Periscope, Meerkat, YouTube 360, Milk VR. These apps are less than one-year-old, but can already be seen as firsts elements of a significant change upcoming to the media market. Which players will matter in 2020? For example, those who merge into one platform all features known from apps listed above and launch an app that will let people watch live stream videos on a virtual reality headset.
According to a recent study by Cisco, by 2019 „Wi-Fi and mobile devices will account for 66 percent of IP traffic. (…) Globally, consumer internet video traffic will be 80 percent of all consumer Internet traffic in 2019, up from 64 percent in 2014. This percentage does not include video exchanged through peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. (…) Mobile data traffic will increase 10-fold between 2014 and 2019”.
Will the video be the same in 2019 as we know it today? Not necessarily. New online trends are emerging and growing very fast. Soon they will change how we understand such notions as „the Internet”, „video” and „social media”.
„The format is the message”
At the LeWeb conference, which was held in December 2014 in Paris, Ben Huh – founder and CEO of Cheezburger – talked about the evolution of the media. His forecast for the next 5 and 25 years includes information on how much time per week people living in developed countries will spend on consuming media, and which formats will go mainstream. Ben Huh also shared some tips on how to create a media company that will last years.
I would like to encourage you to watch the movie (it takes 20 minutes) or to read the summary below of the most important ideas delivered by Ben Huh. The lecture will help you to comprehend the following parts of this report.
„Marshall McLuhan, the media theorist, coined the term: »The Medium is the Message« [which means the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived – ed.]. In the past, it was pretty simple. Each device had its own format. If you wanted to read, you opened a book or a magazine. A device, a physical hardware – a phone, an iPhone, an iPad, a laptop – is not the same thing as the format. Today, with devices that can do everything, we moved from vertical silos to horizontal competition. I would like to say: the format is the message”.
„We have 168 hours in a week. If you sleep 8 hours a day, you spend 112 hours awake. We are at the phase when people, at least those living in the developed world, spend almost 80 hours a week on consuming media. Think about how much of your visual space is filled with pixels. You are consuming media right now looking at screens [most of the audience gathered at the LeWeb conference stares all the time at a laptop, tablet or smartphone – ed.]. In fact, screens appear more and more frequently in our lives. We will encounter more and more pixels”. As we can see on the graph, in 2020 the average time spent on different types of media consumption will be approx. 90 hours a week. According to Ben Huh, „in 2038 we will be consuming some sort of media at every single hour at every single awake moment. 112 hours a week of media consumption. It is an opportunity for a new format, a new company that will win the market share. We have never been at a better time to create media”.
„For the last 50 years, we all had to watch the same things on television. Millions knew the same cultural context. What is happening now, is that we are creating many platforms to tell our stories to other people. More and more of us are in the participatory process of sharing who we are through the content that we create. We are the content that we share”.
„When electronic companies bring new devices, those who win the new market share are those who are able to create new formats. People who create content for the previous generations of devices are woefully unfit to create content for the new ones. A newspaper company is going to have a very difficult time creating content for the virtual reality world. Video games companies currently have the biggest libraries of 3D immersive environments. Yet, both types of companies need each other to understand how to leverage the new medium and how to create better formats for telling stories. Gaming alone is not going to be a saviour of virtual reality, and we will have to create something better”.
„If you want to be a great media company, create great content. You can do that today. But if you want to build a media empire, something that will last the test of time, you will have to create your own format. You might not be able to technically own it, but you have to pioneer to a point, where people associate you with that format. But formats don’t last forever. Every five years you have to make sure that you continue to innovate”.
Live stream your life
Which format is gaining popularity right now? Mobile social media apps used for live streaming videos among a dispersed audience are the answer. An example: Periscope, acquired by Twitter in early 2015 for $100 million.
On the Periscope.tv you can read the following description: „What if you could see through the eyes of a protester in Ukraine? Or watch the sunrise from a hot air balloon in Cappadocia? It may sound crazy, but we wanted to build the closest thing to teleportation. While there are many ways to discover events and places, we realized there is no better way to experience a place right now than through live video. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but live video can take you someplace and show you around”.
