A virus turns the world upside down.Whole branches of industry and business stand still, social customs are no longer a matter of course from one day to the next, and sometimes even prohibited when punished. What seemed normal to us just a few weeks ago is no longer possible today. What seemed unimaginable to us recently is now the norm. We're experiencing a collective zero hour in which the cards are being reshuffled. Worldwide.
How will communication be in the future?
Communication is particularly affected. In the current situation, it's only now becoming clear how important it is for all areas of our life and how immense the impact of restrictions can be.
And after the corona pandemic? Will everything be the same as it was? Unlikely. A crisis of such global proportions will leave a mark on us all. We can assume that personal contact between people will continue to be characterized by collective virus trauma for a long time to come. Now it's time to find and establish crisis-proof communication channels for the future. Some already exist and are used diligently during the crisis.
Now is the time of digital tools
Grandparents are discovering Zoom to read stories to grandchildren, get-togethers are happening on FaceTime (with real hangovers the next morning), librarians read to children on Facebook from public libraries, teachers teach their students with digital classroom tools. These are all programs that existed before the Corona crisis, but only now are they coming to the fore – and experiencing their true social utility.
But there's also a change in business and professional life. Charlie Fink, AR/VR evangelist and Forbes columnist, sums it up: “Say goodbye to handshakes, non-essential business travel […] and the old way of doing business. Say hello to remote work and virtual conferences.” – Digital communication in full swing! Accordingly, the demand for (alternative) remote collaboration platforms is increasing.
Are AR, VR and MR on the upswing?
Working in the mobile office is about to prove itself – and the XR technologies that can support the new forms of collaboration are experiencing a long-needed push from the crisis. Virtual and mixed reality conferences are therefore suitable as solutions wherever a "more material" form of virtual presence is desired, which should go far beyond the two-dimensional image in video conferences.
Large conference events are now even planning to jump completely into a virtual mode if there are still bans on contacts and travel. However, as Fink describes the situation, the VR platforms are (still) limited in the possibilities of virtual presence and in the scope of realistic immersion.
The situation is different in the area of mixed reality. Magic Leap and the HoloLens 2 even enable holographic telepresence, which – thanks to platforms such as Spatial – offers a completely disruptive and more realistic experience than any pure VR solution even in collaborative group sessions. Such solutions are conceivable where work teams can no longer come together due to travel restrictions and social distancing requirements. Air travel to other cities to attend one-hour meetings is no longer necessary. The environment is glad of it!
Marketing communication faces new challenges
Marketers are also currently faced with many questions. How do I keep in touch with my customers, and how do I reach them in times of quarantine, curfews and contact prohibitions? How do I make my company's brands and products come alive? And how can I convey the urgent customer proximity without being close? It's becoming increasingly clear that digital standard marketing is reaching its limits.
One answer could be augmented reality. Thanks to the latest technological developments in the field of AR, users can immerse themselves in brand worlds from anywhere and at any time without having to queue up in person or be in full rooms. Products are no longer touched by tens of people before a purchase takes place, but can be discovered in holographic form at home by those who are interested. And best of all, it all works over the web. This means that theoretically everyone can have easy access to it.
In addition, there are infinite possibilities for staging such AR experiences. There are no spatial limits, no material and catering costs and no need for additional staff that the crowd of users has to look after personally. All it takes are creative ideas and good technical implementation.
This is how concrete solutions can be
How can companies quickly establish alternative forms of communication and presentation in times of crisis? AR showrooms are one option that users can simply start in Web AR or Social AR and in which they can get in touch with holographic avatars of the respective sales staff. A possible option, for example for wholesalers and retailers who, due to the current restrictions, no longer have a regular customer base.
Simple versions of AR showrooms can be implemented within a few days and the functionality is simple. Users can access the AR experience on their smartphone using a means of communication such as a post on the social web. They then scan, for example, their living room table or the driveway to the garage and then see the AR showroom right there. 3D holograms of any product can be viewed from all sides. For fashion brands, a virtual try-on in AR using a selfie camera on a smartphone could also be interesting. Even a link in online shops is possible without further ado.
For further examples of brand and product staging with Mixed Reality, Virtual Reality und Augmented Reality, please watch my presentation at the world's biggest toy fair Spielwarenmesse 2020: