Social Media’s Augmented Future

Jennifer Hurless explores key takeaways from Facebook's November 2017 conference

January 2, 2018

If you haven’t experienced the technology of Augmented Reality (AR) yet, it’s only a matter of time. In the past few years, the conversations regarding both AR and Virtual Reality (VR) have become almost mainstream in the technology space. They are similar, yet very different.

With AR, virtual and real-life objects are seamlessly blended together in your existing environment with the use of a headset or other technology, like a smartphone. Used with a headset, VR places you in an environment created by the developer. In AR, you can see a dolphin swimming in a glass on the desk in front of you. In VR, you can be on a boat in the middle of the ocean watching dolphins swim around you.

Google’s controversial Glass project was the genesis of public awareness of AR, but it never took off for the mainstream. A pair of apps—Snapchat and Niantic’s Pokemon Go—truly brought AR to the forefront. Snapchat introduced filters allowing fun objects to be superimposed on a user’s face or in the user’s environment, while Pokemon Go took small characters like Pikachu and Charizard from the Gameboy into your backyard, and encouraged people to virtually capture them.

These were the first apps to truly use AR to reach a broad audience, but they will not be the last. These apps proved AR could be accepted by the masses and find space in our daily lives.

AR and Social Media

The relationship between AR and social media is evolving at a rapid pace. Since the inception of social media with apps like Instagram and Twitter, it has flipped the world of marketing upside down and grown exponentially. Nearly all companies, regardless of size, use social media today to promote their products and services to large audiences.

These were the first apps to truly use AR to reach a broad audience, but they will not be the last. These apps proved AR could be accepted by the masses and find space in our daily lives.

These social media apps have grown so large that they are able to develop and incorporate new technologies such as AR to keep their users engaged. As AR technology gets better, it will become so mainstream it will ultimately alter the way social media is utilized, especially for advertisers. Companies will be forced to use AR to market their products to stay competitive in their given industry, because it substantially differentiates them from companies using standard advertising.

The ability to make moving 3D models of products appear in the world of your targeted audience is significantly more impactful than the traditional 2D ad. Amazon is currently doing this by allowing users to virtually project products they may want to buy directly into their homes and offices to assist the purchasing decision. This new technology, which presents limitless potential to “wow” audiences, will only become stronger with time. With an already incredibly large user base, social media apps will compete to be the first to fully incorporate AR and AR advertising for their customers.

AR was a huge talking point at last month’s Facebook conference, where CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “We are going to make the camera the first augmented reality platform.” Facebook’s AR strategy will include its Camera Effects Platform, its AR Studio, and Frame Studio. Facebook has even recently announced an intention to integrate AR functionality into its popular Messenger app. Also, Snapchat has launched a desktop program, called Lens Studio, to let users design their very own AR filters.

The competition to define and dominate the AR space is heating up, as AR on social media begins to find itself. There is little doubt that AR will change our relationship with our social media apps and significantly alter the way we use our devices. 

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