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Accenture has unveiled its XR Event Planner, a mixed reality app that lets event planners view hotel spaces in virtual reality or augmented reality in order to figure out whether they should book the rooms.

Accenture is collaborating with AR and VR chip creator Qualcomm and has created demos of the planner with InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) to show how the technology can simplify the process of booking events at hotels.

IHG, which owns 16 hotel chains, including the Holiday Inn, is exploring how to use Accenture’s product to help event planners book spaces. The process is typically time-consuming, but Accenture’s app makes it easier and faster, said Raffaella Camera, global head of innovation and market strategy at Accenture Extended Reality, in an interview with VentureBeat.

Above: You can use the XR Event Planner on a smartphone if you wish.

Image Credit: Accenture

“To set up an event, you have to work with the hotel sales personnel, an event planner of some kind, and then the end buyer,” Camera said. “This process can take a very long time, all the way up to six months, and you have to go and visit every room, even if it is in a completely different city or a different country.”

She added, “And even if they get to see their room, often it’s not set up the way they want, either. It’s not set up at all. To go back and forth and communicate is a lot of work. We wanted to see if we could do it a little bit differently and use this idea of extending the journey through devices.”

Accenture is also asking hotel clients to see if they will implement its full-fledged configurable offering in their main event rooms while equipping their other event spaces with simpler iterations of the XR Event Planner.

Developed by the Accenture Extended Reality (XR) practice, the XR Event Planner places event planners, buyers, and hotel sales staff side by side in a virtual reconstruction of an event space.

I tried it out recently at CES 2020, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas. The app enabled me to see a space at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown hotel. I saw a big ballroom with a large door that opened so attendees could see the pool area. I was able to see what the room looked like with the door opened or closed and play around with the number of guests expected.

“You could have the salesperson in Los Angeles [and] you could have the end client out in Singapore, and they can either all know you made changes at the same time or you could … have a salesperson make a change and see it in real time on the device,” Camera said. “With corporate buyers and planners, it tested really well.”

I navigated around the hotel space and was able to configure the number of tables, the lighting, and other features. The app lets event planners remotely view possible alterations to the environment in real time. They can change things like the types of tables, table settings, fabric patterns, and carpet.

Above: Accenture’s XR Event Planner works with Nreal AR glasses.

Image Credit: Accenture

Users can add notes for colleagues or for the hotel crew. Camera said the tool could boost event sales for hotels by 8%.

Some of the initial work might be tough for hotels, like designing spaces in VR and AR that accurately reflect the real locations, but Accenture is likely to help with that process, Camera said.

Still, the app represents an important step toward addressing challenges within the meetings and events industry, a $330 billion annual market in the U.S. alone, she said.

Currently, booking event spaces can be a slow and expensive undertaking, requiring event planners to scout geographically distant locations. The lengthy time frame to close a sale results not only in lost opportunities, but also increased booking costs for property owners, event planners, and end buyers.

In addition to improved sales numbers, hoteliers estimate the app could reduce sale cycle times, decrease booking costs, and improve brand loyalty and affinity, particularly with millennials.

Brian Vogelsang, senior director of product management at Qualcomm, said in a statement that XR has the potential to revolutionize the enterprise, and event planning in particular.

Jeff Edwards, senior vice president at IHG, said in a statement that the XR tool will help hotels close event sales faster and increase productivity, as well as helping clients book event spaces without having to travel as much.

Above: Accenture XR Event Planner lets you change rooms as you see fit.

Image Credit: Accenture

Accenture designed the pilot solution for multiple platforms, including mobile phones and tablets, Nreal AR glasses, and the HTC Vive Focus Plus VR headsets. I checked out the app on all of those devices, and it worked fine. I could check things that you would only see if you were in the room, like whether a certain structure obstructed someone’s view.

“You can go to the back of a room and see the line of sight to a speaker,” Camera said.

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