From Feeds to Stories

In its essence, social media is merely a window into someone else’s life – their hobbies, adventures, beliefs, friends and family. Over the past decade, social media companies have worked to expand that window as much as possible, giving users a more holistic view. What we’ve landed on, thanks in part to Snapchat, is the story feature – a comprehensive view of an individuals or businesses life at all points in time.tumblr_inline_p8didlS0u71uk4gsu_540.jpg

Since 2016, the creation and consumption of stories is up 842 percent, according to consulting firm Block Party. This is due in part to a broader movement of turning the camera into a platform, a trend we’ve been following for quite a while now. The camera is an entry point into a users virtual world and advancements in technology have allowed us to empower consumers with tools to better capture, create and share that world.

Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook are all heavily invested in Augmented Reality tools, allowing people to enhance their experiences, aid in commerce, entertain and inform. We’re also slowly seeing the integration of more and more real-time data into these experiences, enabling more live sharing and contextual content creation.

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Instagram recently announced third party integration support for stories, allowing users on Spotify and GoPro to quickly share a song or video footage. While currently constrained to those two partners, we’re sure to see more services jump on, which will eventually give users an even easier way to post what they’re currently doing to their stories. In time, trend setting Millenials may not even have to take a picture of their Insta worthy brunch – they’ll simply press a button on their table, and it’s uploaded for them.

Implications

All the major social media companies have ad products designed specifically for stories, and if that’s where the majority of eyeballs are at, it’s also where your product or service should be. However, integrating with stories is not simply about disrupting a consumers content reel, but rather providing them with a value that can help to enhance what they’re currently doing. Are you giving them tools to create? Offering compelling content to consume? Or are you simply asking them to swipe up to unlock a special offer?

The augmented reality tools available for marketers to create content for these platforms offer a new way to interact with consumers. We’re currently undergoing a shift in media consumption, it’s no longer about simply pushing content, but rather enabling creativity for the end user. Brands that are able to provide consumers with experiences that empower them to create and share will end up seeing longer engagement and more return visitors, than those who simply aim for passive viewing.

Additionally, and even more importantly, how are you telling your own story? Your brands Instagram and Snapchat feed may be the one place that you can confidently reach millions of consumers at all points in time with a consistent message. It’s incredibly important to ensure that message is relevant, timely, and paints a picture of how you want your brand perceived. It’s always best to answer these questions with the end consumer in mind, and how you’re providing value to them.

Snap’s New Offerings Lead to a Shared Augmented Reality

This was a big week for Snap, as three new product offerings hit the market.

• Shoppable AR – A new media product that allows for seamless transition from discovery to purchase.
• Snappable Games – A new way for users to interact on the app.
• Spectacles V2 – A new way for users to create and upload content to the app.

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But what does it all mean?

Snap wants to brand itself as a camera company, but that’s still not entirely true. Sure, Spectacles have cameras on them, and they sell them as hardware, but they’re still not a camera company. They’re a social media platform that heavily utilizes cameras.

Which is great, because the camera is rapidly becoming the next home screen. It’s the first thing you see when you open the app and it’s the window into the virtual world that Snap is iteratively building. Shoppable AR and Snappable Games bring a new form factor to this virtual world. It’s a step up to the augmented art installations that were made popular late last year.

Those virtual works of art brought people together in AR. Now, brands are able to bring consumers together through their products, and games will bring users together through competition and network effects. If there’s one thing that’s for sure, it’s that users will certainly get competitive with their high scores. (Eyebrow controlled Galaga anyone?)

Spectacles V2 are a slight upgrade to its predecessor, but nothing game changing. You can take pictures now and they feel a bit slimmer – cool. What’s really going on is that Snap is getting the general public comfortable with wearing a camera on their face. The biggest update to these glasses is actually something they took away, and that’s the yellow ring around the camera. While there’s still a white LED light that turns on when recording, it’s much less noticeable. It will be interesting to see if there’s any consumer push back around this slightly more clandestine approach to capturing images and photos.

Industry pundits have long argued that socially acceptable AR glasses are going to be a game changer in many areas, but those aren’t going to be here for another 5-10 years. Until then, Snap’s taking the long approach. They’re creating the building blocks for users to hangout in an augmented world.

While this may occur through our smartphones now, that same interaction will feel eerily personal in the next decade.

