What happens when we start 'seeing things' in a world where reality isn't real?

Everything we get to see in sci-fi eventually becomes reality.

A great example of this was the initial Star Trek series. Looking back, it may have been one of the most innovative sources of inspiration ever created.

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Take a moment to consider all the things we take for granted today that made their first appearance on the show.

 
 

 

I don't know about you, but I just can't wait until we figure out how teleportation works...

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Star Wars is another example.  

In 1977 it first spurred our imagination about what a hologram could actually look like.

And once again, it has now become a reality!

 Candi Carrera

Candi Carrera

Last week, I was speaking at the GalaMarketers event in Luxembourg.

During the event, Candi Carrera, Microsoft’s Country Head, blew our minds with his presentation about the fourth industrial revolution.

His talk was essentially about how holograms will change everything about the way we live and more importantly, how we work.   

If anybody in the audience thought Microsoft’s Hololens was mainly a gadget for fun and leisure, his presentation made it pretty clear that this type of hardware will become the most effective tool in the business hardware kit in a very near future. 

If there is anything you do with this blog post, I really hope you take the time to watch the video below. It'd the kind of clip that makes me dream. In any case, it does an amazing job at showing you what is waiting for you in the next 2-3 years...

Then there is MagicLeap. Based in Florida and since it was founded in 2010 it has managed to raise billions from investors such as Google, Alibaba, Andreesen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins. Names like that certainly make the fog of doubt go away.  Forbes recently estimated the business to be worth US$ 4.5 billion. 

MagicLeap is probably going to be one to watch because they may be able to deliver the promise of the hologram without all the clunky hardware. 

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Here’s how wikipedia describes what these people are up to:

"Magic Leap is working on a retinal display which superimposes 3D computer-generated imagery over real world objects, by projecting a digital light field into the user's eye, involving technologies potentially suited to applications in augmented reality and computer vision. It is attempting to construct a light-field chip using silicon photonics."

A more pedestrian way of describing this may be something like “dreaming with your eyes open

Personally, I believe we may be looking at what will someday become one of the largest companies ever created.

I don’t even know how or where to start expressing how virtual/augmented reality will change EVERYTHING.

What I can say is that from my corner of the sandbox (how we tell business stories and communicate our key message) it turns everything upside down. 

First of all, soon it will be no longer be about just telling a story, instead it will be all about showing up in someone’s own story. This may seem a bit abstract, so allow me put this in the right perspective:

This is a huge shift because until now marketers have told stories that others could step into. With augmented reality, it will be the other way around because marketers will have to find a way to become a part of the beholder’s story. 

In essence, augmented reality means that we will get to edit our own world. This will be irresistible because for as long as we’ve had an imagination, we always dreamt about altering our reality. If anything, social media is undeniable proof that this desire is too strong to resist because it allowed us to create a much better version of ourselves for anyone, anywhere to see.  

It is hard evidence because social media has caused the biggest human mobilisation we ever seen: more than 3.5 billion people moved onto social media in less than a decade, willingly trading their privacy for nothing more than a user name and a social profile...

Social media was only the beginning because it is still little more than a 2D veneer over our reality. Is it a coincidence that the biggest merchants of VR also turn out to be those who know all our little secrets like Facebook, Linkedin, Google and Amazon

They already have one foot in the door with billions of users who simply can no longer live without their edited realty. What do you think will happen when they will offer the gear to make your life even more exciting?

It triggers many, many questions, ranging from the functional to the deeply existential.  As a marketer and storyteller, here is what is mostly on my mind when it comes to the transformative power of virtual and/or augmented reality:

What happens when we can actually step into the fantasy version of how we want to see the world? Will the ‘real' thing still be good enough? 

How will we get to insert ourselves in someone else’s edited world?
Actually, let me rephrase this question: ”how will we earn the permission to be included into someone’s edited world?”

If you think about it, 'edited reality' may not only be about adding things that are not there, it might equally be all about suppressing things that you don’t want to see.

It could start innocently, like replacing an overcast sky with a sunny blue day or seeing a rendered reconstruction of a ruin, but what happens when augmented reality also becomes the ultimate spam filter? What will that look like and how will it work?

I certainly don’t have the answers, but if you are in marketing or communications, I do think it is one of the most urgent questions we need to start asking ourselves...