In the movie Her, Spike Jonze portrays a world where technology has progressed in such a way that it is all but invisible. Interacting with electronic devices is done primarily through voice commands and what displays exist are unobtrusive and minimalistic. This design direction reminds me of something Jony Ive said during an iPhone 5S commercial. “We believe that technology is at it’s very best, at its most empowering, when it simply disappears”. Ever since I saw the film I can’t stop thinking about what technology will really look like in the future, and wondering how it will affect the work that I do.
While Her is an interesting movie I don’t think the signs point toward it being a very accurate representation of what’s to come. Rather than displays becoming smaller and more hidden, it seems as if the reverse trend is happening. Each year phone screens become larger and larger. Even Apple recently followed suit with the release of the 5.5” iPhone 6+ Phablet. The market has spoken and what it wants is bigger, brighter, higher resolution screens. But if we aren’t moving toward a future as presented by Jonze, what are we moving toward? I think the answer can be found in another recent release, the Samsung Gear VR.
For the first time, consumers now have access to a 3D virtual reality device at a reasonable price point. While this hardware, and hardware like it, is aimed at early adopters and technophiles, it gives us a look at what’s around the corner. Previously, all of the rich media content available, even if in 3D, was displayed in 2D on a flat screen display. Now that content can truly be displayed in a realistic way it changes everything.
The first to adopt this new technology will undoubtedly be the gaming industry as it will allow a level of immersion that was never before possible. Sony had a panel during the first PlayStation Experience conference a couple weeks ago during which they talked about their efforts to incorporate VR into their products with their upcoming Project Morpheus. This is yet another major company investing money into VR tech that will at some point be available in a consumer device.
Once users start to experience entertainment this way they will start to expect the same experience with other content as well. Evidently I’m not the only one who thinks so. After raising over $2 million through crowd funding for their Rift product, Oculus VR announced in March it’s impending acquisition by Facebook for $2 billion. You might be wondering what a social networking company would want with a VR tech company. Well, for the same reason Google acquired YouTube. With every new medium comes new ways to advertise.
What those advertisements will look like has yet to be seen but I suspect we will see the first traces in 2015 as these platforms take off. If you are working in this industry it couldn’t hurt to start thinking about the uses of VR and what technology is being used to produce content for it. It might not be long before standards are ironed out and clients start requesting it.