Artificial Reality Stepping Into the Social Sphere

Last week, one of the readings for class was Inside Mark Zuckerberg’s Bold Plan for the Future of Facebook, which dove into 3 specific areas of focus: artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and bringing the internet to everywhere in the world. The segment that interests me the most is virtual reality, or more largely – artificial reality, for two reasons: 1) I feel like it is a buzzword right now and I am interested in the application of it, and 2) companies like Facebook and other startups of channeling billions of dollars to develop it. Evidently, people (and investors) think this is the next big thing that will reshape how we interact with the world.  

Already, the emergence of new technologies mixing the real world and a virtual world is apparent and indicate the growing trend towards artificial reality. Facebook is one of many companies, including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and Amazon which have teams and resources dedicated to the development of artificial reality. Augmented reality is already being adopted and utilized in existing platforms, which is the first step for virtual and mixed reality. Augmented reality displays digital images on a view of the real world. Examples include Snapchat filters that overlay users’ faces or viewing Pokémon characters on a city sidewalk. The success of these two products, and others like them, inspire future developments into virtual reality and mixed reality, while creating excitement for all the possibilities.

Oculus: A New Way to Connect  

Mark Zuckerberg believes virtual reality is the next big technology advancement for how humans interact. Back in March of 2014, Facebook acquired Oculus for $2 billion dollars. Much of virtual reality (VR) to date is entertainment focused, such as interactive games and videos. However, Facebook’s plan to interact with VR is much larger. The chart below shows some industries outside of entertainment that could gain a lot from VR. According to a statement released by Facebook earlier in 2016, Facebook is “investing in efforts to explore immersive new VR experiences that will help people connect and share.” The long term goal is to create a way for friends living in different corners of the world to spend time with each other that feels like they are really together. Facebook has a “Social VR” team who has been tasked with the mission to explore the future of social interaction. Obviously Facebook has succeeded in connecting people thus far, but VR presents a whole new set of problems such as integrating new technologies on all platforms.


One Step Further…Mixed Reality

Beyond Facebook, there are other players in the virtual reality field, including one rather secretive startup, Magic Leap. Differing from Oculus, Magic Leap is concerned with mixed reality. Instead of just interacting in a virtual space, Magic Leap is developing technologies that allow users to interact in their own space with 3-D virtual images. These images are responsive to the natural world. For example, if a virtual box was under a table, the user wouldn’t see it unless he bent down and looked under the table.  Magic Leap is the leader of mixed reality and has the financial power to back it up with a $4.5 billion valuation and $1.4 billion raised by investors. With huge funds at hand, Magic Leap has expanded its team to over 500 employees, yet it has not released any products. A few videos and articles offer insights into the head-mounted device Magic Leap has been developing over the last few years. In an article published by Wired, author Kevin Kelley was offered a first hand look into Magic Leap. Kelley reported that soon Magic Leap’s development team with convert to using all virtual displays. Not being confined to a computer screen or even a tablet will allow employees to interact and work in a whole new way, not to mention from any location of their choosing. Kelley also observed how concerns over lighting and display are keeping the virtual view from being completely realistic. Below is video that demonstrates the possibilities of artificial reality and showcases some of the work Magic Leap is pursuing. 

Video Demonstrating Magic Leap Capabilities


Both Facebook and Magic Leap highlight the exciting possibilities on the horizon. Throughout my life, I have witnessed the changing ways we interact with each other from phone calls, to emails, to Skype, to social media and I am looking forward to seeing (and experiencing first hand) how artificial reality redefines our means of staying connected. Artificial reality technologies offer huge advantages for businesses and consumers. The way in which employees interact with coworkers would drastically change. Video chatting or conference calls are often not enough for important meetings, but this problem could be eliminated with developments of artificial reality. Personally, I look forward to the day when I have all the interactive tools I need to go about my work and don’t have to be glued to my phone screen or laptop.



  1. gabcandelieri · ·

    This topic is extremely relevant and intriguing. The idea of Facebook implementing a “Social VR” team is ultimately indicative of an overall industry shift toward digitization. This blog post nicely compliments @spulde13‘s recent tweet highlighting Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook’s opinion on the commercial viability of AR vs. VR. But, what I liked about your post that the article lacked is a focus on how AR/VR can enhance social interactions by making a friend on the opposite side of the world actually feel present by your side. I think we might be about to experience another tech revolution, further altering how we interact with individuals.

  2. Catty really enjoyed reading this article. I can see that you are very intrigued by VR and want to learn more. This technology will ,absolutely, be very impactful in the near future. With all the capital and energy that are invested, we will see real world results soon.

    Another industry that I believe VR will influence is sports. There are a few technologies that are being crafted to help change the way we practice. Specifically in football, Stanford grads have developed technology that allows us to analyze film in the vantage point of a player. Look into it, its called STRIVR.

  3. I like your post! This actually relates to the post that I did this week on augmented reality. I didnt know much about it before this class, but I think the potential for these technologies are endless. It is apparent that businesses are feeling the pressure to include augmented/virtual reality into their businesses in order to stay relevant and first movers in the industry. Leaders of major companies are speaking out about this topic- particularly debating the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality and which one is better. While Facebook is focusing more on Virtual Reality, Tim Cook of Apple indicates that he thinks the potential for Augmented reality is greater. His main point in support of augmented reality is that this technology allows you to stay present in your current environment- while gaining exposure to additional scents, images, etc. This is compared to virtual reality which transports you to entirely different situation. The debate between augmented reality and virtual reality is interesting and really shows how far society has come. It will be interesting to see how business models will have to change once these technologies are more commonplace. Augmented reality and virtual reality have the potential to change how we interact with the world in which we live. Very interesting post!

  4. Really nice followup to last week’s class! Personally, I’m most excited about “augmented reality” If a company can really get that one right, then I think the potential impact on our world could be pretty massive. VR, while cool, seems a bit more niche to me. Of course, I’ve been wrong in the past!

  5. Great blog. I had not heard of Magic Leap before reading this article. With a $4.5 Billion dollar valuation investors must really think that the company is on the cutting edge of the virtual reality space. It is intriguing that the company has remained quiet, or “secretive” as you put it, about its long term product goals. I wonder if investors are planning for long term developments in the VR technology, or if they see applications for the technology in the near future. The technology developed by Magic leaps seems like it could have useful applications in the engineering and military markets.

  6. I clicked on your blog for exactly the reason you wrote it; AR and VR are such hot topics right now and as much as I “know” what they are, I continue to be amazed by the investment companies are making, the possibilities for their application, and what EXACTLY they really are. Your blog did a great job answering my questions, I always thing of the commercial/business dynamic. But using last week’s reading and further diving into the social possibilities of this phenomenon, shed a whole new light on the potential of this technology. It goes beyond business honestly, it will change the way we communicate and connect and I will not be surprised that Facebook will be the pioneers to do this…

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