This Spring, the New York Times shipped 1.2 million Google Cardboard units to their subscribers along with instructions to download an app to view a short documentary presented with immersive virtual reality video. It was their goal to introduce the possibilities of VR as a new way to tell to a story. The app turned out to be the publication’s most popular to date.
“Virtual reality” and “3-D” have been around for decades, but have existed largely as a gimmick to sell toys and movie tickets. Now, VR is growing up. Products like Google Cardboard are leading the world into a new frontier of entertainment and engagement.
Facebook recently acquired virtual reality company Oculus for $2 billion and partnered with Samsung to release the GearVR, a headset designed to display VR images and audio. Google already introduced a 360 Video channel on YouTube, and this fall the tech giant will launch its new VR platform, Daydream, and is already retooling popular apps like Maps and Play for VR.
Device manufacturers are scrambling to accommodate Google’s VR apps on their upcoming models. Limited-permissions versions of the SDK VR API (which will power Daydream) are already available for developers eager to build the first blockbuster VR app.
Social media platforms, strategists and advertisers have taken notice, too. They are already looking for ways that VR can help sell products, services and messages. Facebook began introducing 3D video ads last November and Snapchat acquired an app that will allow VR and 360 video capabilities.
Our advantage as progressives is our ability use storytelling to our advantage. Narratives presenting real-life problems and human examples of injustice create a sense of empathy and compassion that drives people to action. As we work to tell these stories, existing technology allows us to create media that would have been unimaginable a decade ago. However, despite the sharpness, intricacy and clarity we’re able to produce, we’re still limited by a rigid divide between the user and the narrative we’re trying to convey.
VR may be a way to reach a broader audience on a far deeper level, allowing people to see the world through new eyes or identify with a story that is all too familiar. A VR experience could depict a day in the life of a single-mother, the user surrounded by the commotion of a high-stress, low-wage service job or rushing home to prepare dinner for her children.
Or maybe VR is a way for white, male allies to experience the fear of an African American trying to survive a traffic stop, or a woman walking down a city street through a gauntlet of stares, catcalls and lewd propositions. Perhaps we could even better understand the world through the eyes of a Trump supporter!
While all these things are possible through existing mediums, a heightened simulation offers a powerful experience that is more likely to stay with the user even after the video ends. The saliency of the VR experience may convert to more shares, sign-ups and donations, but the impact on memory also suggests more repeat views and improved retargeting.
The jury on VR is still out, but the fact that some of the biggest players in tech are investing so many resources seems fortuitous, and certainly has us thinking of new ways to share the message of progress.
Last year, Revolution Messaging Partner and resident soothsayer, Arun Chaudhary, followed up on his amazing prediction for 2013 (Bill de Blasio would be elected Mayor of NYC), with another prescient prognostication that “Ukranian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko will be freed in 2014.”
Unfortunately, not all the forecasts were quite as flawless (looking at you, Sam Lozier): “Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida will elect new Democratic Governors.” But one thing is for sure; the conjecture coming from the crystal ball this year has something for everyone.
Alison: Instagram was the talk of the town after Facebook acquired it for $1 billion as part of their mobile strategy. As much as I agree with College Humor’s “Look at this Instagram” (Nickelback Parody), many now are using Instagram (instead of Facebook and Twitter) as their primary social network.
David: You Don’t Know Jack. Nostalgia takes first place with a fantastic re-tooling of an addictive classic trivia game that utilizes a smart pricing system. It uses Facebook to cleverly fake the multiplayer experience by recording friends’ scores and creating the illusion that you play against them.
Eden: Mint, a savvy financial planning app that makes budgeting as fun as it can be (hint: not very).
Gabe: Canistream.it – This should really be called “is it possible to watch this movie right now without leaving the comfort of my couch?” It is also available as a mobile app to aid in mobile video consumption.
Jeff: OmniFocus. I have barely scratched the surface of what this app can do and I am already more organized at work and at home.
Jen: Duolinguo, a language learning app and website, has been my favorite of the year. In addition to teaching you a new language, the website allows users to translate and vote on text from the web.
Kate: Pinterest. After a few major overhauls, they finally created an app that allows users to repin, upload pins from photos on their phones and pin from mobile web easily.
