Microsoft PowerPoint has been the de-facto standard for all types of presentations for many years. To be honest, though, most of the presentations aren’t exactly exciting. And how can they be; there is only so much you can do using text and pictures. True, tons of cool effects have been added over the years to PowerPoint; however, the presentations are still inherently non-interactive. That might soon change with augmented reality promising to spice up things.
Prezi: Bringing Augmented Reality (AR) to Presentations
Peter Arvai’s Prezi is all about presentations that are life-like, and it uses AR to do the magic. The idea for Prezi came to Arvai in 2009 while attending drab presentations. Driven by the need to make presentations more engaging, Arvai understood that people need more effective visual aids for this. He, along with his co-founders, created tools to use images and animations effectively for presentations.
Cut to 2017, and Prezi employs 300+ employees, 85 million users, and 325 million public presentations. The company offers basic Prezi tools for free, whereas Prezi Business is a premium, feature-rich offering for companies. The numbers are great, but going purely by numbers, Microsoft PowerPoint still dwarfs Prezi by a gigantic margin. Therefore, Prezi needed to come up with something disruptive. Using augmented reality is precisely what could bring about a giant leap in presentations. If AR could be used in so many spaces right from designing cars to retail, why not presentations? Instead of being a mute spectator, AR could make users become part of the presentation itself by making them immersive.
How Does AR in Presentation Work?
The company has built its premium offering, Prezi Business, on a newly developed technology tools stack, Prezi Next. It works seamlessly across platforms, whether it’s a laptop or a mobile phone. And, it’s AR capable. How exactly? With augmented reality, you can make the entities displaying on the presentation screen appear in the air, right next to the presenter. So, you can summon the annual sales chart showing on the screen to come out suspended there in mid-air. You can have the animations dancing around right next to your face.
All this might sound too exciting for it to be still considered a presentation. The moot point, however, is how to present effectively, says Arvai. He doesn’t want to add silly filters, faces, and effects the way Snapchat does. And why? Well, because it is still about presentations and not an entertainment tool. Adding too many bells and whistles just for the heck of it isn’t what Arvai wants. You can still have cartoonish graphics and animations, but it’s all central to what the speaker is presenting.
Prezi showed the power of its AR software by helping neurologist Robert Sapolsky deliver a presentation at TED talk. The presentation was about human behavior. The hit-in-your-face moment came when the image of a man holding a gun right at Sapolsky’s hand appeared in the air.
The Way Ahead
While Prezi has all the necessary tech to make augmented reality in presentations possible, it is still not ready for a public launch. Arvai and his team are still building capabilities of the software and the direction it should take. The company is gathering and incorporating professional feedback for its AR presentation software. Once released, it would be a quantum leap in the effectiveness of presentations. And, that might be the gauntlet to spur Microsoft into action.