Recharting the course of AR/VR
In today’s digital landscape, we’re used to seeing AR/VR/XR (mixed reality) experiences every few minutes on social media channels and even shopping and entertainment sites. Ray Shingler, Co-Founder and Vice President of Product Development for the AR social app Spotselfie™, provides an in-depth look at how these experiences have been evolving and the path they should take moving forward.
Why have all the big technology players invested fully in the development of these experiences? Facebook, Apple, Google, Snapchat, and Microsoft can’t be wrong as they battle each other daily to build the next miniature versions of AR/VR glasses and map more of the 3D world around you. Big tech is exploring every different avenue and trend that could possibly drive the surging AR/VR markets and how to monetize each one of them. However, when monetization is the key driving factor, user experience and benefits come in second place.
The urgency for these giants to bring their own solution to the masses isn’t for no reason: Currently, the market for AR technology is worth $15.3 billion. By the end of 2020, AR active devices were estimated to rise to 598 million units and are projected to grow to 1.73 billion by 2024.
Of course, AR and VR is incredible technology– it will be the game-changer in applications for enterprise, consumer, commercial, retail, healthcare, and educational training. The entertainment aspect of it is already surging with total video game immersion. This is where the revenue generation lies hidden until users discover it in their new AR or VR worlds. This is a major reason why big tech is in the game, as AR/VR is just another way for these big tech companies to monetize the future billions of AR/VR users.
Considering these motivating factors (monetization and user acquisition), this use of tech will put people in more solitary experiences, like shopping by themselves from home, and streaming more shows with advanced headsets. So, what area is AR/VR missing to enhance or bring together? It’s the human relationship, with more face-to-face interaction with people in your community.
A large majority of consumers are just now getting back to venturing outside the home without the fear of Covid infection. With vaccination rates increasing, people are more likely to be comfortable with socializing in groups, meeting friends for lunch, watching sports games together, and going shopping for clothes with friends. This type of real-world socialization supports local businesses that employ the largest sectors of jobs nationwide. If we keep going on the path of developing more and more socially isolating AR/VR tech experiences, people will gradually lose their ability to actually communicate with one another, and small businesses will go under.
So, what’s the solution?
AR/VR and mixed reality experiences don’t have to be isolating: the patented tech at Spotselfie™ is designed to allow users to connect with others faster and with more physical interaction than they normally would using traditional social media platforms, as they can post virtual objects, pictures, videos, stickers, and other digital material geotagged to locations around the globe, then view other users’ content in AR via their own phones as they walk throughout the digital landscape simultaneously.
These posts promote user engagement, with fun social interactions that subsequently take place in the real world and encourage users to look up and talk to each other, instead of looking down and staying in their own virtual world.
Other AR/VR experiences like Pokemon Go that get people out into the real world playing a game together are also a great way to combat this isolation syndrome — organizations like VR Master League that are able to get players together in league/tournament competition in-person are another. The technology is also being used in incredible ways, like at University of Michigan’s Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, where professors are developing an AR game system called iGYM which allows children of all abilities to engage and play together to close the gap in competitive play between kids with disabilities and kids without.
What do these applications have in common? They’re taking great care to put the user first instead of monetization, and connecting communities instead of disconnecting them through socially isolating technology. If we want the AR/VR market to grow, new solutions and applications need to be developed with that notion as the top priority.