Implications

If Snap is laying the groundwork for a shared augmented world, then brands need to be able to sell in that world as well. Today’s Shoppable AR products are a perfect foray into this space, as you’re able to create compelling 3D animations of your product or event, and use that as a testing ground for how users interact with them.

When you look at it from a big picture standpoint, it’s all about reducing the friction from discovery to purchase and allowing consumers to get a feel for your product or brand before they have to open up their wallets. By doing so, you’ll make the latter part of that equation a lot less stressful for them.

Snapchat Launches Shoppable AR

Over the past year, Snapchat has made tremendous strides to open up its platform to third-party developers and creators. They’ve opened up Lens Studio, to drastically bring down the cost of creating AR filters and lenses and launched the Official Creator Program, to partner and support quality creators. These changes have also meant that the barrier to entry for brands has drastically decreased. What used to be a six figure investment, can now be done for much much less.

The next logical step was to reduce the friction between discovery and purchase, and that’s exactly what they came out with today. Their new feature is called Shoppable AR, and it’s only the start of what will become a massive trend. Brands can now add a button to a lens or filter, that takes them to a website where they can learn more or simply buy the product. All of this happens inside the app.

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A few major brands like Adidas, Candy Crush and Clairol will be the first to test out the feature, but expect more to follow suit. Augmented Reality allows users to get a better sense of what a product looks like in their surroundings and how they can interact with it – further closing the gap between the physical and digital world. By consolidating the discovery and purchase phase of a consumer decision journey, Snap hopes to be a one stop show for brands and consumers alike.

Implications

With Facebook taking hit after hit around privacy issues over the last few weeks, and the general public starting to become more knowledgeable around the issue, it’s a perfect time for an ephemeral messaging service like Snap to make a big push. While Snap certainly acts off of third party data to target users, there seems to be more trust with users on the platform.

It will be interesting to see how marketers leverage this new feature in their social strategies. Brands will likely leverage the platform for more new product launches, event promotions, and sales. AR is a great way to show product features and benefits, vs simply telling – doing so will increase consideration among consumes. The ability to then track those conversions and see an actual ROI is what makes this new feature so attractive for advertisers.

Just as we’ve seen in the past, look for Instagram to respond by one upping their in-app commerce capabilities in the coming weeks.

Google’s Acquisition of Lytro goes Beyond VR

The promise of immersive digital experiences has always been the ability to transport an individual to a new place, a new experience, a new reality. However, due to hardware and software constraints, that promise has thus far fallen short of expectation. Google understands that in order to reach those goals, there needs to be a way to effectively capture the physical world with immense detail – and also have the ability to share those images in an immersive environment.

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Enter light field imaging. A conventional camera can capture the intensity of light coming from a scene, resulting in 2D images, with realistic shadows. A light-field camera is capable of capturing not only the intensity of light, but also the direction that those light rays are traveling in space. Done correctly, these images allow for hyper-realistic showcases of the real world. Knowing this, it makes sense that Google would then acquire light-field camera company Lytro, and it’s various patents/proprietary information. An early example of how these cameras will be used can be found in Googles new VR app, Welcome to Light Fields.

However, realistic image capturing goes well beyond virtual reality for the tech-behemoth. While the industry continues to mature, and the price & accessibility of the hardware continues to drop, look for Google to deploy this technology in a few different ways. Automotive mapping will allow for more precise self driving software and new mobile cameras will make way for contextually relevant experiences, as they allow for high quality data collection of the real world. The more real-time, high fidelity information that Google is able to ingest around a place or scene, the better they’ll be able to enhance consumers understanding of the world around them.

Implications

For marketers, there are deeper implications to this trend than simply being able to create compelling immersive experiences for their consumers. Sure, that’s important, and will increasingly bring new and fun ways to interact with a target market, but there’s an underlying trend here as well. As these light-field cameras make their way onto individual devices, consumers will be empowered to understand the world around them in ways not possible today.

Google Lens will deliver unprecedented contextually relevant information about people, places, and things. The friction between discovery and purchase will further decrease, and the search paradigm will continually shift from text based to visual. Computer vision and AI algorithms will learn more and more about the world around us, allowing for more seamless interactions with augmented reality and our pervasive digital assistants.

Technology is on course to eventually blend into the background, becoming more and more predictive rather than reactive – only showing itself when needed. The building blocks to that reality is the ability to fully understand the physical world. Simply put, that future starts with better cameras.

2018 Trend Predictions

My team and I compiled 18 Trends for 2018 and Beyond. We’ve allowed you to check them out in a few ways.

