The case for making VR more social
Last week, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Social VR was coming “as soon as possible” to the Facebook platform. That’s because Zuckerberg wants to use VR to revolutionize how social interactions happen. In his keynote, Zuckerberg showed off a social experience where friends met in a mixed reality 360° environment. Bringing friends together to share content is central to the Facebook experience, and they are investing over $500 million dollars over the next few years to bring that to life. But it’s hard to believe that social will be limited to walled gardens like Facebook. With programming and events VR services like NextVR inking deals with the biggest networks and performers, the ability to have a virtual immersive experience with friends at your favorite game or concert is likely just around the corner.
With the rise of “conversation as UX” and human-to-computer interactions evolving to be more speech based, the way we currently communicate and share is quickly becoming outdated. Social VR presents an evolutionary opportunity for marketers to enhance the individual and group connections with audiences who already interact with them on social media. Imagine an exclusive product launch in VR or a luxury hotel tour hosted by a virtual concierge. With Social VR these immersive experiences are not only possible, but will be built into the Facebook platform.
How do brands move into the VR space?
As the digital landscape changes, consumers will increasingly look to brands for sensory journeys anchored in authenticity and emotive experiences that leave lasting impressions. Charles Melcher, founder of the Future of Storytelling Summit, has dubbed this “sensploration.” The key for brands will be tapping into empathy by focusing on moments attached to deep emotions like joy, fear, sadness, frustration, and curiosity.
– Joining/creating events and cultural zeitgeists
– Replicating hard-to-reach environments
– Bringing fantasy to life
– Nurturing individuals, groups
– Teaching new skills/experiential education
Jeremy Bailenson, director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, believes virtual reality can have a deep effect on behavior. “We are entering an era that is unprecedented in human history, where you can transform the self and [you can] experience anything the animator can fathom.” By tapping into consumer’s empathy, storytellers have the ability to create near lifelike experiences that can change perceptions. For example, Charity:Water raised $2.4MM in one day by transporting guests at their annual black-tie fundraising banquet to a small village in Ethiopia.
What are some current challenges?
The ability to capture and fuse 360 stories (audio/video) has greatly improved over the past 12 months. But haptics—any interaction involving touch—is still lagging behind. Touch is central to the way humans experience, and process, the world around them. And the VR community is furiously trying to solve for ways machines can authentically replicate touch sensations. Richard Moss of New Atlas believes improving tactile feedback in consumer technology will be crucial to bridge the divide between all that is physical and tangible from all that is digital and virtual. “The future of haptics seems limited only by our imaginations. The technology is maturing rapidly, and it’s making its way into the mass market on a scale worthy of developer attention. Now the interfaces that apply it need to catch up.”
How will VR reach its full potential?
Josh Constine of TechCrunch believes that the answer lies in developers, not consumers. “If Oculus can allow titles built for its headsets to also play on the web thanks to ReactVR and Carmel, it could expand the audience its developers can reach, which will attract more of them to its platform. That’s critical as the big VR platforms like Oculus, HTC Vive, and Playstation VR are all competing for developers to fill their headsets with the best games and apps.”
Photo Sources: (1) Google, (2) Facebook, (3) USA Today