The buzz surrounding various social media trends, tools and apps is in constant flux, but there is one thing we can count on in 2020 and beyond: Our experiences on social media, via smartphones and emerging devices, will grow increasingly immersive.
While today’s mobile networks are fast, imagine what users will share with blistering speeds and lower latency. And for businesses aiming to capitalize on the dramatic changes triggered by next-gen networks, the opportunities in social media are vast.
Tyler Gates, managing principal of immersive and interactive content studio Brightline Interactive, has been creating immersive experiences and simulations for 16 years. After working with some of the country’s top brands, Gates has fresh ideas about how next-gen networks and improved bandwidth will level the playing field in technology and drive what’s ahead.
“The onset of 5G really is an enabling technology,” Gates said. “It will enable both mobile devices as well as head-mounted displays for things like VR, AR and MR [virtual, augmented and mixed reality]. It’s going to allow us to experience social media content or information represented in a completely different way.”
In assessing social media today, Gates maintains that the content is mostly static—and experienced primarily via our mobile devices.
“Right now social media largely happens on a two-dimensional screen,” Gates said. “Sometimes with Instagram or Facebook stories, there’s the inclusion or incorporation of video content, but for the most part, social media is driven by the written word.”
The game-changer, according to Gates, will be how the interface is controlled. Throughout the history of computing, the way we’ve managed almost all interfaces was with some form of controller: a video game controller, a keyboard, a mouse or a smartphone keyboard, for instance.
“There’s always been a translation mechanism for you to control something you can experience visually,” explained Gates. “The difference between then and now, with something like [Microsoft’s] HoloLens 2, is you are just using your hands normally. So we’ve removed the abstractions between you and the content you experience.”
5G’s high speed and low latency make these experiences possible, as we’re less limited by bandwidth. Instead of experiencing social media content through a device from which you’re just viewing information, images or videos, you’ll be fully immersed in the content that you’re sharing.
“With an expanded data pipeline, we can experience more data in a more realistic forum and a more real-time, immediate capacity,” said Gates. “Social media will get a massive upgrade.”
Putting The Active In Interactive
The ability for a business to create collaborative environments leads to tremendous potential for engagement. But to really win at the social media game, Gates advises companies to stay in sync with cultural trends. “Right now, people want to experience content in a personalized capacity that’s relevant to them. They want it when they want it, and they want to drive,” he said.
Take HBO’s Game of Thrones, for example. According to Gates, a company like HBO wants you to watch the show as soon as possible because fans who haven’t watched yet are usually reluctant to discuss the show in the time frame where it matters most. “As the week goes on, that episode is going to lose relevancy,” Gates said.
That said, he argues, just because the show has ended, some experiences for the viewer can extend its life. And this is the big takeaway for businesses’ evolving their social media strategies: With interactive social content, a company’s product, service or intellectual property can live on in a variety of ways.
There’s already a bandwidth-heavy AR experience for the hit series, but in the future, fans may be able to follow their own storyline in real time, record the experience, share it with a friend or partake in someone else’s storyline.
A Level Playing Field
Imagine the possibilities for social media engagement if companies could incorporate emerging interactive technologies into their messaging. Better yet, for organizations of all sizes, expensive equipment won’t be required.
“At Brightline, we have high-end, sensor-driven computer vision camera systems and even custom build some of the equipment ourselves,” Gates said. “But you can capture volumetric film content [interactive experiences using 3D-captured imagery in augmented, virtual and mixed realities] on an iOS device. That means that the small to medium-sized business owner has just as much ability to create content as someone with 16 years of experience in interactive design and development.”
The only barrier to entry for generating compelling social media content made possible by 5G technology, according to Gates, is having an employee with the time to learn and use off-the-shelf consumer products.
“The more you can experience content in an immersive capacity where you’re not just viewing content but you’re experiencing it with your whole body, the more memorable and more exciting it will be,” said Gates.