Want to harness the chaos? Give us a shout@bornsocial.com

Is this the real life?

How is extended reality changing the face of social media?

Extended Reality

Jack Sirkett

27 Oct 2021

Real life is so last decade. Extended Reality (XR), which encompasses augmented, virtual and mixed reality technologies, is on the rise and brands are turning to technologies that immerse users in virtual worlds more than ever.

How have these technologies changed the social media space, what are the reasons behind their adoption and how will they play a part in social media's future? Oh, and what is extended reality? We’ll be answering all these questions below...

The AR Filter Revolution

The pandemic has been a time when we've looked for digital connection after losing access to physical social spaces, which has led to a marked increase in engagement on social media platforms. It's also been an opportunity for brands to immerse their audiences. Social networks such as Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok have led the pack with Augmented Reality (AR) filters, bringing the technology from sci-fi dreams to mainstream reality.

Today's creators are blessed to live in a time when it’s easier than ever to create AR content. Facebook's SparkAR and Snapchat's Lens Studio tools have democratised AR effect creation, enabling people to easily contribute to the AR ecosystem. Spark AR and Lens Studio are free to use, so head on over to their websites to get involved.

User-generated content is the way forward for AR, with creation tools becoming more accessible every year. Future leaders in the space won't be the companies producing the most advanced software, but will be those fuelling the creator economy with the tools to create AR content on their smartphones, in the same way we can quickly create video content via TikTok or Instagram Stories now.

Social Commerce

2020 was the year of social commerce, and it's looking like 2021/22 will be the time for AR tech to take it to another level. In the near future, try before you buy is going to be something we'll be taking for granted in the digital space. We've already seen Snapchat and Gucci partner to create a 'try-on lens', allowing users to try on virtual shoes. We'll be seeing this tech develop in the next few years, with virtual changing rooms and car showrooms becoming the norm.

Gucci Debuts Snapchat AR Shoe Try-ons – WWD

Is AR within social commerce a gimmick; a nice looking feature that won't be taken seriously by consumers? Well, the science says otherwise. Shopify claim that users viewing an AR product were twice as likely to convert, and Science Direct has shown that AR generates "greater novelty, immersion, enjoyment and usefulness, resulting in positive attitudes toward medium and purchase intention".

Changing The Way We View the World

AR can sell products, but it also has the ability to make powerful statements - it can literally change the world we see to try and enact social change. N26's #BalanceTheBanknotes campaign sought to 'change the face of money' after discovering that only 12% of global currencies feature women. They worked with Spark AR to create an AR filter that transformed banknote figures into prominent women such as Rosa Parks.

Put women on your money with N26's new Facebook effect — N26

Building with Communities

Why are we seeing widespread adoption of AR tech within the social media space? Beyond simply being really cool, there’s an answer that lies with communities.

AR gives people an opportunity to step inside the brands they love, interact with them and even shape them. It's becoming more important than ever to build with communities, rather than for them, which we explained in a recent Social-First Brand event. AR provides an entirely new dimension for brands to build with communities and gives them the tools to make it their own.

Extended Reality (XR), The Metaverse, and The Future

We're now at a point where our physical and digital lives are gradually blurring. The NFT market is legitimising digital assets, and Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that Facebook is transforming from a social media company to a 'metaverse company'.

So, what’s the metaverse? Sounds like science fiction, right? That isn’t a coincidence. The term ‘metaverse’ was coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash to refer to a 3D virtual world inhabited by real-life avatars. Clearly, Zuckerberg is a sci-fi head...

It’s not too clear what the real metaverse is yet, but tech figures seem to be converging around the same ideas - real-time social interactions between 3D avatars existing within a living, breathing Internet. This is the crossroads where the term Extended Reality (XR) starts to be more appropriate than AR.

New Age Content Production

New technologies are transforming the studios we're creating content in. XR studios are allowing brands to create a new breed of content that blurs the line between pixels and reality. Good Measure Studio is an XR studio operating out of Tottenham, London which was initially created as a response to the lack of real life musical performances we were facing in the pandemic.

“If you can’t go to a stage, how can we put a stage in your living room?” - Oliver Ellmers, Co-founder, Good Measure Studio.

The studio uses cutting-edge volumetric capture techniques for use in creating 3D holographic and XR experiences, and is a living example of how the industry is evolving - take a look below for some extended reality examples from the studio.

We asked Oliver how he thought this technology could work in the social media space, and what the future looks like for XR:

“All of a sudden we can have a fully virtual social environment that you can just enter and exit as if you’re walking down the street, and that becomes a huge opportunity for social media to figure out how we can create spaces which people can inhabit either physically or digitally”.

[video-to-gif output image]

The Virtual Space Race

Social media heavyweights are pouring more resources into the XR industry - namely investing in hardware to seamlessly transport us into virtual worlds. Facebook acquired VR headset company Oculus, Snap has been developing it’s Spectacles which ‘bring augmented reality to life’, TikTok owner ByteDance recently acquired VR startup Pico and Apple have updated their devices with a whole host of new AR capabilities.

Final Thoughts

Augmented Reality has already made huge changes in the way we communicate, create and share through social media, and the slow evolution into Extended Reality will totally flip the script in the next 5-10 years.

It remains to be seen how our new reality will work, but it’s guaranteed to change the way we use our devices to interact with our most loved brands and social media platforms.

Our suggestion is to delve into the space and get yourself accustomed. Hire an AR specialist to create a killer filter for your brand, or learn the ropes yourself if you’re a creator. Take a concept and think about how you could elevate it with XR technology, or follow some XR specialists on social media.

Have fun out there, and maybe we’ll see you in the metaverse one day...