From Social to Sociable: How Virtual Reality Will Change the Face of Social Interaction, Part 3

In the tech sphere, the murmurs around virtual reality (VR) have risen to a dim roar. VR headsets like Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, and HTC Vive are set to release this year, promising to immerse gamers like never before. Google Cardboard has been in the market for over a year, giving users an inexpensive way to experience VR for the first time. There’s speculation that the technology will completely change the way we market to consumers; that it will enhance life for the elderly and the disabled; that it will change our entertainment experience forever.

And now, it’s slated to change our social interactions as well.

Earlier this month at Oculus’ “Step into the Rift” event, founder Palmer Luckey spoke about the potential for virtual reality to allow users to connect and communicate in a way that no other digital platform has ever allowed.

“Every form of digital communication is generally inferior to face-to-face communication,” he said. “There’s something you get by actually meeting people that you don’t get from email, text, or phone. Virtual reality is the first technology that tries to make digital communication not just more efficient or more useful, but more compelling and more human. That’s the promise of VR: the best of real world communication combined with the best of digital communication.”

Apps like “vTime,” which allows up to four people to create lifelike avatars and connect in immersive virtual environments, are attempting to deliver on this promise. At London’s Wearable Tech Show in March, Starship CMO Julian Price spoke about VR’s ability to transition staggered digital interactions into real-time interactions where users are perfectly in sync with each other.

His comments echo those of Mark Zuckerberg, whose company bought Oculus Rift in 2014 for $2 billion. Speaking at February’s Mobile World Congress, Zuckerberg said VR would eventually allow the “power to share and experience whole scenes” as if the user was “right there in person.”

So how is this going to affect brands? Will we see brand-sponsored products in VR hangouts? Will you be able to choose different experiences that highlight attractions and amenities in other parts of the world? Will a hangout on Rodeo Drive involve some shopping at Chanel? Lunch at Whole Foods? Only time will tell. But one thing is for sure: the dim roar that’s taking over the VR landscape is only going to get louder.

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