Sports and entertainment venues are often the testing grounds for new technologies. After all, the price tags for “cutting edge” are high, so often the people investing in it have a context where returns are high.
Because of this, looking to secular venues can tell us a lot about where the future of venue technology is going.
- Exterior LED Video Integrated into Architecture
Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY is a multipurpose arena that serves as home to the Brooklyn Nets and the NY Islanders. Designed by architects, AECOM and SHoP Architects with screen integration by Daktronics, Barclays Center Stadium was one of the first venues to integrate LED boards into the architecture.
T-Mobile Arena, designed by Populous with integration by Daktronics, features 9,000sf of LED video mesh integrated into the exterior façade.
This use of video as part of the architecture itself is a new trend that will likely continue. The screens are used as part of the show, to create ambiance, to change the exterior look, and to generate revenue through advertisements.
While churches have been using exterior LED marquees for some time, using LED as part of the building façade is a new idea. And definitely one to watch.
- Voice Lift Systems
The new Klarman Hall at Harvard Business School, designed by William Rawn Architects with AV design by Idibri, is equipped to function as a large-scale conference center and a performance hall. But, the innovation in this space is how it creates connections between people. While most auditoria only support communication from the platform out, this room is designed to support bi-directional communication from any seat.
With the Harvard Case Study method—classes go beyond lecture. Students need to be able to see each other and have the ability to speak to the room from where they are seated. The voice lift audio system supports the students’ interaction in the hall. Imagine shifting from one speaker on a platform to facilitating a conversation for over 1,000 people.
Right now, most church services only require systems that project from the platform out into the congregation. But as the digital world prompts a desire for more interactive experiences, how long will it be before churches need systems to support dialog in addition to monolog?
- Real-time, User-created Content
Stadia and arenas are using systems that pull user-created content onto a screen. Apps like Tagboard, Inception, Snapcastr, and Postano make it possible for video display operators to pull in audience generated content in real-time.
The thing about user-created content is that it creates a higher level of engagement. Consider the difference in the way you feel watching a PowerPoint presentation—even a good one—and seeing your friends on the “kiss cam” at a baseball game. When the content is about us and the people we know, we pay closer attention.
But the popularity of real-time user content goes deeper than simply attention. Those raised on broadcast TV are used to watching content that is pre-produced by others, but those raised in a digital world have grown up creating and sharing content. One is a passive experience. The other is active. This desire to move from passive consumption to active participation is a culture shift that is affecting all the venues where people gather—including churches.
4. Facial Recognition Technology
Facial Recognition Systems have the capacity to streamline access, create a seamless VIP experience, simplify retail operations with face-pay, and personalize experiences. Venues such as Madison Square Garden use facial recognition for security. The Tokyo 2020 Summer Games will feature facial recognition kiosks during Olympic and Paralympic events to verify identity of athletes, officials, media and staff for access.
The initial most applicable use of this technology for churches will be in security, but it can also register attendance to let you know not only how many people are attending but also who. The technology can even adjust content on digital signage in churches based on who is watching it.
Culturally, there is some resistance to this tech because of concerns about privacy. After all, if you are going to use it, somewhere there has to be a database of reference photos to let the tech know who is who. Not only that, but not everyone is comfortable with the lack of anonymity. Yet, the technology is too useful, and adoption is rapidly moving from military and police applications to the venues where thousands of people gather.
5. Biometric Sensors
Wearables have traditionally been leveraged to help users achieve fitness goals, but they can also be used to monitor, test, and improve marketing messages based on emotional responses. One such company—Lightwave—is teaming with brands to help them understand crowd reactions. For example, luxury automaker, Jaguar, measured the emotional responses of spectators at one of the quietest events in sports—Wimbledon. The data was then visualized capturing an emotional picture of the crowd’s responses on a timeline.
Capturing emotional responses isn’t limited to wearables. Smart speakers and facial recognition software can also capture emotional data.
While it is doubtful that churches will tag congregations with wristbands any time soon, can you imagine a pastor having data of how different parts of a sermon made people in the congregation feel?
6. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI is technology that performs tasks that normally require human intelligence. The technology is able to learn and improve over time. AI is currently used by large venues to power chatbots that respond in apps, automate journalism in media coverage, and for training of athletes and performers in conjunction with wearable tech.
Churches have been tracking large amounts of data in databases for decades-- membership, giving, geolocation, attendance patterns, and more. AI can create individualized digital interactions based on data which can be practical and useful.
Of course, the uses of AI aren’t all positive. The fear is that it will automate things to a place where the human touch is left out. Churches have a role to play in the ethics of AI and how the technology is used as they explore the social and practical implications of the advances of the technology.
MAKING FUTURE FORWARD DECISIONS
Churches who are planning to build in the next 3-5 years will be making technology decisions that go far beyond the latest loudspeakers and camera systems.
The good news is that the conversations don’t have to center around AI or biometric sensors.
You just have to focus on mission.
Who do you want to connect with, and what is the best way to connect with them?
(Of course, the cool thing about technology is that it might help you meet that mission just a little bit faster.)