Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the first part of our blog post about visual storytelling trends. If not, you might want to read it first. If you have read it, let’s continue with the second part and find out what 2016 will bring us.
1 Interactive Storytelling
In a previous post, we noted the growing popularity of the unique hybrid form of interactive stories. A seamless integration of a variety of mediums–from the written word and still images to interactive graphs, maps and animations–the interactive story is paving the way for new forms of transmedia storytelling in our convergence culture. These highly versatile formats are singular in their ability to give the user the freedom to navigate information, choose possible narrative paths and delve as deep as they desire into a certain topic.
While these highly interactive stories require more time and resources to produce, they also have a longer lifespan than your average piece of content. These interactive stories, for example, are still being viewed years after they were first posted.
As it becomes less time-consuming and expensive to produce these types of stories, more and more companies will start to resort to this innovative storytelling format, such as CUNA Brokerage Services did with this interactive module.
Larger corporations such as American Express are crafting game-like experiences in which users can explore scenes with a 360-degree view. This interactive musical experience starring Taylor Swift, for example, features dozens of rooms, scenes, characters, objects and intertwined story-lines waiting to be discovered by users.
No longer the sole terrain of media giants such as The New York Times and The Guardian, interactive storytelling is going to continue to be the center of attention of corporations and organizations in the coming years.
2 Virtual Reality
News and media giants such as Facebook and The New York Times are already making hefty investments in virtual reality technology. Meanwhile, SXSW Interactive, a conference for interactive technology trendsetters, predicts 2016 will be the year in which virtual and augmented reality will explode.
While it still may take a few years for VR technology to go truly mainstream, early adopters will quickly set the stage for surging interest among the rest of the population by the end of the year when Facebook (Oculus) and Samsung release Gear VR, a new virtual reality headset.
Virtual reality presents exciting opportunities for storytelling. Besides being able to have out-of-body and fly-on-the-wall experiences, users will also be able to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. By immersing viewers in experiences they would never have in real life–as is done in this made for VR story of a face-to-face encounter with opposing enemies in a war–people will be able to feel first-hand what it’s like to be someone else.
The World Economic Forum, for example, is already using VR technology to craft an immersive story of what it’s like to be a Syrian refugee. Called Project Syria, the story draws elements from actual audio, video and images taken on scene.
3 The Internet of Things
Known also as the “Network of Everything,” the Internet of Things is the network of physical objects embedded with electronics, software and sensors to allow them to be sensed and controlled remotely across a network infrastructure. This has huge implications as it will allow the direct integration of physical objects and computer-based systems. But what does this mean for visual storytelling?
According to experience designer Lance Weiler, wherever technology has gone, storytelling has followed. As the Internet of Things develops, it will provide the possibility of creating a story layer over the real world by allowing real objects and physical locations to become extensions of a fictional narrative. He also foresees that “experience designers” will soon become the “film directors of the 21st century.”
He is already living this prediction out by producing interactive documentaries such as Bear71. Incorporating everything from facial detection software and motion sensors to wireless trail cams and augmented reality, this groundbreaking film allows viewers to become animals who are tracked within the fictional world of the film.
4 Real-Time Storytelling
Since March, companies and media organizations have been warming up to two new live-streaming apps: Periscope and Meerkat. Although streaming live video is nothing new, the new apps enhance social media storytelling by linking the live stream to a Twitter or Facebook account and allowing thousands of followers to view it in real time.
Fast food company Wendy’s, for example, used the apps in June to feature the comedy duo Rhett & Link. As they chatted with Periscope viewers, more than 4,400 people visited the company’s website. In June, Frito Lay also streamed a game show that allowed viewers to win prizes, while advertising a new product to more than 15,000 viewers.
5 Wearable Tech
Wearables such as Google Glass and the Apple Watch are also revolutionizing the way storytellling is done. Groundbreaking in its ability to gather stories from a mobile, first-person point-of-view and include any number of people in the storytelling process, Google Glass has already been used by citizen journalists to record and document arrests. It has also been used by a former TV journalist to tour the U.S. and tell the stories of disabled veterans in a way that has never been done before (see video above).
The device can also be used to create what’s called augmented storytelling. An augmented mystery story, for example, might have a commentator feeding information to one viewer, such as “Character A is lying because of X reason,” while a second viewer might be watching the same show but receiving different feedback from the commentator. In the end, the two can compare their experiences of the mystery and then compare conclusions.
Meanwhile, the Apple Watch allows you to gather biometric data to tell an unconventional story. For example, an out-of-the-box story about an exciting day may include heart rate data collected with the Apple Watch, which is then visualized using an interactive graph, chart or infographic.
As you can see 2016 has some great things in mind for us if it comes to visual storytelling. We at Southern Wild Productions follow the trends closely and are excited to start using these new ways of storytelling in our productions.