This past weekend in New York, the United Nations created a Facebook Live filter for World Humanitarian Day that let users overlay their real-time clips with augmented reality, particularly scrolling copy that told stories about civilians who have been affected by conflict. In Times Square, AR-enhanced videos aired on one of the iconic, commercial intersection’s large billboards. The endeavor was powered by Facebook’s 4-month-old AR system, dubbed Camera Effects Studio, which is getting the attention of brand marketers.
“For us, Facebook is an amazing platform to develop AR on because people are inherently using it already,” said Craig Elimeliah, managing director of creative technology at VML, the UN’s agency. “It includes Instagram as well. It includes Live and regular camera—so the sheer scale is unbelievable.”
While AR is still exploratory territory for marketers and media companies, its pixelated push to the mainstream has gotten a series of boosts this year from some of the biggest digital players. Snapchat—with its wacky filters and other virtual overlays—has continued to be popular among teens (even if Wall Street doesn’t like its pace). Apple, which has long been seen as a potential AR game changer due to the popularity of its iPhone and iPad, seems primed to give AR the turbocharge it needs to attract older demographics. When the Cupertino, Calif.-based company releases its iOS 11 mobile operating system in September, hundreds of millions of Apple-device owners will have augmented reality at their fingertips with a set of features called ARKit.
“Apple and Facebook will make augmented reality an everyday reality,” said David Deal, a digital marketing consultant. “We’ll see plenty of hit and miss with AR as we did when Apple opened up the iPhone to app developers, but ultimately both Apple and Facebook are in the best position to steamroll Snapchat with AR.”
Ikea, which will be one of the first major brands on Apple’s AR platform at launch, is developing an app that allows customers to see what furniture and other household items would look like in a three-dimensional view inside their homes. Ikea also plans to introduce new products in the AR app before they hit store shelves.
The hottest thing in Silicon Valley is coming soon to … well, pretty much everything.
AR has thoroughly trounced virtual reality in the battle for developers’ hearts and minds, and with the amount of money behind the technology, it’s only a matter of time before even the Luddites of the world are forced to grapple with it in some form or another.
While we often get caught up in the ‘now’ of digital marketing, it’s worth also considering the future, and where you should be paying attention to in the years to come. And while virtual reality is the answer most would revert to when thinking about the future of social, what’s equally important is how we’ll get there, and what, practically, the evolution to these next stages of social communication will mean for you and your business.
Looking at the latest apps and developments, the future of social is currently moving most clearly towards two distinct fronts – taking over television as we know it, and into augmented reality. Virtual reality is the extension of AR, and it’ll take a while to get there, but while AR and VR are very different, the development of the two is closely linked, and will likely evolve in line.
Here’s an overview of the next frontiers of social, what they’ll mean for your business, and what you can do now to prepare.
Last year, live-streaming became the thing in social. While live-streaming, as a practice, has been around for some time, the development of mobile live-streaming – kick-started by the now defunct Meerkat – created a new wave which quickly grew to incorporate several platforms and offer various new choices.
But while live-streaming was the impetus, it’s certainly not the end goal. Definitely, the capacity to connect with people in real-time, via video, is an evolutionary step, but what the development of live-streaming really highlighted, more than anything else, is that social networks now have the capacity to do something they’d never considered: to take on traditional TV as they dominant media platform.
Some would argue that social is already the dominant media player, digital content has disrupted newspapers, magazines and radio to a significant degree, with social playing a big part. But TV remains the big one, the key platform for generating reach and engagement – our homes are literally constructed around the television as the prime communal entertainment source.
While Apple has been slow to adopt virtual reality in its gadgets (the company has virtually nothing on that front so far), there’s a chance that the company might at least jump on the augmented reality bandwagon.
Business Insider, quoting a person familiar with the matter, says Apple plans to build AR features into the iPhone’s camera app.
To achieve this, Apple is reportedly working with several AR startups, as well as teams from AR/VR companies Metaio and Flyby Media which it had acquired in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
In terms of features, this could mean pointing your phone’s camera to an object in the real world and have it recognized — a feature that sounds similar to the one offered by AR startup Blippar. Another possible feature would be face recognition and manipulation; similar features can be seen today on Snapchat and Facebook-acquired Masquerade.
Once the features are built into the iPhone’s camera, Apple plans to release an SDK so that third party developers can tap into the technology and create AR apps of their own.
No timeline for any of these features is mentioned in the report.