Augmented Reality: Science Fiction or social media reality?

Imagine you’re watching a football game from your couch in your apartment. You put on a special pair of 3D goggles, and suddenly you’re watching the game from the substitutes’ seats! Or imagine you’re Skyping with your friend who’s halfway around the world; you put on your goggles and now you’re in your friend’s apartment, seeing him right in front of you in 3D. This isn’t just a sci-fi gimmick from a Hollywood movie or a geek fantasy, but 21st century virtual reality.

If you thought 3D is just for entertainment or overpriced cinema tickets, think again: if surgeons can use virtual reality to see your internal organs in 3D, they will have a clearer view of any tumors and other complications. They could first perform operations on simulations of your body, and then choose the one with the best ‘score’ of success, like playing a computer game.

Let’s take our imaginations a giant step further: what would a virtual reality social network look like? Who would be satisfied with selfies on their profile photos, when you can be represented through a 3D virtual character?

The exciting news for social media fans is that virtual reality has just moved from “What if –?” to “When will –?” Facebook has announced the purchase of virtual reality headset maker Oculus. The game plan is for Oculus to become a groundbreaking new communication platform where you won’t just tell your friends what you’re doing, but actually experience it with them!

Instead of simply posting updates, you will post entire experiences. And instead of simply having a Facebook profile, you would create a virtual reality profile… Say goodbye to cliché cover photos of pet dogs wearing sunglasses, and say hello to a virtual character that will be your avatar.

You can customize how this character looks, sounds and acts like: it could be a cooler, more stylish version of you. But here’s where it gets even more interesting: your virtual character will become socially active, interacting with other people’s avatars!

Developers will create new worlds from scratch. For example if you’re into fantasy, there will be worlds where you hang out with Harry Potter while having lunch with The Hobbit.

So you always wanted to visit Paris but have no time or no money? No problem! Visit the Eiffel Tower through your Oculus, and you’ll feel like you’re physically there. You can interact with other fans enjoying the same experience: say hi to them verbally or through hand gestures that you make in real life. Simply put, whenever you get tired of the ‘real world’, just escape into the alternative reality for a greater social experience.

Virtual reality today is like computers in the 1970’s: very few developers or companies have the funds and know-how to experiment with it. But there’s no doubt virtual reality will eventually become part of our daily reality.

Computers once seemed to be just sci-fi fantasies, like flying cars. But get ready for augmented reality, because one thing we’ve learned is that reality will always be stranger than fiction…j