath or maybe it vibrates your head a little bit to wake you up”.
“You can use it creatively, especially if you have the ability to split the audio”, says Brandt. “I can imagine like, okay, this left side of the room gets told one thing, right side of the room gets told another thing. And then you can put cheers together and things like that. You could have some fun with it definitely”.
Brandt shares his final thoughts on audio augmented reality. “It’s not that it’s that technology in and of itself that’s going to be so magical, right? It does not necessarily display technology that’s going to change the world. But rather when you combine it with something else. Much like that, it’s the ability to start including this technology in other technologies. As we start to talk about augmented reality glasses, maybe ones that actually look like glasses as opposed to weird Google Glass type stuff, and then combine that technology, the visual technology with the audio technology so that you’re able to hear that digital assistant in your glasses and then get visual feedback combined with it”.
“When a notification comes in, you get a little blinky light up in the corner. Something along those lines where something comes in and then just do like a quick tap on the side and it gets to play a text message without having to pull your phone out. Much like a lot of the vehicles now. You can have it read back your text messages and things like that. Having that beam directly into your ears without having to be broadcast to the rest of the world I think could be kind of nice”.
And that’s a wrap on this week’s episode of the Event Tech Podcast! Make sure you check out our new sponsor, Event Leadership Insitute. But don’t just go to that website, check out eli4.me/etp for a 20% discount on individual courses, or a 20% off of that monthly membership. Join us again next week for even more event tech talk!