Next year will mark the first true technological revolution of the decade.
We started with small black and white screens and evolved onto coloured tube TVs. From there, the pixel density grew, and the picture became clearer and clearer. Eventually, our frame rates became fast enough to allow for 3D screens and projectors. Just recently, engineers have increased the clarity of 1080p to 4K definition, quadrupling the resolution of our television screens. If that wasn't enough, we've even developed a way to bend the screens, and curve them toward the audience. Each of these advancements has contributed to making our viewing experiences more immersive and realistic.
If the technical jargon is too much to follow, it's alright. There is an endgame in sight for humanities obsession with digital media technology. We are about to step inside the screen, like a doorway to an alternate reality, and surround ourselves with virtual content.
Commonly referred to as "VR", virtual reality will bring with it a paradigm shift in the way we consume media. Imagine being able to transport yourself into any scenario of your choosing. You could sit in a living room next to the characters of your favorite sitcom, or dive to the bottom of the ocean with David Attenborough's voice narrating knowledge of coral reefs. There will be endless games and simulators to choose from, for those of us to choose to interact with the environment, and be more than just passive observers.
Virtual reality is the beginning of a paradigm shift, from both the creator and consumer perspective. While the consumers surf the sea of infinite content, they will inevitably come across the mandatory, 15-30 second ads. YouTube is now beginning to offer 360° video content on its servers. With this comes the dawn of the 360° video advertisement.
With all other types of advertisements, the information is placed in front of the target audience, in the hope that they will care enough to pay attention to the message. If you look around, these ads are absolutely everywhere. In your mailbox, in your local news paper, on almost every website, between segments of your favorite TV shows. With so many ads competing for our attention, its no wonder most of us decide to click 'skip' and move onto our YouTube video.
Until now we have been observing media as though peering through a window, disconnected from the world on the other side. As immersed as some of us may get into our favorite films, we are always just an outside observer. Even when we visit a darkened theater, watching an HD, 3D, high fidelity audio, masterpiece of cinematography, we are still simply "watching" a film.
For the first time in history, marketing teams and advertising agencies will be able to place the audience inside of the advertisement. We will no longer be observers, deciding whether or not we want to bring that information into our world. We will be fully immersed in a world that has been created for us.
Facebook and Netflix are just two companies that have announced the availability of VR content by 2016. Oculus rift, recently purchased by Facebook for $2 billion, is the worlds most widely known VR system. It will be compatible with Netflix, YouTube, and a number of other digital and social media providers.
Professionals working in fields such as marketing, advertising, or public relations, will soon be adding a new tool to their repertoire. As 360 degree content becomes more popular, a new market of recording devices will emerge. A number of companies have already began mass production of GoPro-like cameras, capable of capturing spherical video. Depending on the age range and technological know-how of our target audiences, this just might be the 2016 investment to keep us ahead of the curve.
Here is a link to a company that is already providing access to 360 degree camera technology http://360.tv/
If you have an android phone, download the Google Cardboard application and watch this 360 degree video on your smart phone. Or, you can use the arrow keys at the top left hand corner of the video to get a feel for how VR content will work.