We live in an era when virtual space is penetrating deeper and deeper into everyday life. And communication with other people was no exception. The battles pro and con social networks, as the main means of communication of the 21st century, have not yet died down, as new technology emerged on the scene – the virtual reality in social media. Its offensive was proclaimed by the creator of the most popular of social networks – Mark Zuckerberg, and it is not surprising that Facebook became one of the first platforms in which the virtual world in the social network became possible. In the next ten years, Mark plans to invest up to $ 3 billion in the development of AR and VR systems. This is about the same amount he spent in the last three years, only for the rather controversial acquisition of Oculus VR company and their Rift helmets: $ 2 billion for a company, $ 300 million – for the leaders of Oculus, since they have already achieved certain results, another $ 300 million was spent to compensate the game developer ZeniMax Media in a lost lawsuit, the trial of which took place immediately after the purchase of Oculus.
What is this thing, VR in the social network and what is its advantage over ordinary social networks? Let’s figure it out together.
What Does VR Mean for Social Networks?
Social networks, like any other technological phenomenon, will evolve, mix with other technologies and be transformed into a new communication format. Virtual reality is perfect for this. Considering that it is the founder of the world’s largest social network that sees the future in such integration, it can be said with confidence that this will happen sooner or later.
Firstly, virtual reality itself is an excellent environment for unprecedented visualization of social network interface elements. Expansion and improvement of the user interface of the resource, video with full immersion in what is happening, panoramic photos, virtual galleries, albums, virtual spaces for communication – the first thing that comes to mind, but not the only one. Imagine that, wearing a helmet, you will find yourself in a virtual “room”, where, on the one hand, there will be dialogues with friends, on the other, a news digest, and on the third, a media centre. You will not need to keep a few tabs, poke on the links – everything is available around you and is controlled by turning your head, look and voice – just in virtual social networks.
Secondly, this is a new opportunity to interact with friends in a social network for gamers as an example.
Perhaps our profiles will turn into virtual “avatars” of the type of The Sims characters who will communicate with each other. This was best shown at the Facebook conference on the future of social interaction.
Thirdly, no matter how we would be against it or provoke a battle of the social network vs reality, but VR opens up new opportunities for advertising and promoting brands and products. Companies will compete with each other to create the most effective mechanics and campaigns to attract the attention of users, with the spread of virtual reality in social media marketing and this niche will be captured by marketers and PR managers – virtual reality social media statistics recovers it just today! By 2019, as data from market research firm eMarketer show, there will be 49.2 million regular VR users and 54.4 million regular AR users in the US.
Advertising will be built into the virtual reality on social media, attract new customers, for which companies will pay social networks for money. Thus, if VR advertising is effective (and it is likely to be so because this is a new direction of advancement, the potential of which is huge), social networks will continue to develop in the direction of immersing a user into their virtual reality.
Speaking of virtual reality, it is necessary to imply VR itself (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Google Cardboard and Daydream) and also augmented reality (AR), but in the form that Microsoft offers us in its Hololens project. In the future, this is likely to merge into mixed reality technology, or mixed reality (MR), but at present VR is the most developed and conceptually designed technology suitable for more or less convenient use.
VR is the future, and more and more people are aware of this, VR investments are growing every year, the largest IT giants and media industry leaders are leading VR developments. Yes, now VR has a lot of sceptics, but this is normal – almost all global technologies faced skepticism, but, nevertheless, they came to life.
So it’s with VR. The transition of social networks to virtual reality is bound to happen, especially when the use of VR devices becomes ubiquitous. You can hardly stand aside when VR helmets and devices become more accessible, and being in virtual reality is more comfortable when everyone around you will make appointments in virtual offices, visit virtual shops, cinemas, exhibitions, etc. After all, virtual reality opens up tremendous opportunities for communication, entertainment, business, education, incomparable with what it was before.
What Social Networks Already Exist with The Introduction of Virtual Reality?
Let’s encounter some of the virtual world social networks existing today.
- Virtual reality social network from the British company vTime Limited. Decent product with great potential and a low threshold of entry. It is distinguished by cross-platform. Time works fine on Windows Mixed Reality, Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard, Google Daydream, iOS, Oculus Rift, Oculus Go. To use vTime, you don’t even need a VR headset – that’s a mobile virtual reality social media. The application works on the smartphone screen as a regular game (without splitting the display in two). The effect of immersion in this version, of course, will not be, but for familiarization is the fact. The coolest locations – your communication with friends takes place in fantastically beautiful places: the Arctic Circle, the underwater world, the futuristic skyscraper, the sea coast, the top of the mountain, the spaceship, the ancient bar, etc. Graphics and animation are high-level. Gestures vMote – technology you can express your emotions with during communication with various gestures, for example, by clapping your hands. Moreover, in the social network, you can even take a selfie with your friends, having pre-selected a suitable image for yourself. Among the shortcomings – for the time being, on one location it is possible to communicate with a maximum of 4 characters, and also obligatory registration in the network is necessary. Well, the purpose of this network is only communication, nothing more is laid in it.
- AltspaceVR is a multifunctional virtual reality social media that is now owned by Microsoft Inc. It provides much more discretion for users than vTime. What distinguishes it: several nice locations with the ability to navigate through them using a controller/gamepad. And you can walk both on foot and through teleportation. Ability to try AltspaceVR without registration. True, your avatar will be displayed as a robot and some of the functions of the VR social network will be unavailable. Unlimited users in one location. Here you can easily arrange a large party. There is a 2D mode that does not require a VR headset. There is also a portal to various rooms where you can not only hang out, but also play various games, and even watch movies.
- Facebook Space – the largest of social media using VR. It allows an integration with Facebook, which makes it easy to invite your friends and acquaintances to the VR world. Correspondence and even video calls are also available from VR mode. The ability to create a 3D avatar based on your photos from Facebook, i.e. he will be as close to you as possible. Moreover, the avatar will be “alive”: it will be able to express some emotions, for example, laughter, smile, anger, surprise, and perform a series of gestures. Among the shortcomings is the limited choice of VR gadgets with which Facebook Space interacts and also a limited number of participants in one session.
Virtual reality is actively penetrating social media, and today every user of the network can touch its unlimited possibilities. All that is needed for this is equipment, and only this stops the spread of the virtual space into everyday life. But as gadgets become cheaper for virtual reality, the expansion of this type of communication will, of course, grow exponentially. It will be possible to interact directly with the world, computerized through the Internet of Things. And in order to navigate in such a world, glasses are no longer needed. The virtual and the real will no longer be different – in any case, if the development companies manage to realize all their ideas and ideas.
Virtual reality covers a large number of industries and is used both for entertainment and for solving business problems. Now VR technologies are taking a direct course towards rapprochement with social media.