When he’s traveling, Eric Oldrin ‘95 likes to make his kids laugh by connecting with them on Facebook Messenger with bunny ears and a cute little bunny mask on his nose. Of course, Facebook’s head of emerging platforms doesn’t really put on a bunny mask—it all happens in cyberspace, using augmented reality (AR).
AR is the digital technology that made Pokémon Go such a sensation. Today, it’s bringing a touch of fantasy to the world of social media, and Oldrin thinks we’ve only skimmed the surface of what’s to come. For instance, a variety of brands—from Sephora to Nike—are using AR in their marketing, for both playful and practical reasons. As an example, he cites a new Messenger experience that allows potential drivers to see what a car from Kia might look like in their driveway. The possibilities, he believes, are wide open
And then, of course, there’s virtual reality (VR), which requires a bit more equipment, such as Facebook’s newly released Oculus Go—a headset that allows you to step into a digitally created world. Oldrin is intrigued by VR’s potential to make people feel like they’re in a room together, even when they’re actually oceans apart.
“In VR, there’s an incredible opportunity to defy distance and to create a sense of presence across borders,” he says. “Let’s say, you and I decide we’re going to go see U2 in Sao Paulo together. We’ll be able to do that by being there at the same time in this virtual space. I probably would never go to Sao Paulo to see a concert in real life, but in virtual reality, I’ll have that opportunity.”
Indeed, for Oldrin, that’s what the future of Facebook and other social media is all about—the ongoing search for better and more compelling ways to bring people together.