A common criticism of virtual reality is that it is isolating. While VR will always separate you from the real world, it can and will bring people together to communicate, experience, and play in a truly memorable way. This is why Facebook sees VR as one of the world’s biggest social enablers.
After buying out Oculus in 2014, Facebook began to put a lot of emphasis on the communication possibilities of immersive content and platforms. This social push culminated in the launch of its own VR multi-user online platform called Spaces in April 2017. Spaces allows users to create fully customisable avatars based off their profile pictures, and interact with friends in a virtual online space. It also aims to bridge the gap between users who have VR capabilities and those who don’t, by allowing for cross-platform video calling, where your friends can view your personal VR world.
While it’s safe to say that the technological development of virtual reality (VR) is accelerating, one has to wonder when, or if, it will really take off. On the one hand, hardware has finally become affordable: VR headset is retailing for less than the cost of an phone.
Think back 10 years ago; no one was sure if social media would stick. VR is another new communications avenue and type of media, just like social media was not too long ago. VR is “communications” blossoming, and it will be used as an effective tool for reaching customers in a more dynamic way. – Rebekah Iliff, AirPR
Today Facebook 360, serving as a hub for all 360 video and photo content that is posted to the platform. At the time of the release, the social network claimed that it was already home to over one million videos and 25 million photos in a 360 format. The figure is likely to increase rapidly going forward, as Facebook’s iOS and Android apps can now capture 360-degree photos without the help of a third-party application or an extra device.
In the other corner is AltSpaceVR; a platform allowing players to attend events like live concerts and comedy shows, play games, and meet people, all via virtual reality. Despite its position as an industry leader and VR social media pioneer.
The market for social VR is there, and people are not only willing to embrace it but defend it!
Will removing the headset help grow user-bases?
As well as potentially being an expensive investment, many people don’t like the idea of having to wear a head mounted display to view content or use applications. Augmented reality is a fantastic bridge between the standard social media platform and a virtual one: consumers can use their existing smartphone technologies to enhance their worlds, without the need to use a headset.
Platforms like Wecapser allow users to connect with other people and the world around them through augmented geolocated ‘containers’, while Mirage uses integrated hashtags and social media sharing to turn the entire internet into an active and even more immersive experience. Audience participation and voting will help to curate the experience of the user, allowing more popular content to become more widely available while ensuring we aren’t all bombarded with the AR equivalent of pop-up advertisements.
Use of virtual reality for social is still in its infancy, but one thing is certain: savvy advertisers will want to track innovations that make 360 video more immersive and interactive. As social platforms increasingly begin to pursue their own hardware, such as Oculus and Snapchat’s Spectacles, we will see the birth of new formats and types of experiences. This will ultimately create more advertising opportunities for brands.