Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you will have noticed that Facebook is changing its name to Meta. The sceptics have passed this off as a PR move, but I don’t believe it is (actually I think the timing was the opposite of good PR, but that’s a different discussion). What Zuck covered didn’t actually say that much new. Look at the tweet below. This is the Fortnite creative director in 2019.
Many of the products Zuckerberg talked about already exist. For example, I was working out in VR mid-last year (and highly recommend it; it’s a lot of fun) and I put this short video together in 2017.
What Zuckerberg did brilliantly was stitch everything together into a strong narrative. He told the story. He showed us what life could be like, will be like, in the not too distant future. Since then, Microsoft has also made announcements about the work it is doing. And rumours of the notoriously secretive Apple have been around for a while with a general feeling that the company is likely to launch some form of hardware in 2022. Usually when Apple launches a product, we’re reaching the tipping point of something coming into the mainstream.
The metaverse is the next generation of the Internet. It will use Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) and other immersive technologies to bring the digital and the physical together. The term used is “Extended Reality” (XR), which encompasses immersive in general. XR will allow us to experience life in a different way. And we don’t yet know what that means for news, but here are a couple of scenarios.
Imagine a war zone. Unless you’ve experienced it firsthand, it’s hard to imagine. But decent 360 cameras already cost less than an iPhone. And if headsets become more manageable, perhaps we find ourselves sitting in the middle of this war zone. Suddenly, news is literally brought to life. This could be the same for protests.
Speaking of protests, The New York Times did an incredible job stitching together all the social media material to take us through what happened at the U.S. Capitol in January 2021. If we already had 360 footage and widespread use of headsets, we may have been able to literally walk through.
There are many, many scenarios that are similar. Moon landings. All the travel to space that we see by the billionaires right now — we could virtually go there, too. Come to that, travel in general using XR. That would make quite a supplement. The same goes for cooking lessons in your home. Or being at a sports event. Or shopping for fashion and design.
Or perhaps our news anchors are holograms that sit at the breakfast table and give us the morning headlines. It’s not as crazy as it sounds.
Why am I writing this? Because we need to start preparing. These are the things we should have on our horizon so we can create products for this new world. You don’t need to set up a volumetric studio, but experimenting with 360 may be worth the small investment. Many of you reading this wouldn’t have thought you’d be designing products for a watch 10 years ago, yet here we are. In my opinion, the tipping point for XR isn’t that far off.
With this in mind, we’ve partnered with Meta Journalism Project to bring you a free six-part series on VR Virtual Reality (VR) to help us truly understand what it is, how we get started, and where the business opportunities lie. More on that here.
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