„Wall Street Journal” made the video explaining how Periscope works. Anyone can download the app (iOS, Android) on his or her smartphone and start broadcasting. The audience will come from all over the world. Naturally, you can also watch live videos from other users. Choose a program from the list of available „scopes” or click on a red spot shown on the map. You can follow people and be followed, post comments or give likes – to do so just touch the screen at any place.
„Explore the world through someone else’s eyes” – claims Periscope in its slogan. Instead of watching the world through a camera belonging to large media corporation, observe it through an ordinary man’s eyes.
Meerkat app, the three weeks older competitor of Periscope (both were officially launched in March 2015), announced few days ago that the app can be connected to a GoPro camera. Sportsmen who wear such a miniature video recorder and publish on YouTube videos of extreme biking, skydiving, surfing, etc., from now on can broadcast their performances live on the internet.
As we can read on the official Meerkat’s blog, „Broadcasters can now invite viewers to take over their stream for up to sixty seconds. It’s a simple yet powerful way to create a deeper human connection with people”.
This is the first of many steps to come towards our long-term vision for participatory live-streaming, going from „broadcasting to” towards „broadcasting with”.
Are live stream videos popular only among people who participate in or are witnesses to something unusual? No – this type of tools are used also, or perhaps mainly, to broadcast everyday life. Teenagers use for this purpose YouNow app, which is a „Live Stream Video Chat” (no one thought that young people confine themselves to Snapchat, right?). You can search for live videos using hashtags. When you type, for example, #sleepingsquad, you will find a list of several dozen broadcast of… sleeping teenagers. The audience watches even those broadcasters who turned off the lights before going to bed. If you have less than 18 years old, you are more than welcome on YouNow (iOS, Android). If you are older, you probably wonder why young people are willing to live stream their everyday life. If you know the answer, you must have understood a decade ago why people will be eager to share private information on Twitter and Facebook and now you are a millionaire.
Periscope- and Meerkat-type apps have already aroused controversy about an invasion of privacy and copyright violation. An example: „HBO has sent takedown notices to Periscope after users of the Twitter-owned live-streaming app were using it to broadcast the fifth-season premiere of »Game of Thrones«”. In the coming months, we will find many publications devoted to similar problems.
Until now, it was obvious that a photographer or a film director chooses the shot size and composition. Pictures and videos captured in a 360-degree perspective can profoundly change this order. When using the 360˚ camera, filmmaker’s role is limited to check if nothing obscures the view around the lens. The viewer decides in which direction he or she wants to look and at any moment he or she can look up, down, on the right or left. The viewer feels like a camera operator working on the set. Although, if you are not looking in the right direction at the right moment, you can miss the main action. Watching 360˚ videos is a bit like playing a spherical RPG game. The only difference is that the action takes place in the real world.
Where can you find 360˚videos? For example, on the YouTube. Google’s streaming platform supports spherical movies from March 2015. 360˚ video is closer to the mainstream than ever – pop stars such as Björk and Fort Minor have already released their spherical clips. To see how 360˚ video works, watch the movie made by the Australian airline Qantas. Please play the movie embedded under this paragraph on a mobile device on the YouTube app. If you are reading this article on a laptop or desktop computer, you will not see the spectacular 360˚ effect. Open this page on your smartphone or tablet running on iOS or Android, make sure that you have the latest version of YouTube app and click this link to open the video on the YT app. As soon as you start playing the film, please move your mobile device in different directions. The image will move respectively to the movement of your hand. Stand up and slowly rotate around your axis. You will feel as you are in the heart of the action. Look around. You will see a landing of the airplane from a captain’s perspective, admire the scenic Hamilton Island from a flying helicopter, swim on a coral reef, relax in a luxury hotel etc. When you finish watching the video, return to this page – there is more content ready to read and watch. Other films embedded to this article can be viewed on any device.
