Virtual Reality and the Future of Communications
Photo from REUTERS/Albert Gea
Technology is always advancing, and sometimes it feels like we need to catch up with to the times. It seems like just yesterday VR was the future of video games and gaming technology. Today, it’s the future of interpersonal connection.
Ok, that’s a bit extreme. But VR is definitely becoming something way more relevant to our everyday lives than a gaming experience.
Oculus, the VR Company owned by Facebook, just released its plans for their upcoming technology at the Oculus Connect conference. Much of the conference focused around advances in the technology that all VR companies are developing – better headsets, headphones, device functionality and so on.
But Oculus also announced a feature that has us all pretty interested – social VR.
Mark Zuckerberg revealed the social features that Oculus is developing – a social VR experience with avatars capable of facial expressions and the ability to share video, media, and play games with other users. Oculus also announced two VR apps – Oculus Parties for VR conference calls, and Oculus Rooms, a virtual “hangout space.”
This innovation is pretty amazing for everyday use – I mean, getting together with friends and being social without leaving the comfort of your bed? That’s nothing short of a dream.
But we are interested in this technology for a different reason – its potential to change communication. Not only will it change the business-to-business communication, it will influence how marketers communicate with their consumers.
While the technology is brand new, it seems as though Zuckerberg and Oculus are targeting users who want to have personal and individual social experience in virtual reality. That audience is pretty small right now given how few people have their hands on the most up-to-date VR tech for their personal use – but let’s talk about the future.
Business to Business
Facebook is arguably one of the most revolutionary social media sites. It radically changed the way that people interact online, so it only makes sense that they take the first step into social VR.
Not only will this technology change the way individuals and communities interact, but it will change the ways businesses work. The ability to sit in a room with people from across the world, and hold a meeting or conference will greatly influence the way we do business – not to mention how much you’ll save on travel.
Communication is Key
It isn’t just about convenience – it’s about getting closer to those around you. Companies can be large, scary places, where the person you work for is more like an entity than a human.
Imagine a space where you could sit and talk with the CEO of the company you work for despite your busy schedules. That contact is invaluable when it comes to making the most out of your team.
Not only can you share ideas and connect within your own company with social VR, but you can learn more from your partners. Partner relationship management is integral to successful marketing. You always want to be sure you’re on the same page with those you’re aligned with. Oculus’ app allows you the chance to humanize the people on the other side of the phone.
Business to Consumer
When VR becomes more accessible and widely available – which it will – the social capabilities will revolutionize the marketing experience.
Advertisers and marketers are always looking for ways to connect with their consumers. That’s what it’s all about anyway – it’s amazing what can happen when a consumer interacts with an ad and has an emotional response. Social VR has the capability to take viewers into an all immersive, interactive, experience, so there’s the possibility to connect on an even deeper level than video.
But there’s a downside.
With the adoption of VR and consumers expectations of it, marketers are going to have to adapt or die.
While we are all starting to accept that VR will soon be a huge part of our lives, the technology is still new – and expensive. It’s expensive for both the user, and the producer. It isn’t like video where most of us have pretty impressive cameras just on our phones, and nicer ones aren’t hard to come by. For a production agency to even begin with VR, they need to make a pretty hefty investment – which includes learning and/or contracting workers who know how to use it.
VR is an experience, and the user is no longer just a viewer.
That’s the reason why VR has such potential, but it needs to be understood in order to be used effectively. Beyond just learning how to actually produce the content, marketers also need to understand how to connect using the new technology.
The way marketers tell stories will need to evolve to make use of all that VR has to offer.The emotional appeals and techniques that work in video may not resonate the same way, and that difference needs to be accounted for to make valuable connections that make the investment worth it.
Producers also need to be wary of some of the potential negative effects of VR in the early stages of adoption. Some viewers may not know what to expect from the experience, and if the content is too dramatic or intense – it could likely cause the viewer to disengage.
Despite the learning curve with VR, it’s ability to connect us all in new ways is undeniable – and that’s what Facebook and social media is all about.