But AI wasn’t the only thing Google presented that day, as they revealed the new Google Day Dream, which is an important step in bringing VR to the mass market as it’s based on mobile devices and an affordable, prettier headset, and it also makes the development much easier and accessible.
The future of VR is… Social?
Few days later, Mark Zuckerberg went on stage at the Facebook Oculus event, and gave a fascinating, impressive demo of the future of VR/AR and guess what? The future is all about social.
Before you continue reading, you should really see this video in case you haven’t already.
Leaving aside the cool demo in general, the thing that really caught my attention was how Facebook Messenger was integrated inside.
Especially when Mark wanted to show us how he can take a Messenger call within the VR environment.
If you’ve been following the tech news you must have already noticed that VR/AR and Chatbots/AI are growing and evolving rapidly, in two parallel tracks.
After seeing the latest announcements and demos of Facebook and Google, I finally see these two tracks getting closer towards intersection point in the near future.
The evolution of Chatbots is… VR?
Imagine a virtual reality experience in which you will be able to interact and communicate not only with your friend’s avatars but also with AI powered avatars.
Because this is one of the missing pieces right now for Chatbots and VR:
Chatbots (including Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana) lack personality and human form. Appearance, voice and identity that reflect understanding, “body language” and emotional intelligence are all required to enable real conversations and relationships between real people and these bots.
Texting them or even talking to the mobile devices doesn’t feel like a real conversation between “real people”.
While many businesses are trying to design conversational interface with them, it still doesn’t feel like a natural interaction.
VR on the other hand, still lacks the practical use cases where people want to leverage their VR/AR experience with other people. Or with businesses and their services…
Take another look at this picture, taken from Mark Zuckerberg’s demo.
Now imagine that Michael is not your real friend, but actually a virtual dispatcher of Uber. This is not a real person, but actually a “Chatbot 2.0”…
Think about getting a ride with Uber by talking to this virtual dispatcher, who will then join the avatar or video of the driver.
Think about booking an apartment with Airbnb by talking with a virtual travel agent, who will then join the avatar of the host in live video call.
Think about trading stocks by talking with a virtual broker or (Robo) Advisor who will manage your portfolio.
eCommerce, Travel, Tickets, Medical services, Finance and almost any other vertical can easily define such kind of use cases.
Finally we will be able to speak naturally with brands and have exciting new levels of interactions with them.
That would be a profound change of the UX of Apps and services.
From designing a user interface (Apps) we are currently shifting to designing conversations (Chatbots) and eventually we will transform these conversations into more realistic, natural experience (VR/AR).
Brands are going to design how their virtual identities look and sound like, taking the “brand book” terms such as “tone of voice” to an extreme level.
Real people are going to have interactions with virtual characters as part of their daily routines. That would be much more scalable way to fulfill the vision of the “household robot” or work assistants.
It’s a brave new world.
The more I think about this future, I get more and more excited but also a bit worried about the implications.
We will eventually create new living identities who are going to interact with real people.
The border between what’s real and what’s not is going to become an issue.
There is so much to think about ethics in building AI-powered assistants / agents / avatars.
No wonder why TV series like Black Mirror or Westworld has become so relevant and popular, as it makes us think about the problems that such kind of future might bring to humanity.
But the future is already here. Our eyes are already starring at our mobile devices, and our “social awareness” is taking place more in social networks and instant messaging apps than in the “physical” world.