Interactive exhibits

Hannover Messe organizer harnesses interactive 3D to transform its exhibitors’ trade show experiences

Lindsay James
29 September 2021

4 min read

As one of the world’s largest industrial trade fair operators, Deutsche Messe works to continuously innovate its trade show offerings – including its world-famous Hannover Messe fair. Its latest game-changer: an in-house agency for interactive 3D digital marketing assets that exhibitors can use in any setting, online or in-person. Thomas Rilke, division manager of the Deutsche Messe Technology Academy and its MEDIA FACTORY, explains the transformational concept.

COMPASS: How did the idea for your new Media Factory come about?

Thomas Rilke: The Deutsche Messe site – or ‘fairground’, as we call it – is the largest in the world. It’s like a small city. If you go back 20 years or so, we would have TV stations from all over the world come to our fairs with their own equipment and their own crews. So we built 12 TV studios to house them.

Thomas Rilke, Division Manager, Deutsche Messe Technology Academy and MEDIA FACTORY. (Image courtesy of Deutsche Messe)

Most media companies now use stock video; so, in late 2020 we transformed those studios into our MEDIA FACTORY – professional streaming studios our customers can use for online events, podcasts, lectures, discussions and more.

Before the pandemic, the demand for digital assets and digital showrooms was growing; over the past year that demand has gone through the roof. Unfortunately, many of our customers don’t have the expertise to create these assets. So we realized that there was a great opportunity for us to play an instrumental role in helping our customers – or any company that needs these assets, regardless of whether they exhibit at one of our shows – to create digital collateral.

What sorts of digital assets are you helping to facilitate?

TR: We’ve joined forces with third-party suppliers who have created truly ground-breaking technology that uses a new standard called glTF. It can take an engineer’s 3D product data and turn it into web-ready, interactive and reusable 3D assets to create a digital showroom. The fact that these are lightweight assets are what make them so revolutionary. You could always share 3D engineering drawings with your customers – if you and they had the right software and enough computing power. But now you can share them with anyone who has a simple web browser – even on their mobiles.

This will be incredibly beneficial, not only for our customers but for any company that recognizes the need to compete in the digital world. No longer do they need to build a physical product and then get media teams in to video it – this technology will save them considerable amounts of time, and a lot of money too.

One great example is the Fraunhofer IPA [Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation] spin-off project KUTOA, which created a mobile lab robot called KEVIN. KEVIN is designed to automate repetitive, manual laboratory work. Creating digital marketing assets from design data allowed the KUTOA team to expedite KEVIN's development and attract investors before the design prototype robot was built.

Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to turn and flip this glTF model of KEVIN. (Image © KUTOA)

How will this capability benefit Deutsche Messe?

TR: It means we can get closer to our customers – wherever they are in the world – since they will be able to access the tools virtually. It also means that more of our customers will be equipped to take a more hybrid approach to trade shows in the future, and this is where things are heading.

It’s important to recognize that 90% of our events are for really technical industries. Our typical exhibitors are machinery companies, or manufacturers of complicated components for machinery. They seldom build single products. They may have 30 or 40 different models, and many of these models can be customized, resulting in an almost infinite number of variations. So, you see, it’s impossible to showcase their entire offering at a physical event, which may mean they miss out on potential business.

By having really impressive 3D digital assets at physical events, our customers can present their entire product offering in a very realistic way. Visitors can even see inside the machines – how they’re built, how they work.”

Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to turn and flip this glTF model of a jigsaw. (Image © 3DEXCITE)

By having really impressive 3D digital assets at physical events, our customers can present their entire product offering in a very realistic way. Visitors can even see inside the machines – how they’re built, how they work – including functionality that sometimes is hidden behind, under or inside other structures.

These digital assets can also be reused in a variety of ways; not just at our trade shows, but at any event. In fact, our exhibiting customers are increasingly asking us for support at smaller, more focused events outside of trade fairs, because they want to be in permanent digital contact with their customers. The digital assets we create often form the basis of a digital showroom and add value to press conferences, at customer events, in social media and at customer meetings, either digital or face-to-face.

There is, of course, value for us at Deutsche Messe too. Our glTF capability lets us serve our customers in ways that no other trade show can match.

What response have you seen so far, and how soon do you expect to offer these new services?

TR: We have just run an email campaign outlining everything we hope to offer. We sent this to 1 million clients around the world and had a 10% open rate and a 2% reaction rate. For us, this is terrific. It shows that there is a big demand for these services.  We hope to be ready to launch in the next month. But that will be just the start – we also have something even more exciting in the pipeline.

Tell us more!  

TR: We see the digital asset production offering as the first step. The second will be the creation of an industry platform.

Let me explain: At the moment, if you go to an industry fair, you look up the exhibition website and find the companies you want to visit, along with the booth number. The website is mostly used immediately before, during and after the fair.

A typical exhibition website and database only provides the name of the company, the description of their products and where they can be found on the exhibition floor. You could call this a database 1.0.

What we want to build is a database 4.0. Using digital platform capabilities, along with those digital assets created through our MEDIA FACTORY, we can better showcase everything our exhibitors are offering. Visitors will be able to access so much more about the products they are interested in – their functionality, the technologies they can be used in conjunction with, and the platforms they integrate with, for example.

Not only this, but we see our industry platform facilitating collaboration between all the different players. Not only will visitors have the chance to connect with exhibitors, but they can connect with other like-minded visitors, who may have valuable experience to share.

This is where it really gets exciting. It will massively transform the trade show experience for visitors, for exhibitors – in fact, for everyone involved.

To discover even more glTF capabilities, click here, scroll down to “Meet Green Turtle Prototype in 3D” and click the “3DPlay” button. You can also learn more about:

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