Kayla: RunKeeper. As an avid runner and on a budget, I didn’t want to spend the money on one of those fancy GPS watches that track your distance and pace. Luckily, RunKeeper does both, as well as integrates with their online UI so you can manage your information at your computer as well.
Keegan: Ingress is the first app that has ever made exercise fun for me. While it is only available for Android, as it expands it is going to introduce a large number of people to the possibilities of augmented reality.
Rich: A refreshing trend of 2012 has been the humanization and demystification of our public officials, even when it’s less than flattering. The best example I can think of is Sunlight Foundation’s Politiwhoops. A definitive list of tweets posted – and deleted – by public officials, it gives us insight into the slip-ups and goofs of politicians and their staffs.
Sam: This isn’t very new, but the latest version of Google Maps for iPhone. The turn-by-turn directions and up to the minute traffic updates are awesome and far better than the maps feature Apple provides.
Scott: Burner – Let’s be honest, you don’t always want to give out your phone number. I would also like to highlight a past pick with TripIt. It is still the best way to organize all of your flight, hotel & car rental information in one place!
Walker: Github.com. I’ve been a member since 2008, but I don’t see this treading water or going away! It’s only going to get bigger and better as developers start getting designers on it to help them make open source software more user-friendly.
Prediction for 2013
Walker: 2013 will be the first year we see actual competition to the current Apple-domination in the mobile arena. Other companies were playing catch-up. These companies and others have the wares that finally begin to compete in user-friendliness and usability. As a side prediction: I think Ballmer will finally get ejected (or kindly swept aside) at Microsoft.
Scott: 2013 will be a true mobile revolution for politics. Campaigns will not only have to think about how email displays on a mobile phone, but also make sure their websites are mobile friendly. They will need to think more about how busy their target audience is while watching political ads on very small screens. The most successful campaigns will come to terms with the fact that news is being spread at 140 to 160characters at a time and videos are being consumed at 15-second intervals instead of 60-second intervals.
Sam: Mobile giving will become an even bigger success in 2013. Not just for non-profits, but also for political campaigns as the ability to fundraise over mobile devices becomes easier.
Rich: Many events of the past year have people concerned with public safety, both because of large-scale incidents such as Newtown and Aurora, and on a more personal level, the start-up of organizations like ihollaback.org. I predict more will be done to bring mobile technology into reporting and responding to incidents. Apps which can be activated with a single touch or voice command, can notify first responders with the location and details of an incident, or in the case of harassment, can flag an individual perpetrator as a public or private warning to others.
Keegan: Analyzing data to make smarter decisions will no longer be an option for organizations, it will become the standard in 2013. As a result, I expect the messages that reach us, and the experiences that shape our day-to-day lives, to become smarter.
Kayla: I believe that in 2013 cable will become obsolete for many more people since we all have the ability to watch Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube and more on our Wiis and other similar devices. These services are either much cheaper or free.
Kate: Many more types of mobile video ads. It will be the most interesting to see if consumers are excited by this form of advertising, or are irritated by the fact that a video plays in between every move they make on Words with Friends or before every story they read on ESPN.
Jen: A new type of community-based organizing will emerge. Service workers will start to build power and demand respect from their employers with help from communities, unions and student activists. A large part of their success will be due to relationship building and traditional organizing techniques, facilitated by social media and mobile technology.
Jeff: The mobile space is going to go through serious growing pains. It will split deeper into different camps between web apps and native apps, and the losers will be the end users. We will see a greater adoption of Windows Phone and even more fragmentation of Google’s Android operating system.
Gabe: 2013 will be the year that the rest of your stuff connects to the Internet and starts to learn; all of it monitored and controlled by your smart phone. The Nest Learning Thermostat got the formula right in 2012; other “dumb” appliances will follow suit.
Eden: While 2012 was a very successful year for women, 2013 will see increased attention on very serious and basic women’s rights, particularly the failed passage of the Violence Against Women Act and the upcoming 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. 2013 will be the year that women fight back with new tactics.
David: Cable companies will be forced to re-evaluate their subscription services and admit once and for all that people want to watch what they want, when they want it, on the device of their choosing. Intel is allegedly introducing a set top box that will allow people to finally subscribe to a cable a la carte with cloud based DVR.
Arun: I have three – Bill de Blasio will be Mayor of NYC, Castro will live, 3D movies will die (again).
