A colossal wave of digital ‘hangouts’ is gripping Gen Z
Have you heard of Houseparty? If you’re over 30, probably not.
But the group chat app, which launched last year and lets you video call multiple people at the same time, already has 1 million daily active users.
“We’re building the internet’s living room,” says founder Ben Rubin.
It’s not the only live-stream ‘chill’ app bringing millennials and Gen Z (born after 2000) together.
Smack Inc’s Fam is a newer video hangout app for iMessage. This pulled in 1m users in just 12 days.
The rising trend towards social togetherness has even piqued Facebook’s interest — which recently circulated a survey asking users about their experiences with Houseparty and Fam.
Gen Z might love social media, the future is about engaging with smaller private groups. And beyond the likes of Whatsapp and Snapchat, they still crave real-time real-life shared experiences.
Craving ‘togetherness’ goes way beyond social
What’s exciting is this trend for ‘togetherness’ has applications far beyond social media. And already it’s spilling over into our love of film, TV, fashion and shopping.
Watching Netflix on-demand is no longer enough — and audiences crave the ability to share their streaming experiences with friends and fellow fans.
Okiki, for example, is an app making social film streaming a reality. It’s already started by targeting the Nigeria’s Nollywood market — the second largest movie industry in the world.
In retail, Israel’s Tridshops is on a mission to create joint online shopping experiences: “Each user can invite friends on Facebook — and later on other social networks — to join them in strolling through the 3D virtual store, chat, and exchange opinions and ideas about the store and its goods,” the company describes.
This isn’t just shaping the ‘startup’ scene either. Big brands jumped at the opportunity to customise their own shared experiences: Agent Provocateur launched a kinky three-way couples chat campaign this Christmas, while rue21 built a Facebook chatbot to create a virtual stylist you could chat to with friends.
Bringing ‘social’ into physical
All this also feeds into using digital to create real-life physical experiences.
Think about the success of Pokémon Go. Easily the best bit about the game is how it embraces the smartphone while still forging real-world experiences.
Stampedes of people joined the frenzy of hunting Pokemon together.
It’s this mindset that has seen brands like River Island and Burberry win big by dropping geo-tagged videos in stores — tempting fashionistas in with exclusive digital content.
It’s also why the world’s first virtual reality theme park, Beijing’s SoReal, is rooted in the physical — and offers shared experiences for 20+ players.
“In SoReal you can do most of the experiences together with your friends not only by yourself [which is] lonely,” says president Sam Wang.
Look to the virtual horizon
As we move into a new virtual age, these communal interactions will become more engaging, immersive and powerful.
Already fashion shows are being streamed in 360° video — but imagine being able to use your smartphone to virtually sit in the front row at a catwalk, with audio links to friends, and motion capture that even places their avatars into the space.
Morph 3D is already making its mission to give you the best look for these shared virtual spaces. “We have a keen interest in trying to become the department store of VR for clothing,” VP Berkley Frei told The Memo.
Experimental companies like Hologger even imagine you hanging out with friends as a hologram — no avatar needed.
Innovation in hangout culture is breaking forth like a colossal wave.
It’s going to impact everything.
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