Virtual reality to become reality

Watching people use the virtual reality booth at the old Beatties store in Leicester as a child, I was amazed by what technology could do and what would come next. The potential to experience different worlds was mind blowing and seemed incredibly futuristic. Despite rapid advances in technology, virtual reality has remained part of science fiction films such as Tron and The Matrix, rather than a feature of everyday life. 

Having attended the IPA’s review of SXSW Interactive 2016 and purchased a basic viewer, it’s clear that virtual reality is set to become much more common very soon.

Ranging from the cheap Google Cardboard (£10 to make your smartphone into a very basic VR device) to the much more expensive HTC Vive (several thousand pounds when combined with a high power PC, for an immersive VR experience focused at gamers), there are a variety of options for people to experience virtual reality at home. The more basic implementations aren’t perfect but their accessibility gives a glimpse at what will be possible.

Don’t think it’s just for kids (and grown up kids) who love games though. Whilst the gaming industry is the biggest and most visible driver of virtual reality technology, there are numerous other applications for the technology appearing all the time. Here are some great examples to check out virtual reality with your viewer:

Google Cardboard
Simple demos from Google that help show some of what is possible using the basic virtual reality viewers designed to work with a smartphone.

Guardian 6 x 9
This moving example shows what it’s like to experience solitary confinement in an American prison. This use of virtual reality builds empathy, allowing the Guardian to make their point much more strongly and build support for their campaign.

An app with several beautiful and moving 360 degree videos. It’s hard to pick as there are so many fantastic videos but be sure to check out The United Nation’s “Clouds over Sidra” and The Click Effect.

Watch the videos mentioned above and you’ll appreciate how virtual reality leads to far more powerful feelings than when viewed in a different format. Being able to bestow such profound feelings on a viewer is something to be taken seriously though. Whilst some of the examples shown above build empathy with the viewer to make an important point, people can easily be terrified by scary experiences too. To help developers produce apps with content that doesn’t go too far or give viewers motion sickness, Oculus (creators of the Oculus Rift, another very popular virtual reality device and now owned by Facebook) have drawn up basic virtual reality guidelines.

Virtual reality offers huge potential but striking the right note and not relying on gimmicks will be key to successful implementation. Undoubtedly virtual reality is very cool and very exciting, but be warned, it’s not possible to look cool spinning around on the spot, whilst grinning with a cardboard box attached to your head.

Thoughts on social media in 2015/2016 from the Guardian Masterclass

Back in November, I attended a ‘Social Media Masterclass’ courtesy of Tom Szerkeres and Jemima Garthwaite from London-based agency This Here. With brands constantly searching for new and creative ways to stand out on social media platforms, courses like this offer a chance to recap what has happened in the past year, review what strategies do and don’t work, but more importantly explore what the major changes may be in 2016.

A recap of Social Media in 2015

Overall the user is back in control. With devices becoming ever more powerful in terms of what media users can both produce and consume.

Here are some of the major changes, advances and key learnings from 2015.

1. AdBlock changes online advertising

AdBlock (a content filtering and advert-blocking extension for web browsers) is an increasingly large issue for online publishers who rely on advertising to produce and host free content. This has created a huge push for media to be directed through social media channels such as Facebook, a platform which is has shifted from an earned media platform to a paid one.

So unless you are a big brand with a large following, you're going to have to pay to be seen online.

2. Targeted advertising is now even more powerful

Targeted Facebook advertising is nothing new, but the amount of information now shared on Facebook allows advertisers to segment their audience more precisely than before. Facebook’s consumer behaviour researchers analyse a broad spectrum of qualitative and quantitative data based on profile activity, to understand people’s emotional drivers. So do you need to target men, university educated, who live in the South East, listen to Nickleback, have seen them live in concert, are early adopters of technology, have just been married and have an iPhone 6? Facebook has you covered.

Twitter’s addition of Lead Generation cards also offers a helpful way of increasing email signups by allowing you to collect user emails in one click and sign them up to a mailing list in two.

Make sure your social media advertising is taking advantage of targeting options to show your message to the right audience.

3. Quality/engaging content becomes crucial

As users are bombarded daily with content online, yours should be immediately identifiable. If you post through social media whilst on the go, branding your content is now easier than ever. As video is increasingly the content of choice on social media, applications such as Hyperlapse and Boomerang allow you to create captivating videos, at a small file size, and share it online with ease.

There are a few key things to consider to ensure your content gets through to your audience: be recognisable, create posts with engagement in mind and include video content where you can.

What’s likely to change with
social media in 2016?

"Messaging is one of the few things that people do more than social networking" - Mark Zuckerberg, 2015

Brands are now beginning to handle their customer services through messenger applications. Users will soon be able to communicate with companies through apps such as Facebook Messenger to help answer their needs and gain near-instant responses. This has already been trialled in China, being met with a positive reaction. Brands will benefit by moving customer service away from their public social media  channels and users will receive a more personal and instant means of communication.

Another development set to be big in 2016 is buying on mobile devices. Services such as Apple Pay have removed the need to enter your card details when shopping online. As a consequence, 2016 is set to become the year of the “Buy Button”, meaning shopping on your mobile phone and directly from social media posts will be even easier.