How Changes in Technology Could Impact Live Events

A Moment of Prediction

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Each year, the Future Today Institute releases a new version of its Tech Trends Report, which is a comprehensive document that attempts to predict how emerging technology will shape our world in the coming year. FTI’s CEO, Amy Webb, presents key findings from the report live on stage at South by Southwest and makes the full report available to the world as she wraps her talk. The 2024 version, which is email-gated but otherwise free, clocks in at nearly a thousand pages and prognosticates across 16 different color-coded categories including AI, Climate, Healthcare, and Entertainment, to name just a few. 

Technologists love making predictions. Anyone born with the itch to take something apart has invariably done so to see if their prediction of how it works lines up with reality. It’s also no accident that so many innovators love seeing our possible futures play out in Science Fiction, whether it’s the better angels of our nature as envisioned by Star Trek‘s Gene Roddenberry or the cautionary demons presented in shows like Black Mirror. But making predictions is a dodgy enterprise. Neils Bohr, the father of quantum physics (an endeavor deeply concerned with predictions and probabilities) conceded that “prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” 

But as a tech-lover myself, and despite Bohr’s cautionary advice, I can’t help but be drawn to the flame of prediction. In my role as the VP of Innovation at Situation, it’s my job to make space within our walls to examine emerging technologies and try to make the smartest bets on how they may impact our clients and the overall live events landscape. What follows, then, are five predictions based on recent conversations I’ve had with my team in our bi-weekly innovation roundtables, listening to a bajillion tech-related podcasts, and just generally soaking up the zeitgeist that has our clients and partners equally excited and terrified at this moment.

1. AI agents will break free of the chat box and get sh*t done

In 2023, Generative AI was a party trick. Oh, the crazy images and poems we had it craft for us! In 2024, it’s officially come into the office as businesses invest in AI tools for their teams and expect productivity gains. In 2025, we’ll see the realization of personal AI agents that can move beyond the chat interface and get complicated, multi-step tasks done for us. OpenAI hinted at this early on with the since abandoned plug-in architecture, but I believe we’re about to have AI tools we trust with our credit card info, that will go out and tirelessly scour all the websites of the world to land us the best seat, best flight, best reservation, best streaming video bundle, and keep track of the receipts to boot. And if we need a refund because one of these things wasn’t the best, they’ll get on the phone and wait for a human agent to get that done too. Drilling down on the likely impact for our industry, it’s a safe bet AI will continue to remove friction from the 15 or so steps involved in planning a night out to enjoy a show, immersive experience, or trip to a museum. AI agents will soon make this process personalized to what they know about you, from giving you a list of choices that have the type of seating you prefer, to organizing and paying for parking and a babysitter, to securing a restaurant reservation and pre-ordering your entree to arrive at the perfect time to enjoy dinner before the event.

2. The data drought is coming

While the nation’s courts slowly try to figure out if AI companies were actually allowed to hoover up all of the data on the public internet to train their models, big tech has already picked the carcass clean. Tech companies are currently so worried about running out of training data that they’ve been spending their time trying to figure out if synthetic training data will do the trick (that’s training data produced by AI to feed back into itself to keep learning). Much like Little Shop of Horror‘s ravenous plant, Audrey II, starved AI models could turn to humans for the next data fix in the form of biometric data generated by our smart watches, smart pins, smart cars, and neural interfaces. As long as modern-day cyborgs keep moving through the world, the data tap will continue to flow, it might just taste a little different. For our industry, we can expect even more conversations about consumer behavior in-venue and, as consumers, we will see an increase in the number of signs posted in lobbies letting us know we’re being recorded.

3. Gen AI’s next frontier will be spatial

During the pandemic, I took some coding classes offered by the Unity 3D game engine so I could figure out what it takes to build and explore virtual worlds in a VR headset. Since I couldn’t leave my actual apartment, I decided to faithfully reproduce it digitally, down to each piece of Ikea furniture (many of which are shockingly already available in 3D digital form online). In spite of Unity’s amazingly user-friendly and free tutorials, I quickly learned that I don’t really have the patience to be a VR programmer (don’t get me started on “baked lightning”). That is, I don’t have the patience for line-by-line variable declarations and endless debugging, which is how one is supposed to author good code. In the world of software development, Generative AI has quickly advanced from being a code assistant to a passable junior coder, and Open AI’s Sora is about to do for video what DALL-E previously did for images. The next step will likely combine these advances and result in a real-time builder of rich immersive worlds that can change as fast as our thoughts. Companies like Meta and Roblox have already started booking concerts in digital arenas designed to mimic real-world venues. As audiences continue to develop a taste for such novelties, as well as real-world projection-based, immersive experiences, don’t be surprised if these digital realms start customizing themselves for each visitor based on voice commands.

4. Tech’s free lunch is over

Fifteen or so years ago, I connected my personal domain name to Google as my email provider, and for a long time, I paid nothing to Google for this. My personal email address had all the benefits of Gmail, but everything was branded on my personal domain, not It was (and continues to be) very slick and convenient. When I signed up, I knew the service was free because Google was learning from the things that showed up in my inbox, much the same way it does from traditional Gmail accounts. But then a couple of years ago, Google started sending me scary messages about how I would need to start paying for this service (the nerve!) and my account would officially be migrated to their business tool, Google Workspace. In their defense, they grandfathered me in with some lower pricing for a little while, slowly turning up the financial heat over time. As of this writing, I still use this service, but the monthly price bums me out, especially since I used to get it for free. What this says to me, in light of tougher global privacy laws, waves of tech layoffs, and the decline of tracking cookies, is that the free online stuff we’ve all grown used to is going away. Maybe AI will help keep the buffet open a little longer, after all Meta seems to have sidestepped the peril predicted from Apple’s ATT, but given the crackdowns on password sharing from streaming providers and the beta tests of paid social media accounts in Europe, it’s possible the followers many live event brands have cultivated for the past 15 years will have higher expectations for the relationship if they now need to pay to play. 

5. Digital advertising is about to change fundamentally

There’s been a lot of speculation about the eventual death of the 3rd party tracking cookie, something that has been pushed further and further downstream. The latest delay was announced just last month when Google and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) jointly announced these cookies would not be deprecated this calendar year in order to ensure it doesn’t give Google an unfair advantage over competitors. But just because this fundamental shift is no longer imminent, that doesn’t mean big changes won’t soon be a reality for the digital ad ecosystem. Among the changes being detailed for software developers on Google’s Privacy Sandbox site is a proposal to move the real-time auctions that power online ads from the cloud to each user’s browser. This would be like switching your weekly food shopping routine from the nearby Trader Joe’s to whatever was available in your backyard garden. The amount of processing power our browsers may soon need behind the scenes to show us relevant ads while protecting our privacy could change the value proposition of cheap, low-memory phones and laptops. Not to mention all the extra horsepower we’re going to need for on-machine AI, which is the shift Apple and chipmaker AMD seem to be embracing. Expect battery life and device weight to potentially struggle with these changes in the next-gen of digital gadgetry. This change will give more control to users, but brands may find they need to be more explicit in asking potential consumers for their information. I hope everyone likes gated content and online surveys!

So while there is a lot for the live events industry to be excited by in our accelerating techno evolution, it will require us to look at long-held assumptions carefully and, in some cases, invert them. I can’t promise I’ll put out one of these prediction lists every year for the next 17 years, or that it will eventually grow to be a thousand pages, but hopefully, this brief gathering of threads can help you think about what bets you and your organization might want to make when it comes to new technology adoption.

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