Into Disrupting Reality
In soft steps out of the niche: Virtual reality is fascinating to many people, but most label it as a gimmick for gamers. A big mistake. The synthetic reality of Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR) will bring forth a wave of new business start-ups — the web needs to be rethought, planned and built. We are faced with empty rooms.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE REALITY — Hallucinogens like LSD are so attractive that many people remember their effects until the end of life; perhaps as one of the craziest things they have ever done. Drug trips are special because you can experience them anywhere you want. Your mind, including imagination, fantasy and emotions, starts wandering while your body sinks into the leather chair. By overstimulating various receptors in the brain, you leave the flat world of the here and now and begin to wander through thoughts and ideas, while seeing things that obviously do not exist and feeling emotions that have no origin in your surroundings.
What is real during a drug trip and what is spurious? It’s a question of perspective — high or sober? Does it make a difference? Drug use used to be a powerful and easy way out of reality. However, a new and much more powerful escape is currently being built in which the brain wanders while the body doesn’t move - but this time the illusion is technical by nature.
THE FLAT WORLD OF THE WORLD WIDE WEB — The history of the Internet is stunning, yet
the WWW is a terribly functional matter; the current web design is a primitive form of representing information.
Almost the entire Web is made up of scrollable lists. E-commerce is the best example: Highly emotional products are sold by stringing together packshots. The web offers a ridiculously limited toolbox. Even a wonderfully sensitive business like AirBnB, or complex enterprises like banks — they have nothing more than buttons, containers, text lines, colored surfaces and animations to provide the best possible product experience to their users.
These limited resources, however, were sufficient to make Silicon Valley the epicenter of the modern business world (social networking and accessibility of information excluded). It’s crazy: the Web is a collection of lists, and this is already world-shattering. Is that all?
DISRUPTION OF THE TRUTH — The effect of LSD is real for the consumer. She may be physically present in the real world, but her mind is not. It’s the same for Virtual Reality.
VR is a real experience: You feel like something is actually happening to you and not like you’re simply observing. The feeling of being at a different place than the body, of being actually present elsewhere, cannot be produced on a screen. All senses need to be involved — what we see, feel, hear, touch and sometimes even smell, thus providing new perspectives and creating spatiality, which is what Virtual Reality is truly about.
The core question is: What will change if the Internet is no longer something I observe, but something that happens to me?
What if something that used to be flat becomes spatial and accessible? Is it really just about funny glasses for geeks and gamers?
Without any question, the gaming industry is the particle accelerator of this development — but it’s our reality, the real world, and all the activities within that is being attacked by VR and about to decrease in value.
VR is emerging from the gaming niche and continuously capturing a bigger share of our 24 hours day. In fact, our reality was under attack for a long time – in modern cinema, it is impossible to build immersive worlds without 3D technology. Without 3D renderings, Star Wars is just two hours of uproar in front of a green screen. What’s happening now is that the 3D worlds of modern cinema and the gaming industry are connected to the Internet and to smartphone sensors and are going to be made further accessible by the new hardware ‘glasses’.
Virtuality is democratized and accessible for the masses.
FROM THE INTERNET OF INFORMATION TO THE INTERNET OF EXPERIENCES — If VR lifts off and is distributed in masses, the crucial question is what will happen in the spaces that come with VR? If a new technology creates spaces in which we can perceive and consume information more intensively, these spaces will become attractive for businesses to promote their products. VR will be the new technology platform, which helps start-ups to disrupt established players, because through VR they can create new markets that no one else has yet seriously considered.
At the moment, VR has still a lot on common with LSD: cumbersome in use and sometimes you’ll feel queasy. And on top, the glasses make you look funny. VR is predestined to become a kind of home station. You come home and you put the glasses on. Much of it will be pure escapism — gaming and entertainment mainly. But it is unlikely that this extreme experience will have such limited use cases. It’s much more likely that each business demands its own space in VR. For good reason, because being accessible is at the core of every business, every service, every brand, every news format and every non-profit.
What again are the benefits of a website if you can occupy a space?
For example, let’s assume VR was already the new platform and people use it to enter the world. What would happen if you’re able to experience information rather than simply scrolling through it? If you don’t look at a screen, but you’re in the action? Let’s take the example of a service that we nowadays give little attention to, like banks and their main front-end to customers: the bank statement.
THE INCREASE OF EXTREMES OF DESKTOP VERSUS MOBILE — Mobile first! The mantra of these days will be taken to the extreme. In Mobile, context plays a crucial role. Mobile applications follow a different logic compared to the stationary desktop web.
