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The new New Media

‘New Media’ is defined as websites, mobile apps and interactive computer games. But as the first website was made in 1990, the iPhone has just turned ten years old, and the video game industry is twice as profitable as Hollywood, these industries are no longer ahead of the curve – but the curve itself.

44’s resident innovator Tom Ives takes a look at how the new New Media of Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality and Virtual Reality will change the workplace of the future.

If you’ve been reading the tech headlines this week, or were simply not under a rock, you will have noticed that Apple have unveiled their new iPhone line-up. Controversial new designs aside, they listed various new technologies that were not only capable of using the new device but also native to it.

We’re talking specifically about Augmented Reality; the mixture of real and digital content viewed through the device.

Big business

Players of Pokémon Go will know what this feels like already, along with the frustration of missing out on that Snorlax. Augmented Reality is going to be big business, and Apple has made it clear this week that their technology will be able to handle the vast graphics and processing power required to make Augmented Reality, well, a reality.

Since Apple unveiled their ‘AR Kit’ in 2016, developers have been using it to create some amazing apps like the car visualiser (see the bottom of this post for the video). The iPhone’s native sensors are employed in the AR Kit. For example, the amount of, and direction of light makes the shadows on the virtual object make it seem much more ‘real’.

Google were next to market with ‘ARCore’, their equivalent toolkit, which came before the launch of their ill-fated Google Glass product. Meanwhile, Facebook are experimenting with 360-degree videos. This creates an immersive experience and businesses have been using it to showcase everything from holiday destinations and hotel lobbies to sporting events and the bottom of the sea.

These are all great new developments, and if you’re wondering how they will affect your business and your people, there are two things to consider about the future of mixed reality. What it can do, and what it will do.

What Augmented Reality can do…

Arguably the most interesting Augmented Reality product (aside from trying to catch a Pikachu in your back garden) is Microsoft’s HoloLens. Early adoption of the pricey tool by businesses will mean it’ll soon be available to consumers too. The HoloLens is leading the pack because it doesn’t replace the real world with a virtual world, as does the entirely-enclosed HTC Vive or Oculus Rift headsets. The HoloLens’s headset is transparent and enables you to see information in the digital world alongside information in real world – by overlaying one on top of the other.

For example: If you’re building a house, you could walk around the actual foundations and overlay the accurate architectural drawings on top of the physical world using the HoloLens. If in the digital world you see that the walls are three feet longer than the real, physical concrete foundations, you’ll know you’ve got some changes to make.

The applications are endless, and one day HoloLens might even replace your desk. Take all those screens, notes, books, calendars and replace them with digital editions. You’ll even be able to take your desk with you. You could work in your office or on the beach.

What Augmented Reality will do…

The flipside to all the technology is, of course, the human element. If you’re in a meeting and you see somebody looking at their phone, you might consider it rude. Give them a headset where they’re not only looking at you, but also checking your Facebook page, your LinkedIn profile and looking at your latest tweets, it’s not just rude anymore, but invasive.

This invasiveness is, in part, one of the reasons people rejected Google Glass. On a human level people don’t like being watched, studied, or measured. When Augmented Reality becomes ever-present, it will become harder to know when somebody is looking at you, or at their screen.

Another headset manufacturer, Meta, approaches Augmented Reality from a neuroscience angle. They’re researching (and patenting) the cultural and social effects of the new technology.

Meta’s CEO Meron Gribetz explains this complex idea in a podcast with science fiction writer Rob Reid. In the interview, he explores a new paradigm shift where centuries-old (2D) media will be replaced with new (3D) digital possibilities. The solution to the invasive nature of Google Glass is ‘public by default’. This means what one person can see in their Augmented Reality headset, others can too, meaning social norms will inhibit rude behaviour. A bit like choosing a book to read for the right social context, knowing that people can see the cover. It’s well worth a listen and you can find it on the author’s website here.

We know that the new New Media will be a mix of the real and the virtual. We know that it will change how we work, where we work and create new and exciting industries. What we don’t know is how Mixed Reality will affect our behaviour, how we treat each other and act around each other. We don’t know, because this is for us to decide. The reality we choose to create.


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