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You may have heard the terms Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) used most often when talking about video and online gaming using virtual reality goggles. However, thanks to the rise in AR and VR technologies linked to social media, digital professionals predict that AR/VR will change the way we communicate, including how we communicate about health.
At one time, AR and VR seemed like some far-off technology reserved for sci-fi, but if you’ve ever used a geo-filter or mask in Snapchat or Instagram, you’ve already used AR!
Before we dive into how AR and VR are being used, let’s talk about the differences between them:
- AR is “a live view overlaid with information.” An AR experience uses someone’s surroundings in real-time and adds layers of tech on top. As we mentioned, the filters used in Snapchat and Instagram Stories are two good examples of AR.
- VR, on the other hand, is a totally immersive experience most often delivered through VR headsets and glasses. Once a user is wearing the glasses, they’re totally surrounded by a virtual world.
We’ve already mentioned how some social media channels have started to integrate AR and VR into the apps you use every day. In addition to the camera effects found in Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook, Snapchat recently launched Bitmoji avatars that can dance and play within your videos. Similarly, Facebook just announced that users can now ‘play with objects’ in their newsfeeds. Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Facebook Spaces: a VR experience that allows Oculus (VR glasses) owners to ‘hang out’ with their friends from anywhere in the world.
These preliminary uses of AR and VR represent a larger trend in how this technology could be used in the future. This technology is still gaining speed in the field of communication, but there are several ways AR and VR might change the way we communicate with the world around us:
- Defy geographic boundaries. The tools can reduce geographic limitations, so we can communicate/meet without boundaries. Individuals could virtually gather to meet, learn, and discuss health issues from anywhere in the world.
- Foster a stronger emotional connection. Instead of telling a story through traditional text and imagery, imagine if your audience could be completely immersed in the story itself. This immersion could increase the emotional connection between the story and the audience member.
- Distraction-free, immersive experiences. Individuals are bombarded with a lot of information each day. Instead of competing for your audience’s attention, communicating with them through VR could lead to distraction-free interactions.
- Improve the way we communicate about health. AR and VR could create new applications that would change how we approach health. Whether it’s a new VR tool that’s helping seniors unlock memories to tools that could help treat substance use, AR and VR technology have potential to change the healthcare experience.
As technology continues to evolve at the speed of light, there are a few ways that you can stay up-to-date on the emerging world of AR/VR:
- Keep tabs on social media tools that were early adopters of AR and VR. For example, follow along with Facebook’s annual F8 Conference for product updates. In addition, we also like to frequently visit the News pages of our favorite social media sites, like Instagram’s blog and press page.
- Check sites like Social Media Today, TechCrunch, and Buffer’s blog. These sites deliver social media news as well as case studies and tips and tricks for strategically using digital communication.
- Sign up to get our Digital Tools updates delivered to your inbox. Our HIV.gov blog team often covers news and updates on digital communication and how the updates will impact HIV communication work. We also provided some tips in our recent blog post, Staying Current in Today’s Fast Moving Social Media World.