Our Eyes Are Glued To The Screen
A study by socialmediatoday.com in August of 2015 found that nearly half of the world’s population is on the Internet. It also found that 12 new active mobile social users are added every second. That’s one million per day with a global penetration of 30% -- the sort of growth that has made socialmediatoday.com and so many sites like it say “It has become clear that social media is really #TheFutureOfMarketing”.
As more and more people look to social media and the internet for news, channels like Facebook and Twitter are quickly becoming people's most trusted news networks.
In 2013, 52% of Twitter users and 47% of Facebook users claimed they received news from these channels alone. That number jumped to 63% on Twitter and 63% on Facebook in 2015.
If Social Media is truly the future of marketing, then marketers ought to be paying attention to the two primary senses used for online engagement: sight and sound. All too often, unfortunately, their concerns are entirely visual. Social Media is driven by 180 characters, images, and links. It's filled with videos that autoplay and banners that pull your eyes to each screen, bringing a significant challenge to audio. Is it the way in which the audio is presented, compressed as it is through your low quality laptop speakers? Or is it the content that companies make: often flashy, loud effects that jar the consumer when the sound begins? If companies took half the time they spent compressing their message into 180 characters and focused on making a compelling sonic experience, maybe we wouldn't jump for the mute button every time an advertisement played.
With the new Virtual Reality Industry about to Sweep this Nation, It's no different.
VR is currently being driven by video games, walking tours, and live events (all visually driven). Most of these companies aren't even bothering to make an immersive audio experience to go along with the video they're creating. In order for VR to succeed, it will need compelling and realistic sound. If visuals move with a VR experience, so should the audio. Both sight and sound change depending on the movement of our heads in space and both should be kept in mind during the creation and consumption of VR content.
Stuck in Mono
The fact that any of our experiences with media are still in mono is absolutely baffling. It's the equivalent of a blurry black and white photo. Mono audio cannot draw a listener into an immersive experience. It doesn't possess enough excitement to compete with the profusion of compelling visual formats offered at every turn.
But Stereo Is Not Enough Either
Stereo brings us from black and white to color, but we remain out of focus. A simple left and right channel is not enough to compete with the compelling content we are seeing on our square screens.
Soundcloud, For Example
SoundCloud is the first socially driven sonic platform. Because of a technical handicap, they were made to disable the upload feature on their mobile app. Was this a user problem or a mono/stereo problem? If a SoundCloud user is making audio on their mobile device, they're making it in mono. No professional composer/sound designer is going to create in mono, so why would they upload from their phone? Perhaps if users were given more than just one channel to record with on mobile devices, SoundCloud might have cause to reinstate mobile uploading.
2016 is said to be the year of VR. VR is has the ability to finally bring audio out of the shadows. There are already hundreds of companies defining themselves as VR/AR companies, offering everything from consumption to creation, as well as advertising and distribution services. Just like video, audio is responsible for creation companies, consumption companies, agencies, and distributors. Here are a few that cover both the audio and video spectrum:
VR CONSUMPTION COMPANIES
Oculus: Virtual reality head mounted display.
Samsung VR: Virtual reality head mounted display.
HTC VIVE: Virtual reality head mounted display.
Google Cardboard: Virtual reality head mounted display.
3D Sound Labs: Makers of the 3D Sound One, a pair of headphones that transform standard audio into 3D Audio.
OSSIC: Makers of headphones that transform standard audio into 3D Audio.
Sennheiser: Makers of VST plug-ins utilizing a 9.1 up-mix technology for audio playback.
Dysonics: Makers of RondoMotion, the world’s first wireless motion sensor for headphones. Attach it for a 360° audio experience that puts you there.
VR CREATION COMPANIES
360Fly: Makers of a 360 camera which shoots 360 degree panoramic video.
GoPro: Makers of the Odyssey, a 16 camera array for capturing 360 video.
Jaunt: Makers of 360 cameras and software for VR video creation.
Kodak SP360: 360 camera made by Kodak.
Hooke Audio: Makers of the World's first bluetooth binaural microphone/headphone hybrid.
Longcat Audio Technologies: Creators of 3D Audio software solutions including plug-ins, engines, and SDKS.
Visisonics: Makers of 3D Audio capture, visualization, and analysis tools
Two Big Ears: Makers of 3Dception, a real-time binaural/3D audio engine that is cross platform and easy to implement.
It's important that we do not let the past decade repeat itself in terms of audio. The speakers, headphones, and microphones that we use on a daily basis today are worse then they were decades ago. Virtual Reality presents an opportunity for these companies and more to empower sound and how we record and consume it. If Social Media drove smartphone manufacturers to push the limits of camera technology for better photographs, let's hope that VR will drive both content creation and consumption companies to push the limits of speaker and microphone technology for better audio. Because #SoundMatters.
From One Ear To Another,