From humble roots as a charming music festival in Austin, Texas, South by Southwest has grown into a massive two-week showcase of innovation. Technological innovation in particular has become a huge part of the festivities. At the 2016 iteration, its 29th edition, five days were dedicated to “interactive” tech demonstrations. The technology shared there is considered a forerunner of emerging technological trends and offers a peek at what the future may hold. An opportunity to preview these innovations is an opportunity that many can’t resist and in fact, President Barack Obama attended the event this year.
One prevalent area of innovation at this year’s festival were virtual and augmented reality. Companies such as Samsung, Google, The New York Times and McDonalds provided demonstrations of their products and applications. The range of companies alone hints as to the long list of future uses. To pick an example of the technology at work, The New York Times shared their virtual reality project “The Displaced.” The project is a 10-minute piece in which viewers follow three child refugees from different nations through their daily lives.
While joining the journey on the other side of the world from the comfort of your own home sounds like science fiction, it could become commonplace in the near future. Deloitte Global predicts virtual reality will report its first billion-dollar year in 2016. Additionally, this isn’t just be a medium for the wealthy to enjoy. Google is developing its VR headset, “Cardboard,” which is set to sell for just $15. Users just need to add their own smartphone to the product and the doors to virtual reality are swung open.
With virtual reality on the verge of going mainstream, storytelling industries in particular should be in the business of finding out how to utilize the products. One shocking fact about VR videos is that people are 7.5 times more likely to share compared to their fixed-frame counterparts, according to VR journalist Sarah Hill. That level of engagement could be a game changer for marketers, public relation practitioners and journalists just to name a few. Getting involved with the technology now and becoming early adopters might pay dividends when everyone else in the industry who ignored VR is trying to play catch up.