Today’s post is a little different to my prior, rapid page plastering’s of affable & cumbersome (notably because I usually write these Medium posts a wee bit tipsy) conversational observations. Today however, is an article I have been proposed to write in attempts to showcase a prowess of trend adoption in a digital realm — what other realm is there really nowadays? As this is a little different, I apologise to my hefty number of devote followers (I have 50… Srsly, let’s get involved here guys) who are used to a different genre, for setting sails down the river styx of digital waters, and promise my next story will be more Buzzfeed worthy & likely titled, “What’s your favourite chip/wedge cut”.

The brief, more precisely, requires my subjective rambling of a newly emerging trend & it’s marketability, to which I need not look too much further than the trend gurus themselves of social & technological influence: Facebook.

Facebook (and companies of similar prestige) is one of the few companies I admire due to a mixture of philosophies practiced & tools supplied to us to make our daily lives better. A part-secret to this success I believe is due to the company being BOTH a media AND technology leader — the two run parallel & serve as a catalyst propelled engine of production.

Woah! What?

Illustrated in layman’s terms for you an I:

In the early days of television broadcasting, the ideas stemmed from the media houses. In the late 50’s, the craved for idea was to ultimately deliver ‘live broadcasting’. Thus, they sourced technologists/engineers to come in house and construct portable, live broadcasting gear (went on to be named, ENG — Electronic News Gathering) and come the mid-70’s, BOOM!, the first live transmitted pictured were delivered to televisions of a wild shoot out with the SLA.

It’s a pity stories of those times are often entwined in war or controversy (general & unsupported observation), however the technological breakthrough was unprecedented, and the platform was created because of media’s intentions/desires. A similar story came about with the internet in some ways, although that beginning was like deciding to drop anchor into the Mariana Trench.

Nowadays, this isn’t the supposed case, as media is now more a subsidiary of platform creation. Both parties benefit from each other heavily, but the supporting role has switched — with the creation of iPhones & 4K personal cameras, media companies are scrounging to stay relevant with content & influencers all while peering ahead at what the technology companies are introducing next to the market.

The exceptions are likes of Facebook, Google & Apple etc. — the ones who don’t exclusively consider themselves a one sided coin of those masteries, and as stated, produce parallel momentum to cement them to the world’s top 3 most profitable & innovative companies. Although, TV has been shown the door for many years now, yet is still around due to serving maximum consumption at minimal effort for the consumer, which is something to possibly note when considering human behaviour.

Earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg (a man who only wears grey/grey blue shirts — I mean, I get it, you’re decision making binary is better allocated to more important decisions than those of your wardrobe, and it’s a zen thing, but it’s still weird. It’s like voluntarily listening to only one song every day for the rest of eternity because new melodies distract your routine brain functions)

announced at the F8 conference that “VR is the next platform” & future of technology, and likely as extension “social interaction” (Facebook’s vision/terminology of ‘social’ is worldly different to Facebook’s 2004 launch where Zuck suggested the platform as “a great way to find a date”, and likely will be wilder in a decade’s time too).

VR is something that has been tittering on a commercial explosion, and shall continue so for (the Zuck’s forecast of) 10 years for truly viable use. Which makes me first wonder whether private agencies & technologists investing in this medium will even survive 10 years without it being commercially lucrative sooner.

However, the announcement was made & spoken of in clear excitement & enthusiasm to accompany a rather creepy, and well-publicised image of the F8 audience using the Facebook Oculus VR Gear; being compared to Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl Commercial, The Matrix & other dystopian analogies of technological brain-washing and control (let’s face it, that’s already come & set firm in our numbed, glass-rubbing fingertips).

facebook-vr
Grumpy Cat man in centre frame even maintained regular computer activity despite being transported to some alternate universe.

As much as I dislike the tech-frontier of ‘wearables’, we seem to have begun the immersing of ourselves in it all. In my God honest opinion, I don’t enjoy these products:

  1. Apple Watches: It really toys with the play on words of a ‘traditionally timeless wrist piece’. All it is is a toy. And not the most enriching toy like our mobile phones could be considered a toy. If the device doesn’t become redundant in the next 3 years, the OS certainly will in the next 12 months, making it a very expensive regular, digital watch which battery dies every 4 hours. And whatever the designers may say, it doesn’t look cool on your arm. I personally believe it damages the perception & legacy of high profile watches.
  2. Headphones: This is something I can get my head around (life is fun with a pun) however I do see some major issues with these massive muffs serving as the instrument accessing your on-the-go music library. I mean to say, these are wonderful with the noise-cancelling ability and all (from reports is something which gives a lot my friends headaches oddly enough more here: http://gizmodo.com/355678/noise-canceling-headphones-might-make-you-motion-sick) and for the most part they look great, but they are definitely not convenient. A feature I find very prudent in this product design field.

There is no occasion where you can travel from work directly to dinner & a show without these resting around your neck, or putting them somewhere, where you then you sit in anxious fear for your $300 headphones may grow legs while you digest your meal & table conversation.

I don’t know what my friends would say if I told them I’ll be late due to having to run home quick to drop off my headphones.

Simply put… make kickass earphones that don’t hurt my ears & sound incredible, which I can still pocket for occasions where I don’t want to seem as though I’m attempting to make communication with the Mars Rover.