Apart from watching 360˚ videos on your smartphone or tablet, you can also upload your spherical films on YouTube. To record 360˚ films, you need one of these cameras: Giroptic 360cam, IC Real Tech Allie, Kodak SP360 or Ricoh Theta.
The real world & a virtual reality
If the video made by Qantas airlines watched on a mobile device made an impression on you, think about the feeling you might have while watching the same clip on a headset that completely separates you from the real world and allows you to immerse in the 360° video captured at the Hamilton Island. The displayed pictures would move along with the movements of your head, making an impression that it happens in reality right now. Pure fantasy? Distant future? No, this is a virtual reality (VR) technology used for displaying pictures taken in a real world. The idea of VR is nothing new, but until now the technology that enables the implementation of this concept was not available on the mass market. In the pure form, virtual reality refers only to digital environments generated from the beginning to the end on a computer, but more and more often this term also includes displaying on a VR headset spherical photos and videos recorded in the real world.
If you are a fan of „Star Wars”, you may also like the video below. Press play and see how stories told so far on immobile displays will look like on the virtual reality standard. In order to try a VR headset, you do not have to spend hundreds of dollars at the Samsung Gear VR or wait until the first quarter of 2016 when Oculus Rift will be launched on the market (incidentally, in 2014 Oculus was acquired by Facebook for 2 billion dollars). In fact, all that you need is the Google Cardboard, priced as less as 10 or 20 dollars, an iOS or Android smartphone with a screen size between 4.5 inches and 5.5 inches, and an access to the Internet.
Aforementioned spherical videos available on YouTube 360 also can be viewed on virtual reality headset. Smartphones running on Android can split the view into two fields which is necessary to achieve the VR effect. IPhones users have to wait for an update of YouTube app. Without a doubt, in few years YouTube will be a tremendous library of 360 and VR videos.
Apps such as YouVisit allow you to go on a virtual journey. If you already have a VR set, I recommend you to download this app (iOS, Android) and to „teleport” yourself for a minute or two to Rome or Machu Picchu. This service also allows you to visit some universities, restaurants and hotels, and even to watch spherical images captured on weddings. Another feature called Expeditions from Google works like a virtual field trip for classes. Teachers can set a destination and allow students to follow with their Cardboards.
In January 2015 at CES event Samsung announced the launch of Milk VR platform offering a content devoted to virtual reality devices. A bit earlier, Volvo released an app that allows you to have a VR test drive of XC90 car. Last but not least, gaming center called The Void, where you will have fun running in a special suit and helmet adapted to virtual reality games, is being built in Salt Lake City.
However, the most important driving force behind the virtual reality technology will be neither tourism nor games. It will be the porn industry. In 2010 the CNN published the article describing the secret relationship between tech and porn: „From the printing press to instant cameras, from pay-per-view to VCRs, pornographers – both professional and private – have been among the quickest to jump on board with newly developed gadgets. (…) On the internet, streaming video, credit-card verification sites, Web referral rings and video technology like Flash all can be traced back to innovations designed to share, and sell, adult content”.
From the press release issued by the porn site Naughty America, we learn that the first porn movie ready to play on virtual reality headset is available online. The viewer can choose whether he or she wants to watch a video captured from a woman’s or a man’s perspective. Complex recorded reactions from first-time users of VR pornography. Do not worry – the video embedded below does not include pornographic content, it shows only different reactions of viewers.
The Big Brother is watching us? In 2020, everyone will be a big brother. Choose a point on the map and watch what is happening at the selected location. Live, at 8K definition, in the virtual reality standard. Anyone will be able to become a video reporter. People will hunt for scenes that could bring them popularity around the world. If you become famous, media corporations will pay you for sharing your videos. Amounts paid to celebrities for product placement in their broadcasts will rocket. A few years later, even Hollywood movies will be watched in virtual reality from different perspectives. Millions of people, rather than exploring common cultural context, will constantly tell their stories. The quotation by Ben Huh – „We are the content that we share” – has never been closer to become the truth.
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