Do you hate that question? My knee-jerk reaction used to be, “are you really even doing ‘what’s now’ to be able to ask ‘what’s next’?” It was a standard response, but it did help recalibrate the conversation for a business. It’s true, most brands are not even pushing at full capacity, when it comes to platforms like social, mobile, data and more. They’re still stumbling, tinkering, committed, and doing it, but it’s rarely fully engrained in the corporate culture, or a mandate that is being pushed down by the c-level executives.
Answering ”what’s next?” used to be easier.
It seems like the Internet or the digital economy was a vast enough tapestry, that anyone could just drop either of those two thoughts, and it was a surefire way to begin a great conversation about the opportunity of the future. For the past year, I’ve changed my answer to “what’s next?,” and the truth is that most people look at me sideways when I say it. What’s next? Virtual reality.
Yes. Virtual reality. That’s what is next.
It may not be the Star Trek Holodeck, but virtual reality will be the next mass platform, in the next few years. It is still early days, but it is coming fast. This is not because Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion, but because of what my experience has been with virtual reality. The Web browser gave us a connected, two dimensional experience. Mobile evolved that relationship, and while 3D movies seem like the common bridge to virtual reality, I don’t think that it is. I believe that the next platform for connections will be virtual reality. In a more simplistic way: virtual reality is the next Web browser… or what comes after mobile apps as the main way that consumers will interact with technology, information and one another (and yes, entertainment will also be a huge component of it).
I have been saying this since before the above-mentioned acquisition took place back in July of 2014.
It happened after I took part in a virtual reality demo at a conference. I had that same feeling that I had when I used the first Web browser back in the early nineties. That feeling of the world opening up in a new, interesting and life-changing way. Last week, I shared a presentation from the Vanity Fair summit with J.J. Abrams, Jony Ive and Brian Grazer (you can check it out here: Saying No, Respecting Design And Other Secrets Of Creative Genuis). This week, from that same event, is a conversation between Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook, Michael Abrash from Oculus and Steven Levy (Backchannel, Wired and the author of In The Plex, Hackers and many more). When asked about why Facebook took such a huge investment in virtual reality, Zuckerberg’s response (and the subsequent conversation that takes place) expresses the exact same sentiments I felt after I tinkered with the technology.
Virtual reality is next. It’s not a question of developing it right now for brands. It’s a question of getting ready for the speed with which it will change everything.