Visual communication can break down barriers — whether that’s breaking linguistic barriers through use of universal imagery or exploding its very definition through the use of innovative new mediums. As an industry that is constantly growing, visual communication needs to adapt at a moment’s notice. In recent years, the introduction of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) means that visual communication has a new challenge: simplifying and exploring information in real time and real space.
Killer’s Creative Director, Josh Miles, is consistently working with our team of in-house designers, animators, and developers to expand our understanding of new technologies and discover how to apply them to visual communication, whether it be information visualization or visual storytelling. We asked him to elaborate a bit on how these technologies work and what impact they could have on visual communication now and in the future.
What is augmented reality? What is virtual reality?
Augmented reality seeks to enhance (or, augment) real life experiences by weaving digital content into them. Typically, users will wear special glasses or just point their smartphone camera at the real world, and the glasses or screen will display digital information about whatever they are looking, making it appear as though that information is hovering right there in front of you in the real world.
Whereas AR seeks to provide additional context to the physical world, virtual reality aims to create an entirely new existence, separate from the physical. VR is experienced by wearing a headset with small display screens inside that act as windows to a virtual landscape. As you turn your head, lean, or move around the virtual world, the displays react accordingly, so it feels as if you’re actually inside the experience.
How can AR and VR leverage visual communication?
Visual communication’s goal is to provide information in the most understandable, actionable, and visually appealing way. As the technologies behind AR and VR evolve, so too will the capabilities of visual communication grow. AR provides users with tools to make more informed decisions based on the information it layers into real-world experiences. For example, a surgeon using AR could operate on a patient’s heart, being able to see graphics measuring heart rate, blood pressure, or even diagnostic imaging overlaid on top of the patient, helping guide her hand during the operation. VR offers the unique ability to take users to new worlds and new experiences. Medical students can be transported inside a heart to study its structure and build understanding of its inner workings. Visual communication integrated into such an experience can inform and expedite instruction, paving the way for groundbreaking discoveries in any industry.
What impact do AR and VR have on engagement?
Both these technologies are still in early stages of experimentation, and content creators are still learning how to leverage the powers these platforms provide. In the case of VR, the audience is injected into a completely closed system. While they can choose which details of the content to examine in the space, the content they can explore is limited to what you include within that system. Having that control over the viewer’s experience is unprecedented in the world of content marketing. While AR doesn’t provide a closed system, the seamless integration of visual content into the physical world allows for nearly constant communication with the user, producing a similar level of engagement. Constant, relevant, and useful content, all the time.
Are AR and VR already being used in the visual communication space?
Absolutely — there are many examples of what’s possible already, from a London weather story by Google to a tour of Yosemite with Obama or even exploring Minecraft in real space.
Killer Infographics is inspired and excited by all the possibilities these technologies have to offer, and have been studying them avidly ourselves. Stay tuned to see what we’re up to over the next year!
What do brands need to be doing now in order to stay relevant in the future?
While estimates have varied greatly in recent years, an August 2016 report suggests that worldwide revenues for AR and VR will grow rapidly.
With that in mind, brands should explore. Build a team of skilled and creative partners to help you understand how to communicate in these new spaces. Be prepared to experiment, take risks, and push your content marketing strategy to its limits.