3. Oculus Rift/VR Headsets: Don’t get me wrong, I was in complete enchantment when these scuba goggles sucked to my face just like everyone else. And the future applications are rather endless. But from where I sit today, this seems very much a novelty — nothing wrong with novelty. I believe for it to be a genuinely adopted success, it still has some practical evolution to overcome. But I’m skeptical, as were the skeptics at the idea of space travel, the internet or Bitcoin (if you’re still confused about Bitcoin, check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4APcgsRdW6w).

However I must profess, that if the likes of Facebook & Google believe so heavily in it’s ability, then whether it be natural or forced-by-prevalence, VR headsets’ bulkiness in time will shrink & lighten, nausea will be combatted, and the experience will be so realistically immersive that the integration into society will undoubtedly happen on some capacity.

“So Much We Can Do With What We Are Given”

Success of this product/platform will ultimately come from users curation & generation. The experience will have to take on personalisation as well as avoiding isolation. And all the other ‘-tions’ I can think of!

This is how I think VR can make it:

  1. Don’t have me to wear anything: This I don’t know how to achieve, as I am not some type of optical-visual scientist. But I am a common guy who happens to require spectacles, and trust me as the common guy, I’d prefer not to wear spectacles if I needn’t require them. Never mind strapping a microwave to my face (surely there’s health risks involved with this?).
  2. Be weary of baiting the product: The use of VR has been around for experimentation & spoken of for the past few years in the agencies I’ve been fortunate enough to worked in. But as much as I agree with the 10year + forecast of Zuckerberg, I see the dangling carrot a potential issue. The reason behind it all is to gain investment from any and all angles — financial support, independent experimentation & breakthroughs, technology modifications, general consumer interest to hype brands into shelling out for experiential campaigns. It’s a PR stunt for sure, but I fear the shine may wear off from now until consumer ready. As with the novelty of 3D television being bottled (the two biggest display manufacturers, Samsung & LG pulling 3D capabilities in their 2016 products & Sky canning its 3D channel) I find this kind of news for this kind of product ominous to some extent, especially with its novelty potentially not meeting longevity. I know VR is better than 3D, and a lot of the reasoning 3D is canned is for VR investment, but Glass was a straight up FAIL & that seemed incredible for a while too. So a polite word of caution for this technology to not be kicked around the playground all too much before it’s a fully, refined product.
  3. Don’t tell me what to do with it, but give me everything to do with what I want: I don’t see the success of VR being by what I’ve researched as projections — it will likely change often as we progress, but replacing the living area’s TV, or a first-person perspective of your sexual fantasies etc. is nothing more than an interesting experiment. Reports even claim the Porn industry is not quite sure of how to correctly market VR… The PORN INDUSTRY is skeptical into the use of VIRTUAL REALITY??? The types of things we post on our social feeds may have changed over the decade, but our interest in our curated feed have not. People spend nights with friends or in private watching YouTube pranks, reading twitter wit, scrolling some stranger’s Instagram pictures of their European holiday, watching Live Ultimate Frisbee or 20year old Anime. The point here being, I need to have the freedom to use it as however I wish as well as a pre-curated bouquet of entertainment should I be so lazy. In the tech world conditioned by the infinite internet, there can be no restrictions as to how or what I interact with via VR.
  4. Make it affordable: By the looks of things, these products aren’t going to be cheap. And if everyone can’t enjoy the experience, then companies aren’t going to make content for them until there’s a tipping point from the media or tech side ie. pull the product as too expensive, or the media fully invests in belief they have a substantial market. The great thing is that any 14 year old can produce a game, content, video or gif & it can be shared and enjoyed even easier — if this kid doesn’t have the tools or computer power to generate an interactive 3D dinosaur, then its not being learned & made.
  5. Make it organically social: The goal of VR, from a Facebook & Google’s pioneering perspective, is to be the new force of media & social. But although the man on stage saying it’s social, and the enormous influence he holds, the setup is not social from what I can tell. All you’ve made here (so far) is a deeper, sensory-richer, lonelier experience.

The purpose of all this product slamming is because I’m trying to decipher a solid marketing investment into such technology outside of a case study showing the cool & exciting, but very ephemeral experience your users have virtually canoeing Lake Kariba from the beverage isle in a department store.

The gaming & medical (training) market has an undeniable lure, but if you think for one moment EA & Sony is going to reel back on its current lucrative TV game market on a gut feeling VR is going to make it you’re insane. No mother is going to shell out big money to let their kid go down some worm hole directly after fending off the ‘iPad at the table’ curfew.

I somewhat feel Silicon Valley is so engrossed in their subtweets and the smearing of greasy glass screens that they’re they’re tired of stumbling over the coffee table or walking into street poles so they’re looking to a hands free substitute this summer? We have bound down this paradigm of VR & enhanced visual interaction before & it hasn’t yet stuck.

I don’t want to be the guy who ends the VR party early, but I’m merely stating the party is still very early. We’ve just seen the lights & balloons, and although I’m very excited to be here, there’s no need to slam 10 tequilas & go streaking just yet. So I encourage it to run its race until something more exciting comes along to steal our attention.

And I will likely buy all these products regardless of what I write here. I want brands to let me swim their oceans of colourful data, explore ancient Egypt with McPyramids & the Pharaoh’s head dress to dawn a ‘swoosh’, to being on construction site for the newest, tallest towers, and to play Clash of Clans on my iPhone while virtually transported to the Amazon forest just because I can. But it’s one of those cases where the platform technology was built prior the need for the medium interaction, which always seems to project a slightly skewered, and unknown goal.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” — Ernest Hemingway

As always, plenty love
& wish me luck with this!
xoxo