Social virtual reality (VR) is the future of social networking. It will bring an immersive experience to how you communicate and engage with your friends and family.
With easy access to high technology smartphones and cheap internet services, virtually every person in the world has engaged with one or more social media platforms. How many friends and followers you have on social media has become a more important question than how often you see your friends in person and treasure the memories. One thing that is missing with these digital interactions is being present in a physical space and having a human & emotional connect. Social VR has opened up an entirely new field of human-computer interactions.
What is Social VR?
Social VR means digital communication with people from different parts of the world using a virtual reality (VR) system. The purpose of social VR is to give us physical presence, connection and enable communication. It allows us to be present in a virtual space with our friends and family irrespective of the miles of distance that might separate us. This virtual space could be a replica of your actual surroundings or a world of your fantasy. You could meet up in a wonderland of your dreams, under the mesmerising northern lights or on a roller coaster ride.
Social virtual reality spaces require creating an avatar which represents your actual self in the virtual world. These life like avatars help you to communicate with others in virtual space. Creation of these social avatars is done with the help of computer vision. Speech signals and recognition are used to bring about a perception of actual lip movement.
Haptics technology is being developed to give hand gestures and interact with objects. Either you can use your own hands or touch controllers like those introduced by Facebook.
Social VR: Examples and benefits
The ongoing pandemic will act as a tipping point for another technological revolution. This year we have seen many drive-by birthday parties, digital protests, online events, virtual convocation and even online weddings where vows were taken by the bride and groom being present behind different digital screens! Social VR will take these interactions to a whole another level by allowing you to be physically present together in a virtual world.
How about walking the aisle of a virtual chapel with all your relatives from across the world attending your dream wedding? With Social VR you can organise VR parties, play VR social games with your friends or even have a virtual Karaoke. The concept of social VR can be applied to VR exhibitions, VR meetings and conferences, VR team building activities, VR sports events, music concerts and a lot more!
Certain brands are already making headway in the expansion of it’s use worldwide. Initially, Facebook introduced an application called Spaces which enabled social VR. Recently Facebook Connect 2020 conference was attended by people in an application called Venues which is one of its kind example of showing how social VR can be extended to events and conferences. It has also announced Facebook Horizon which is currently in its beta version and being slowly rolled out to select few for testing and feedback. This will replace their Spaces application.
Social VR and marketing
Social VR will make marketing activities much more engaging and immersive. Imagine a top fashion brand and buying a virtual billboard in virtual times square or a smartphone company building a VR game which allows people to do a treasure hunt for a new smartphone in a Wall-E kind of world and win exciting goodies. Who knows, this might become a new way to organise launch events! Pheww.. the possibilities are endless and exciting.
Although there are some criticisms to the effectiveness of VR, tech companies are doing everything possible to bring it to its near-perfect state. In conclusion, Social VR, though cannot replace real human communication, but will help erase physical distance constraints and will be is a topnotch upgrade in digital communicatIon.