Following the high profile purchase of Whatsapp, Facebook has made yet another acquisition. The company behind the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, which found success on Kickstarter (and has since been the darling of the indie tech scene) was bought for $2bn this week.
Although gaming is a cornerstone of Facebook’s business, Mark Zuckerburg’s statement shows that he has further reaching ambitions for virtual reality (VR):
“Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home.…This is really a new communication platform.”
In fact, healthcare is already a big adopter of virtual reality, with applications already in surgery simulation, phobia treatment, robotic surgery and skills training.
“We’re also investigating the potential for this to serve as an early warning for the wearer, so we’re exploring integrating tiny LED lights that could light up to indicate that glucose levels have crossed above or below certain thresholds.”
There’s a notable scene in the film Minority Report, where a man reads a newspaper that updates in real time with breaking news. Whilst we are not quite at that stage yet, Augmented Reality (AR) is making use of computer visions algorithms in order to superimpose virtual information (2D or 3D, textual or pictorial) onto real world scenes in real time.
The annual Technology for Marketing and Advertising exhibition took place this week at London’s Earls Court, bringing together some of the UK’s leading Internet marketing innovators. Amongst more than 200 exhibitors, keynote speakers included Facebook’s UK commercial director, Stephen Haines, andNic Cumisky, Google’s Senior Industry Manager.
The keynote speeches were dominated by startling statistics.
There were 2.4 billion UK internet visits to social networks in January 2011.
Facebook is now the second most visited site in UK (after Google) – every 6th page viewed in the UK is on Facebook.
On Christmas Day 2010, Facebook traffic exceeded Google traffic for the first time ever.
On average, we pass 3,254 pieces of personal information into databases each week.
Microsoft and Experian teamed up to discuss a number of trends that are sweeping the online realm. Social networking users have now surpassed email users. Demographically, younger internet users often only use email when communicating with adults. When speaking with their peers, they prefer to use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Robin Goad from Experian Hitwise (a proprietary software that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use to analyse website logs created on their network) revealed clear profiling patterns in social media usage. By cross-referencing this information with Experian’s Mosaic consumer classification data, they were able to identify a trend for more affluent members of society to use Twitter, whereas Facebook is much more mainstream and skews towards the upper working class.
Emerging technologies to keep an eye on
NFC (Near Field Communication) chips were described by Google as ‘bluetooth on steroids’. NFC allows a device, usually a mobile phone, to collect data from another device or NFC tag at close range. In many ways, it’s like a contactless payment card that is integrated into a phone. In other ways, it’s similar to Bluetooth, except that instead of programming two devices to work together, they can simply touch to establish a connection.
QR codes can be scanned and read by anyone with a smartphone, just by clicking their camera. By scanning the codes, you can access images, websites and text. QR codes allow for more data than the standard 10-digit bar code and scanning requires less effort than typing a URL. Click here to view some novel uses of this technology.
i-Ads – AXA have recently released the first i-Ad, which integrates newspaper advertising with an iPhone. The video below explains the process in more detail, but the gist is that you come upon an engaging picture in print and are asked to place your iPhone on a blank space on the page which brings the story to life, and keeps eyeballs on the i-Ad for a full minute.
Third life – It is becoming increasingly hard to determine what is offline and online. Google and many others are in the process of seamlessly combining the real world and the online world into something entirely different. Industry experts predict that we will soon experience an indistinguishable mashing of our real physical first life and our second virtual life into a ‘Third Life’. Both General Motors and Ford are integrating augmented reality technology into their windshields so that GPS directions will be layered on to the road in front of you, along with directions to your local Burger King or HSBC branch. A car has even been released with voice-activated Facebook newsfeed updates: watch a demonstration in the advert below.