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Changing reality: fake worlds and future communication

Pokémon and communications nerds have been in nirvana for the past week or so—albeit for different reasons—as the game previously associated with tweens in the ‘90s had an explosive comeback.

Thanks to Pokémon Go, players have been reliving their youth with the augmented reality game, while communicators have been fantasising about what this technology means for their trade.

If you’ve been living under a rock, the Pokémon revival involves players using their smartphones to traipse the streets in search of the illusive characters. The game uses your GPS location, your phone’s map application, and your camera to overlay these characters in different locations across your city.

While it’s strange enough seeing a horde of 30-something zombies playing a game on mass in public, what’s more confronting is how this technology is quickly creeping into our lives without anyone really appreciating how it can change the way we communicate. Just as snail mail was superseded by email, landlines by mobiles, voice calls by Facetime calls, traditional visual communication methods are being altered by virtual and augmented reality.

While it’s all very exciting, it’s important to first understand the difference between the two. Virtual reality is an artificial, computer-generated recreation of something completely new. Augmented reality, on the other hand, takes an existing, real-life situation and overlays elements of computer-generated content to create a new look and feel.

To some it may seem gimmicky, but as the technology becomes nimble, available and affordable, we as communicators have the potential to use it to our advantage. Ignore it and you risk being left behind.

Change is a mainstay in our lives, but people are often resistant to change because of a fear of the unknown. Virtual and augmented reality gives us another powerful tool to communicate how change makes impact on our stakeholders.

When you think about it, the potential is endless, but here’s just a few applications we’re seeing already:

– Designers and architects: The thirst to “try before you buy” can be quenched through augmented reality as designers and architects can showcase the end result to clients – ensuring both architects and clients are happy with the outcome before its built.

– Engagement: Property developers use virtual reality to show homebuyers what their new home and community will look like, making it easier for homebuyers to sign on the dotted line.

– Internal communications: Organisational change is one of the most consistent issues facing workplaces, but this technology can help to boost internal engagement by crystallising the organisation’s vision and goals to staff, stakeholders and investors.

– Training: Whether you use it for inducting new staff, upskilling people in a new procedure or making company spokespeople feel comfortable standing in front of hostile crowds, this technology presents a cost-effective alternative.