Augmented Reality – Trade Show Exhibits in 3-D

In today’s technology driven world, exhibit manufacturers and houses are starting to use new technology to showcase large-scale exhibits, engaging viewers to virtually walk through a display and experience its many features—such as rooms, theaters, demonstration stations, audio visual elements and more—in 3-D.

Render to the Next Level

Augmented Reality (AR) technology literally takes a 2-D exhibit rendering to the next level. It is a state-of-the-art way to market, sell and showcase large-scale products. AR is a new way of viewing digital information that has been superimposed onto a live view of the physical, real-world environment around you.

Exhibit companies and manufacturers such as Nimlok (U.S. division), Ultima Displays (UK division) and MG Design have invested in AR technology to generate 3-D views of exhibit structures and creatively show their manufacturing and design capabilities.

Nimlok partnered with Metaio, developers of the Junaio 3-D/AR software to optimize 3-D exhibit renderings so they are viewable via mobile devices and tablets.

How it Works

AR puts the client in the driver seat to see and experience what they wish. The user is required to use a paper marker or “trigger” that features a barcode or QR code. Once scanned by a smart phone or tablet, the 3-D exhibit is activated and emerges from the device. AR enables the viewer to manipulate their perspective of the exhibit to navigating through, above, on the sides and on the ground level to see the many angels, facets and features of the structure. It creates an interactive experience similar to what they might experience in the flesh.

Nimlok, a division of Orbus Exhibit & Display Group that focuses on custom modular and custom exhibit manufacturing, presents large-scale, custom 3-D exhibits using AR via a brochure introduced in the spring of 2013. The viewer is required to download and print the brochure, download an App on their Smartphone or tablet and scan the QR code featured next to specific exhibit structures/pages in the brochure.

Once scanned, an exhibit “pops out” of the device. The user can then rotate the image to see a multitude of angles, perspectives and elements of the custom display. The brochure features five large-scale exhibits that can be seen in 3-D.

Effective Display Solution

“AR is an effective way for us to show large exhibits in a digital and engaging way,” says Amy Benes, marketing supervisor for Nimlok. “It only requires a bit of tech-savviness and a few minutes. Our dealers use it as a tool to show custom exhibits when visiting clients and prospects. It enables them to show this type of exhibit solution without requiring the customer to visit a showroom. In addition, it puts the power in the hands of the customer to see when and how they wish.”

The viewer uses their mobile device or tablet to hover over the exhibit image to see a 3-D version. Then, the viewer can rotate the printed page to see multiple angles and perspectives of the exhibit structure.

Nimlok partnered with Metaio, a leading San Francisco-based AR research and development company. Metaio has developed more than 1,000 AR apps for enterprise, retail, marketing, publishing and industrial cases. More than 30 million consumers use Metaio’s AR software to develop and create their own 3-D presentations.

“Digital content is becoming a consumer-driven and more natural experience,” says Benes. “With the growing use of mobile devices, showing large-scale exhibits in a digital, the 3-D format is easier than ever before. You no longer have to use a laptop/desktop with a webcam.

“The next wave will be wearable AR technology, such as glasses and watches. This is just the beginning of using AR to engage digitally with your target audience and I’m excited that we had the opportunity to be part of such a revolutionary technological project.”

How AR is Being Used

Ultima Displays UK, a portable modular exhibit manufacturer and supplier and sister company to Orbus, introduced AR similarly in early 2013. The company uses AR to show specific features of several smaller, portable modular displays it supplies to the trade.

“Our dealer customers wanted to show clients key features of portable exhibits that make them easy to assemble and use,” says Sarah Blackwell, marketing manager for Ultima Displays. “AR enables them to educate the consumer in a unique, tech-savvy way and inherently sell the product using a wow factor.”

A few years ago MG Design, a national exhibition marketing, technology and logistics company, implemented an AR program at an exhibitor’s trade show, EXHIBITOR2011, to engage and educate attendees at trade shows. The booth visitors begin their experience by holding a marker card in front of a webcam at a 45-degree angle. Then by shifting it in any direction, they were able to pilot their way throughout the display. MG used AR to demonstrate and show conceptual and large-scale exhibit elements and products not present at the show.

Realizing the Advantages

Exhibit companies are just beginning realize the advantages of AR technology. By implementing an AR program a company can:

  • Create a memorable, interactive experience that clients/prospects will talk about and inherently share with their peers—after all, word of mouth is the most impactful marketing;
  • Save the consumer time traveling to a destination/showroom to see exhibits/physical structures first hand;
  • Excite and Wow the prospect enough to want to take the next step in the sales process;
  • Put the consumer in the driver’s seat and in control of viewing what they wish—something that is key for a successful sales pitch; and
  • Show key, detailed features of a large-scale product.

“We worked with Metaio to optimize and reduce the polygon count of several 3-D exhibit renderings so that they can be seen via mobile devices,” says Dave Fugiel, design director for Nimlok. “Then we purchased and used Creator software to create AR channels and present to our dealer network and their target audience. So far, we’ve had hundreds of marketers, event planners and managers view our exhibits in 3-D. This is a cost-efficient and powerful way to create awareness and educate hundreds of professionals.”

Not only does Ultima and Nimlok feature their AR presentations via brochures, but they engage clients and prospects with it at trade shows and face-to-face events as well. Often, people don’t want to be approached by a sales person, but are willing to engage/interact with an iPad or technology to learn more about a product. This puts them in control of learning what they wish, instead of being pitched. They supply their dealer networks with brochures and means to market, use in meetings and more.

Hook, Engage, Educate

“AR is used as a hook to engage, educate and entice the viewer to take the next step in the sales process,” says Blackwell. “We wanted to create an experience for our dealers to use and promote that ultimately impressed their customer.”

According to the technology research company Gartner, Inc., Augmented Reality is one of the Top 10 IT technologies of our time. And Juniper Research forecasts $1.5 billion revenue stream from AR by 2015.

To learn more about recent developments in AR, visit Metaio’s AR blog at

To see how Nimlok uses AR to show large-scale exhibits in 3-D, visit