Virtual worlds unlock a whole new tier of creativity and engagement

Tactical’s Mike Khouri reveals the moment the XR community has been waiting

New year, new realities, right? That’s what people tend to hope for. Yet in the world of Extended Reality (XR), 2024 doesn’t just look to be a year of hope, but rather a big year of major breakthroughs.

First up. Let’s clear up what XR is

Often an umbrella term for Augmented (AR), Virtual (VR) and Mixed (MR) Reality, you can now also throw Spatial Computing into the mix with Apple’s upcoming Vision Pro release this year.

And while these labels can confuse people’s perception on the subject, the quick answer on XR is this: it’s an immersive technology that merges the physical and virtual worlds together through a digital interface.

I know what you’re thinking – goggles that overlay digital interactions on the world I see, or take me to other virtual worlds, right? Yes, and no. It’s more than that. It’s so much more, but in the vein of keeping things simple, let’s look at real life use cases that have helped clear the path for what’s to come next.

It starts with the tech

Recent advancements in technology – including hardware, 5G and overall processing power – means we now have the environment to enable user adoption at scale, and match the experience with real value, mobility and utility. And this matters, a lot.

It elevates the experience from being a gimmick – a toy – to being something a wider demographic of people begin to see real value in.

Enter Social AR

So far the easiest on-ramp to XR for the general public has been Social AR through platforms like Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram and more. These channels have put augmented experiences in the hands of hundreds of millions of mobile users everyday, and what started with gimmicks of vomiting rainbows and babyfaced filters, now extends to real utility like virtual try-ons, image recognition and plenty more.

Nowadays, from the comfort of your own phone, it’s common practice for Snapchat users to open the app, pick a lens and check out the latest beauty products from major brands in real time.

Same goes for virtually trying-on shoes, watches, clothes, etc. For example, we recently worked on an experimental award-winning Snap lens with Nike’s Air Force 1s which used Machine Learning and 3D modelling to create a customisable, immersive experience allowing users to create, try on and share their own pair of kicks.

Beyond this sort of application, you can even point your camera at a maths equation and it’ll do the work for you. All with the power of AR (and a whole bunch of fancy tech working in the background).

For brands, this unlocks a new medium of creativity and connection, and for users a new level of utility. Not only does this extend branded real estate to people anywhere in the world, it also allows brands to be more interactive than other traditional platforms and completely demolishes the confines of bricks and mortar spaces within which a lot of brands are reduced to.

Virtually anywhere

For the next level of reality, and beyond the mobile screen, millions of people are playing and connecting in virtual worlds around the world. Powered by the likes of the Meta Quest 3, people are transforming their homes into gaming, training and streaming arenas.

And while these headsets have been generally touted as gaming accessories, we are increasingly seeing use cases of people utilising them as an alternative to the traditional computer screen.

What this can soon mean for an office or learning environment is a far more interactive medium that unlocks a whole new tier of creativity and engagement.

Enter the Vision Pro

The moment the XR community has been waiting for. Whenever Apple enters an industry, be it music, mobile or wearables, it brings a level of legitimacy, usability and scale that not many brands can deliver on.

With the public release of the device coming in early February, many are expecting this to be the moment that changes things in a big way, as well as an evolution in how we could interact with screens in general.

Admittedly, I sit in the camp of (positive) change. From productivity to gaming to entertainment, I believe the Vision Pro will be the enabler that shows the masses what’s possible with XR.

Yes, the price tag will hold back mass pickup of this first-generation device, but what it will do is force the industry to step up to a new standard, and this can only be a good thing in the quest of making XR a reality for the everyday user, and 2024 the breakout year for this immersive technology.

By Mike Khouri, Founder + CEO at tactical