The avatar is dead; long live the avatar

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With the sad news today that AltspaceVR is shutting down because they can’t find an investor (, I can’t help thinking that the VR bubble may be at bursting point. It’s also likely that what we’ll see over the next year is the emergence of Mixed Reality and Eyewear, and this will drive and mould new immersive experiences, that are not so claustrophobic. Maybe VR is not quite ready for a Social platform outside of multi-player gaming. Unless you can offer truly immersive environment for users to _hang_ in, nothing quite beats the real-world.

Of course, the real world has its limitations, you can only hang with people who are close to you, and you have to actually talk directly to them, and _see_ them for who they really are! That’s just weird, right? This is where the internet excels, you can hide in the dark corners of the web, and be whoever you want to be; your avatar becomes your persona, and nobody has to interact with _that other person_. I don’t think we’re going to turn our back on the global social stage just yet, but is VR ready? Not yet. The world of _Ready Player One_ is a few years away.

I think we are about to witness a new era of social interaction, it will be a true _mixed reality_. Imagine seeing the people around you living as their chosen avatars; being them. Eyewear technology, and Augmented Reality technology will enable us to wear masks and other digital accutrements; new forms of social interaction will emerge. Imagine being able to throw an emoji at someone instead of vocalising your appreciation; strange convoluted gestures will become the norm as we walk down the street. Remember how weird it was to witness people talking to themselves on hands-free earpieces? It can only get weirder.

Images courtesy of Facebook AR Studio (soon to be released for developers and enabling AR for brands in Messenger)

Soon you’ll be living as your avatar, in a world that you have augmented with the tools and services you desire. Forget people’s names? They’ll appear floating over their heads with their mood icon. Need navigation? It will be an overlay, right in front of your eyes. Like Football? How about running an app that turns any sphere into a soccer ball? Like to fart? How about an app that makes fart noises whenever you touch someone’s nose! Why not!

This new social reality will also open up huge opportunities for brands: Proximity, and Street Level Marketing allow them to connect to their customers wherever they are. Customers with similar tastes who happen to be in close proximity to a store can be thrown together and enticed in to benefit from rewards and incentives. The potential to reach new customers and educate them is unlimited.

The world is going to get crazy. Crazy cool, but also completely bonkers.