The first being an interactive non-linear video which can be found here or by clicking on the below image.

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Additionally, we’ve expanded on each of those sections in a more comprehensive presentation format which can be downloaded here.

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Magic Leap One – Review and Looking Forward

Industry pundits have long hyped up the future of Augmented Reality, focusing on why the social nature of the technology will give it a leg up against its counterpart, Virtual Reality. The Microsoft Hololens has shown us what is possible, gaining traction in enterprise utilities ranging from design to workplace augmentation,  but the next generation of AR glasses will begin to really set the stage for a systematic shift in human computer interaction.

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The Magic Leap One is the culmination of years of speculation, based solely on rumors and huge investments from the likes of Google, Alibaba and more. The device is dubbed as the “Creator’s Edition” and will aim to give developers something to test out their creations on. Microsoft already has a huge following of developers that are pushing AR forward on the Hololens and Magic Leap realizes they need to do the same to populate the world of AR that users will inhabit.

As far as aesthetics go, the Magic Leap One isn’t the socially acceptable pair of glasses that will come to dominate this market, but it is a step up from previous devices. There are three pieces of hardware that go into the fixture. The headset, utilizing “Digital Lightfield” display technology, a circular pack containing the computing power for said headset – shown to be worn on a users belt, as well as a handheld controller to help with spatial tracking.

The difference between the Magic Leap One and the Hololens can be attributed to the lightfield technology as well as the haptic feadback controller that goes along with it. The result is a more lifelike holographic objects that seamlessly blends into the physical world, with the ability to block real world objects as they move behind them. The haptic feedback controller will enable new forms of interaction and creativity that were not yet possible through the Hololens.

Full scale Augmented Reality, as delivered through these goggles, will disrupt a number of interactions we take for granted today. In the enterprise space, this will allow for computers and monitors to be replaced with virtual screens. Due to Magic Leap’s room-mapping technology, digital objects, like those screens, stay where you put them. If you place four virtual computer screens above your desk, when you return later, they’ll still be there.

Our interactions with these screens will change as well. No longer will our input methods simply be point and click. Sure, those will still exist, in a virtual representation, but we’re likely to see end users interact through voice, gestures, head position and eye tracking. These new input methods will allow for a more robust digital experience, eventually providing a more natural and intuitive way to interact with technology.

The smart glasses will have the ability to ingest more data about your surroundings and interactions than ever before. Cameras and microphones will capture everything you see and hear, as well as all your inputs. While many are rightly skeptical of sharing this amount of data, when used correctly, the result will be a drastically simplified UX and predictive assistance around our daily needs.

In the enterprise space, data visualization and manipulation will move beyond 2D interfaces, allowing data scientists, creatives and more to gain greater insights and a more visual understanding. With the help of an ever present AI assistant, these interactions will only grow stronger and more useful to the end user. Web developers will be able to optimize their experiences for content extraction and spatial browsing, which will enable entirely new ways to shop and explore with 3D objects.

Imagine browsing Amazon, and coming upon a new desk lamp you’d like to buy. However, you’re not entirely sure how it’s going to look on your actual desk. Well, simply grab it out of the virtual screen and place it there. You now have a digital representation of the exact lamp you can then purchase.

There will also be exciting new avenues to explore with regards to gaming and entertainment. The world of games that we know and love will soon mesh, seamlessly, with our physical world, and offer exciting new possibilities. Old school gamers will love the possibility of running through your living room, as it’s digitally optimized to resemble the first level of Super Mario Bros. The freedom that developers will have when creating these gameplay and entertainment scenarios is unlike anything that has come before it.

Implications

While it’s fun and exciting to think of the long term possibilities for Augmented Reality, the reality is that the full capabilities of such devices will not entirely be realized until we get socially acceptable glasses. The need for a separate belt-clipped computer and a remote will drastically reduce the mass acceptance of these devices, but it is a great start and that day will get here sooner rather than later.

For marketers today, it will be important to begin at least looking at the possibility of getting your brands digital presence ready for a world of augmented reality. Begin planning and testing for what type of 3D interactions will translate well from a 2D space. Product mapping, handling, and search are all great areas to start, and can be tested on the AR capabilities of our current smartphones.

Additionally, brands that want to be seen as an innovator can take chances to create experiences that are entirely new. It’s so early in the days of AR, that there is no right or wrong move. Consumers, especially those with access to these devices, will come to see your brand as forward thinking and ready for the future.