Live streaming video has been around a while now — with services like Periscope, Google Hangouts, Slack, Ustream on the scene. But as is common with most new technologies, these services have now been perfected by the early adopters who, like the western settlers of the 1800’s, forged the path for live streaming so that in 2016 it was something that anyone could do.
What changed in 2016 to take streaming mainstream? Facebook Live for starters. Facebook took live video from a platform you needed some special tools, knowledge, and time to do and brought it to the masses by way of a button in the Facebook app. Adding live video capabilities to a massive, connected distribution platform like Facebook, that most of us have in our pocket and use every day, is a game changer. We are no longer passive viewers of world events; we are the documentarians of this time in history.
Now, we not only have the power to record, we have the power to broadcast live. Live streaming will do for video what Twitter did for PR. We can see things as they happen almost anywhere in the world. This has already impacted our society — take for instance, the tragic case of the police shooting of Philando Castile as his girlfriend live streamed on Facebook. This video and others like it started social movements and calls for change. Some will say it also spurred riots and attacks on police. The implications for society remain to be seen, as the ability to livestream anything can be great or terrible. We must wait and see how this affects society, but when we look back to 2016, it will almost certainly be the year live streaming changed the world.
Aside from the societal implications, live streaming provides an incredible opportunity for business. No longer do you have to fight to get news out, hoping the press bites on your pitches. Have a new product or service? Stream the announcement live, get live feedback, engage with your audience, and have a two-way conversation. Brands can create their own live shows with very little cost and still have the potential to reach a huge audience if the content is engaging. As we close out 2016 we will see more and more brands live streaming. New apps will be developed to add to the live streaming capabilities of Facebook. For some brands streaming could take them to the next level, for others mistakes could add them to 2016’s biggest fails list.
In addition to live streaming we have also seen advances in augmented and virtual reality. Facebook is priming us with the introduction of 360 degree photos. After all, Facebook didn’t purchase Oculus for two billion dollars for nothing. They are betting that this technology will be the next big thing. But first, they need to get us use to a 360-degree world, which for those of you who have yet to try a VR headset, can be a bit nauseating as it tricks your brain into thinking you are somewhere you aren’t. Try a VR rollercoaster to see how real it feels.
At the same time, augmented reality is growing. Imagine walking around a city and looking through your phone to see overlays with details about almost everything you see. We aren’t quite there yet, but if 2016 was the year of the live stream then 2017 or 2018 will be the year of VR/AR. But like all technology, it has the potential to bring us together or push us apart.