Alison: Microsoft’s Windows 8 devices will not take off and their response to the rise of the mobile web will continue to disappoint. Apple will remain king in tablet sales, despite the impressive new Windows tablet with keyboard cover, Microsoft Surface.
2011 was the year that mobile made social media for real! Up until this year, there were a number of critics charging that social media was incapable of driving change. Their argument made sense as long as people were tethered to a computer, but now a huge number of people are interacting with their social network only through their phone. Whether it is from the bathroom, while grabbing dinner with friends or out protesting an injustice – you are able to get real-time updates about what matters to you wherever you are.
Egypt. Wisconsin. Wall Street. In these places, and many, many more locations, those outraged were communicating and organizing thanks to their smartphones. SMS continued to prove invaluable for driving action as many faced problems with the data connections on their phone (whether nefarious or from congestion) – highlighting the importance of including text messaging as part of any social media strategy.
It is difficult to imagine what new movements, technology and trends we will see in 2012. So we decided to give that challenge to our staff. See below for our staff 2012 predictions as well as their best of 2011 picks. Please also share yours with us by texting them to 738674 (REVMSG), tweeting them @revmsg or sharing them at facebook.com/revmsg.
Favorite App or Website of 2011
Alison: Twitter. Even though it has been around a while, this was the year that skeptics finally woke up and realized that Twitter can be a catalyzing force in social movements.
Courtney: Brand new Uber– towncars come directly to you in major cities, love it! And personally, “My Pregnancy” for letting me know what size vegetable my pre-born kid is each week.
David: Angry Birds became available in the iOS App Store in 2009. Two years, 2 retails stores and huge merchandise sales later, the game’s anonymous protagonists have become the most popular marketable video game characters since Pac-Man or, possibly, Mario.
Doug: Favorite Site – Daring FireBall: John Gruber is fast becoming our generation’s Walt Mossberg, making clear the meaning behind tech headlines and dispatching wannabe pundits. Favorite App – HBO Go on iPad: Finally, HBO subscribers get the love the deserve with access to *all* HBO content on their device; Springpad: Simple, easy, cloud-based and multi-device-friendly task management.
Kayla: Storify. This new website allows both individuals and large news organizations to group together different social media posts, such as tweets, images, and Facebook updates, and create a story with added commentary.
Sam: I was initially a skeptic of Spotify, but thought I would try it out and have enjoyed every minute of my experience. Upgrading to a premium account is well worth the money when you are working from your laptop all day.
Scott: The parkmobile app. Even though it won’t completely prevent many of us from getting parking tickets, it makes it a lot easier to feed a meter (and it is great to see the DC Gov embracing the convenience of mobile technology)!
Walker: Not an app, per se, but node.js came into it’s own in 2011 and showed that it’s got power. Microsoft threw their corporate weight behind the project and now you can run node.js on Windows Azure servers.
Predictions for 2012
Alison: The Google+ Hangout feature will continue to catch on – organizers will initiate hangouts from their phones and will broadcast their hangouts on YouTube. These more personal interactions will propel movements forward.
Courtney:Campaigns will recognize and embrace mobile technology during the election season, particularly as a way to bridge traditional outreach (yard signs) with social media outreach.
David: #1 – Steve Jobs legacy will continue to bring Apple great success through the next year, though I don’t expect an iPhone 5. #2 – SOPA will soon rear its ugly head again.
Doug: The rise of social commerce. Checking in = Cash becomes increasingly common. See AMEX/FourSquare arrangement for a preview of this trend.
Jason: Twitter and Facebook were critical to the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement. The problem is that authorities are also using these tools to track protesters. Smaller, more agile messaging tools are springing up and could become big in 2012. No frills Vibe is being used by the Occupy movement to spread anonymous messages to limited areas (whisper, speak, shout, whistle, yell and bellow) for a period of time as short as 15 minutes. You can tell those people who are close to you about the action you’re going to take anonymously and not leave a trace.
Kayla: Customer Service through Twitter. This is already happening slowly, but in 2012 customers will expect it from businesses and organizations.
Keegan: The strength of social media also creates its greatest weakness – the ability to insulate yourself with information that is only friendly to your set of beliefs. While it is so much easier to communicate with those that are like-minded, 2012 will bring a new set of challenges to people trying to use social media for the purposes of persuasion. The GOP in particular will face a difficult time both keeping up the radical message they need to keep their base fired up online, and appealing to independent and moderate voters. They will lose the House of Representatives because of this.
