The Future of Storytelling

The entertainment of stories can be enjoyed through many mediums - books, movies, television, podcasts, etc. but we’re rapidly moving onto more engaging and creative ways to be entertained. Stories are moving in a more physical, interactive and multi-sensory direction.

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have become increasingly mainstream and a worthwhile venture in many industries. VR and AR development can be applied towards gaming, entertainment, marketing, education, fashion, art, and so much more. Early iterations of VR existed as early as the 1950s with what was known as the "Experience Theatre", later named the "Sensorama", built by Morton Heilig. It could encompass and trigger all of the senses in an effective manner, thus drawing the viewer into the onscreen activity. As for AR, the first versions were introduced in the 1990s by​ Louis Rosenberg, who developed Virtual Fixtures at the United States Air Force Research Laboratory. ​It's safe to say that in some way, AR was born from VR. While AR adds digital elements to a live view, often by using the camera on a smartphone, VR is an immersion experience that shuts out the physical world and transports the user into a realistic or imagined environment. Brands looking to capitalize on the unprecedented opportunities being made available through these new technologies are ramping up their AR/VR strategies.

Let’s look at ​Conversive​,​ ​Co-founded by Kevin Cornish who calls it, "a conversation engine for building face-to-face conversations". He says,"Imagine putting a face on (Amazon’s) ​Alexa​, and in the entertainment space, imagine having conversations with characters from your favorite shows." He did just that back in May last year with Netflix's ​13 Reasons Why ​series​. ​The day before the much anticipated second season was released, fans could participate in "Talk to the Reasons," an interactive mobile experience that puts you in the center of the ​13 Reasons Why​ story. Fans would begin to receive texts and notifications from the show's characters, and if the user's microphone and camera were on, they would actually receive FaceTime calls from some of those characters who would warn you to stay out of harm's way, ask you for advice on what to do, or vent their feelings. This intense bit of AI and augmented reality at work is meant to make users feel like they can really impact the story when they watch the next day. Super impressive!

(IKEA’s AR app, "Place", makes home furnishing more fun and less stressful)

As for VR, it can't just be really good, it has to be perfect. The biggest complaint about VR is that the experiences can be nauseating and/or not immersive enough. If you turn your head and the image on screen that's inches from your eyes doesn't adjust instantaneously, your visual system conflicts with your vestibular system, and you get sick. For the first time, Oculus VR headsets have succeeded in stimulating parts of the human visual system directly. When announcing Facebook's acquisition of the Oculus Rift, Mark Zuckerberg gestured at all of the possibilities, "Imagine enjoying a courtside seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world, or consulting with a doctor face-to-face—just by putting on goggles in your home." Oculus provides the true promise of VR: going beyond the idea of immersion and achieving true presence-the feeling of actually existing in a virtual space. You can even connect with friends through the experience! Here's their commercial, released right before the holiday season:

So, who's future looks better? While it's predicted that AR will soon surpass VR in mass adoption, the future of these two technologies are tied to one another. Developers in the space are still committed to launching VR, as this technology still poses massive benefits to both businesses and consumers. However, the expectations of VR grew far beyond the realistic advancements that it was actually seeing, so it will continue to grow, just slower than anticipated. In 2019 and beyond, AR will continue to be the more popular of the two as it's more compact and less cumbersome than VR. I mean, just think of all the ways you're exposed to AR everyday- Snapchat filters, mobile games, even the graphics placed on the field during a televised football game! AR brings in a virtual element without losing touch of the real world. G2 Crowd's​ ​2019 digital trends​ predicts that by the year 2025, businesses will see that AR has a more logical place in business than VR, but collectively, these types of storytelling signal a shift from passive viewing to something more active and exciting.

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