Technology is cool. And useful. But don’t forget about fun! The latest tech tools and gadgets can make your life as a planner more productive, more profitable and more enjoyable than you might have imagined—for you and your attendees.
Here’s a quick roundup of some new technology offerings adding pizzazz and new life to the industry.
Properties see the same need to use the newest toys. In Tucson, Ariz., the Westin La Paloma is flying drones to create virtual site visits and customized event proposals. In California’s Silicon Valley, robots are making routine deliveries to guest rooms.
California’s Aloft Cupertino rolled out a robot called Botlr in 2014, then added another Botlr at Aloft Silicon Valley. Crowne Plaza San Jose-Silicon Valley has its own robot butler called Dash.
Like Botlr, Dash is about three feet tall, weighs around 100 pounds, and can carry anything up to the size of a pillow—within limits. It can’t carry open containers, so no room service. It can’t climb stairs, so no service to floors that don’t have elevator access.
Dash delivers amenities to any of the Crowne Plaza’s 300 guest rooms. The robot can find its way around the hotel autonomously, uses Wi-Fi to operate elevators, and rolls around anyone who wanders into its way without complaining.
“The team loves having the extra hand,” says the property’s director of sales, David Wang. “When we use Dash to make a delivery, it lets the team stay at the front desk and focus on our customers there and still cut delivery times to guest rooms by half. It keeps our employees happy and customers love it. First they’re intrigued and then out come the phones to take pictures and video. Dash is fun, cool and more useful than any of us really expected.”
Botlr and Dash are baby steps. In Japan, the Henn na Hotel (Weird Hotel in English) is staffed almost entirely by robots. The front desk is manned by a Japanese-speaking doll that bats long eyelashes and an English-speaking dinosaur that waves enormous claws during the check-in process.
Wang doesn’t expect robots at the front desk any time soon, but the technology can solve problems that planners, attendees and staffers already have. Need an extra extension cord and a replacement microphone? A robot could deliver faster than a human, Wang says.
But it may not be a standard mic. Audiovisual vendors are pushing technology upgrades. You can’t hold a big meeting without microphones, but what if you could toss the mic around the room as people had questions? Or transform the mic into a giant dice cube? How about a glittery holiday box for events in December, or a cushy cube carrying a sponsor logo?
It’s called Catchbox, a wireless mic packaged in a soft foam box that you can throw and drop and keep on using. And while the idea of tossing a soft foam box around a breakout room sounds like fun, Catchbox has a serious side. It helps build rapport between speaker and audience.
“The real reason to use Catchbox is that it increases attentiveness during an event,” says Mark Consiglio, product manager for audio and IT at PSAV. “On one level, people are looking at this foam box that might get thrown their way. But people are more passionate and engaged when there is an activity involved in asking a question. Throwing the mic and catching it creates an instant bond that you don’t get if you have to wait for a floor walker to get over to you. This technology builds interactions between speaker and audience in ways we’ve never seen before.”
Tired of the same old slide presentation? A new motion-based controller could replace clickers and laser pointers. Myo uses motion and muscle sensors in an armband to control presentations, using gestures instead of hardware.
“Myo also allows you to do things with your presentation that no clicker does,” says Sameera Banduk, marketing director for Thalmic Labs, which created the armband controller. “You can zoom in on any portion of a slide with a simple hand motion. You can create a virtual pointer on-screen and underline or circle items or cross them out or just draw, on the fly, no matter what the room lighting. Presenters never thought about doing these kinds of things before because the technology didn’t exist to let them do it. Now it does.”
Myo has five basic gestures built into the system, waving left and right, tapping fingers, making a fist and spreading your fingers. Add different arm movements and it is possible to create dozens of commands to control slide presentations, drones, music and video players, or almost any other digital device.