Rich: More and more people will be using enough devices in their day-to-day that services/apps for syncing logins, stored data and history will become a virtual necessity. Though this isn’t a new concept, it will become more widely adopted as users get tired of logging into every single service. The patchwork of services that sync one thing or another merely adds to this complexity most of the time, giving users one more password to remember and type into a tiny onscreen keyboard or binding them to using one manufacturer’s technology. By the end of the year, any piece of data not accessible on every device in a user’s pocket or on their desk will seem as anachronistic as a carrier-pigeon.
Sam: Sports will be a driving force in mobile marketing for 2012. I think a deal will be made between app developers and NFL television networks to stream games live through
Scott: As celebrities control their own social media presence in greater numbers… these unique individuals with a passionate base will become more of a political force (Democrats and Republicans will be held accountable by these new social media armies).
Walker: 2012 will be the year of machine learning. We’ll expect more of all of our applications. They should always be learning what our personal preferences are, where we usually go, what we need and when we need it.
While we read over the many “Top of 2009” and “Top of the Decade” lists, we realized that, hey, we’re a new media firm… we should be coming up with our own list of some sort!
So here it is: our favorite new media tools, as well as some of our predictions for 2010. This is not your parent’s recap!
The RevMSG Top of 2009
1. Twitter – By no means a brand new tool, its influence reached critical mass this year. We hardly need to rehash the details. Remember, though: three years ago, it was a small side project at a company focused on syndicating podcasts. Its rapid growth is a reminder that relying on what was working or what is working is vital but not enough. Successful new media companies are the ones that recognize what’s going to work in the future and figure out how to take advantage. That’s our goal. (Oh, and while we’re here: make sure to follow @revmsg!)
2. Evernote – Digital Post it notes. So simple… sync your ideas from your phone to all of your computers.
3. Dropbox – Cloud computing for the individual! An easy way to keep your files backed up. Sync your files online & across computers. A 2GB account for free: http://rev.ms/dropbox
4. PeopleBrowsr – Search, filter, follow, post and repost messages from several social media accounts at once.
5. What the Hashtag – A sort of Wikipedia for the growing collection of Twitter hashtags. They are tracking over 7000 hashtags making the white-noise of twitter a bit more searchable!
6. The Always-Growing World of Mobile Apps – Every day, we wage the battle in our office between the Droid and the iPhone. And with apps to detect metal or that recognize songs from your humming, the creativity and growth in this area aren’t ending any time soon. It was a fun year! Text your favorite Mobile App recommendation to 738674 (spells REVMSG).
Our Predictions for 2010
1. The way we communicate will continue to shift. Whether people will start actually using Google Wave this year is under intense debate at our HQ, but we all agree on one thing. Twitter started something that other websites and apps will build upon. The way we communicate online, and in general, is rapidly changing. The big question is whether services that combine many different forms of communication (check out threadsy.com), or an entirely new form such as Wave, will be what we are using a year from now. Of course, mobile will play a large role. It increasingly appears that new media tools can’t remain viable if they can’t integrate with our phones.
2. You will become Nostalgic. It’s a new decade and with it comes a chance for our favorites from the past to find a way back into our lives again. Hair bands, jelly bracelets and Unicorn videos never really go out of style.We know this because we all found this year’s Republican Party’s website make-over so amazing. (Who knows, maybe throwback email accounts will become trendy???) Nonetheless, we hope that basic practical tools win the day in 2010 and your orgs new media strategy will no-longer be about the newest social-networking rage.. but providing a better user experience- even if that means simply updating your ol’ Flickr account!
3. Mobile. It’s going to be so big this year – it deserves just one word. This plays into our first prediction, but mobile technology is opening huge new doors in social media, advertising, video, commerce, and so on. One thing that is being overlooked though is SMS. In many of the articles you read about the future of mobile there tends to be amnesia over the fact that there are still millions of people who are not on smart phones. Which is to say, if your mobile strategy relies too heavily on apps or mobile access to email, you are ignoring hundreds of millions of people. SMS and voice are still essential to reaching the masses!
We would love to hear your picks for 2009 and your predictions for 2010. So please email, tweet, start a Wave, send one of us a message on Facebook, or — even better — text message us. You can SMS your comments to 738674 (spells REVMSG).