There are no differences for VR. At home you have time and ease to delve into the Web. Soon, you will do so with your VR glasses on (and look like an idiot), but this isn’t really useful when you’re out and about.
The Mobile Case for VR is Mixed Reality (MR).
When you’re en route, it’s not about building an immersive world that people can delve into, but about enriching the real world as smart, useful, exciting, entertaining or funny as possible.
The Web has already created a parallel universe of information. Thanks to services such as TripAdvisor or Yelp, you no longer stand puzzled in front of an unknown restaurant, but instead you have access to a whole set of information. You can scroll back in time and live on the experiences of others and you don’t have to be in the restaurant to see what’s going on in there, thanks to Instagram or Facebook.
MR is the new building block that sits on top of the Internet, providing access to a new public sphere. MR is the use of context.
Let’s imagine a guided tour through Berlin. We wear MR glasses, say by Prada (an indicator that it’s beautiful), we pass the Berlin Wall. In the real world, we can look up information on Wikipedia, the tourist sites of Berlin, on Instagram, on blogs. The information is all there and accessible, locked away behind our smartphone screens. With MR we would stand in front of the Wall and see it being built. We would see ourselves surrounded by cranes and moving builders constructing the wall, projected or augmented in our MR glasses. The stories of Wikipedia, blogs, Trip Advisor, Instagram applied to the world of stone and concrete, brought to life by the new technology of tomorrow: this is MR.
BUILD UP, BUILD UP — The synthetic reality has the potential to become stronger and more attractive than the real world. We are facing the dawn of a new age, but an entrepreneurial spirit hasn’t come up yet. That is because VR and AR have neither reached the level of distribution nor the technical maturity that makes them relevant for companies. But if we have learned one thing during the last ten years, it’s that businesses follow a winner-takes-it-all mentality on the Web.
With VR and MR, the playing cards are being reshuffled. We are facing a world full of empty spaces — who will provide access, who sets them up? Most importantly, who is the first to dare?
The App Economy has churn out crucial tools that will also find their use in the upcoming VR/MR world. The creation of a global artificial world is an enormous project of unimaginable size, with new challenges and infinite opportunities.
Who will provide the Operating System (OS) for the new platform?
In terms of hardware, the Oculus Rift by Facebook, the Gear VR by Samsung or the Microsoft Hololens pave the way, but: Where will contents come from? How are they distributed?
There will likely be a VR / MR AppStore where you can download new synthetic layers. Smileys, stickers, GIFs — highly successful web-only expressions, what will be the VR / MR counterpart? Who will build it? And who will make money with it? Which narrative forms will be created in VR by social media? What current apps will survive VR and what new apps are yet to come?
Snapchat now officially develops its own hardware and has produced a full range of image processing technology in recent months. That’s a strong indicator that they want to bring their synthetic layers, which are now locked up behind screens, into the real world. Isn’t Snapchat the first MR social platform already? Sure, Snapchat’s face swapping filters surely don’t look like a serious business threat — yet at the beginning, the future most often looks like a toy.
Consuming VR is one thing, but in an artificial world you’ll soon be able to create things on your own, maybe as simple as recording and uploading a video — the platform-law of the 21st century will also apply to VR and everyone will be able to consume and produce — coming back to the question:
Who provides the platform where interactions will take place? What comes after YouTube?
VR as a new form of expression will generate new artists — what will they create, how will they distribute their art? Creating a synthetic reality opens up the door for designers all over the world, it will create new jobs, new study programs and new sources of income. The same applies to brand communication in VR:
What if a brand has to fill up all the space of meaning in VR/MR?
What if a Facebook Page will be a space, where brands virtually, and at some point also physically meet fans?
GOODBYE WORLD — A new world must be designed, constructed and filled up. Those who want to benefit from the new world need to bring along a lot of creativity.
Is the creation of virtual reality perhaps the final match of the knowledge economy? Does all the fuss about the creative class in 2016 prepare us for the challenges that will arise in 2026?
The core difference to other technologies is that it’s about creating a new reality, not merely incremental improvements.
You cannot over- or underestimate its impact. We are facing empty rooms. It is now that we have to make the decision: to wait until someone will built the first VR shop, the first search engine, the first Restaurant Finder, the first hotel booking portal — or to act.
child is a strategy consultancy in Frankfurt that solves key digitisation issues in corporations through radical simplification.
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