How VR & AR Will Change Social Media.

Chances are, you are likely reading and/or found this article via social media, but not everyone is familiar with VR and AR, so let us define those before we move forward. There are other technical bits and terms that are equally important, but this article is focused only on big picture concepts.

Virtual Reality is a fully immersive environment (which can be computer simulated, and/or video), that gives the user the feeling of being in that environment, instead of the one they are at physically. Augmented Reality is a technology where one is still able to view the environment where one is, but the device can place computer generated imagery and video on top of and behind, your real environment.

 Now that we understand the difference between VR and AR: perhaps the biggest paradigm shift they will bring about, not just on social media, but the web and all the content it contains, is moving it from a 2D interface into a 3D interface. The web will soon have its content in a virtual 3D space, where one can look and/or move about as if it were a real, 3D space (office, mall, cinema, arcade, etc.). For AR, 2D and 3D items will be placed and tracked into your field of vision as you move and look in any direction.

Social Media platforms are a great way to keep a business top of mind with consumers, without necessarily hitting them over the head with blatant ads. Known as Content Marketing, it is equal parts advertising while also sharing relevant content that demonstrates the usefulness of one’s products and/or services. Since Facebook has now enabled VR video on its platform, Content Marketing is exploring new levels of creativity, while leveraging a few of VR’s strengths, namely, presence and empathy.

For example, rather than a hard 30-second TV-style commercial: Mercedes-Benz made a 2-minute long VR video, showing what it is like to be inside its 2016 SL model, in the passenger seat, driving along the Pacific Coast Highway. 

Perhaps you are a socially conscious consumer? Tom’s Shoes and Eyewear is a company that donates a pair of either sold to a child in need. It would be absurd for them to waste money to air a 4-minute long ad about the company’s social mission on TV, and many people have become inoculated against videos that try to tug on their heart-and-purse-strings. However, when viewed in VR, even the most cynical of viewers cannot help but feel the sucker punch of bearing witness to abject poverty. VR has the power to elicit empathy with such content. As a result, the VR video reinforces loyal customers, while funneling and converting new ones who appreciate a company that tries its best to make a positive difference in the world.

Just as being sociable and sharing content on social media platforms altered communications as we know it forever, it also caused giant ripples in commercial spaces, marketing and advertising. Facebook and its divisions for VR and AR, are already preparing a rollout of the platform in 3D. They are also planning on making it just as easy for anyone to create and/or adapt existing Facebook business pages, into VR and AR stores. These can be made with templates for those who have no code nor design skills, or with a more complex and bespoke setup, made to suit a brand.

Facebook is on track to have 2 Billion users by the end of 2017, and already has over 1 Billion people use its platform every day, often for hours at a time. Hundreds of millions of users authenticate into other apps and services, including games, through Facebook. It is not difficult to see how all that data presents unprecedented opportunities for those willing to take the lead.

Even mundane errands such as shopping at the grocery store, can become gamified with social media in VR and AR. The store and brands tracking you as you move throughout the aisles, offering everything from points to discounts and all other forms of incentives. Are you trying to lose weight or make sure you are not doing anything to increase your risk of diabetes? It is conceivable that all of this could be tied to the HealthKit app on your iPhone, or your FitBit, and gamified into a group on Facebook you joined to keep encouraging you to stay on track. Information can be culled from all those resources, with video, ads, links, recipes, and opinions from those you trust, to help you make the healthiest and tastiest choices when out shopping for your restricted diet, in real-time.

This opens entirely new ways for the platform, and its billions of users, to make money solely within the VR/AR versions of its services. For example, you might open Facebook AR when visiting a foreign and/or smart city. Everything from free tours, geo-tagged pictures and videos, language translation of signs, and more (with ads of course), are just a click away. Need to find some place specific? Leave your camera on, and an arrow will be overlaid not just on a map, but over your entire field of vision on the actual street you happen to be driving or walking on, and the service will guide you, step-by-step, to the location you are trying to reach (while placing content relevant only to you along the way).

Facebook even has a version for internal corporate communications called: Facebook at Work. The premise is that it is a closed system only for a unique enterprise client user. Since most people have a Facebook account, it is easy and fast to get up and rolling with the service. Integrate the platform with any of several software APIs to include: chat, voice calls, video conferencing, even sharing documents and presentations in 2D, 3D, VR and AR.

 No more laptop nor workstations are required. You only need your VR/AR eyewear to work on-site, remotely, and on-the-go. Everything is synced to the cloud, and with the ability to overlay a keyboard that exists in VR and AR, or a digital assistant that can naturally and accurately transcribe your speech, why even type at all? Unprecedented levels of productivity are right around the corner.

We have only just begun to scratch the surface of what will be possible, and the many ways to learn, entertain, work, and stay healthy using VR and AR tied to social media platforms. Is there something else you may be curious about in these new industries you would like to read more about from me? Let me know in the comments.