How AR is Changing the Way We Experience Social Media

Augmented reality (AR) is a broad term for any technology that allows us to see our environment with an overlaid, digital layer.

The objects and surroundings in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information, allowing for their real-time interaction with the virtual world. The continued innovations in AR are driving its growth; in fact, the global AR market is estimated to reach $340.16 billion by 2028.

Indeed, industries such as healthcare, retail, education, navigation, and manufacturing are all testing the potential of AR technology. On the consumer level, smartphone proliferation and the wide-scale adoption of AR in mobile games are expected to disrupt the way we use social media as well.

AR: The New Social Media Experience

An early example of AR use in social media is Snapchat and its face filters, which allowed users to transform their faces or add elements like glasses and flower crowns. Aside from being used as a promotional tool, many businesses are now considering AR use to establish a “try before you buy” model. Imagine scrolling through social media, and landing on a cool pair of sunglasses or a new lipstick color. With AR, you can try on the product virtually. In fact, furniture conglomerate IKEA already enables shoppers to display an AR layer over a space to determine how new furniture would look in a room.

Instead of being confined to a 6-inch smartphone, AR also allows you to immerse yourself in the world. AR can further improve the internet by providing you details about your surroundings, which can potentially make you more attentive and observant. The mobile game, Pokémon Go, unlocked the implications of AR in the world around us, by turning our surroundings into virtual playgrounds that allowed you to interact with Pokémon — organically encouraging AR adoption. As the technology develops, you can get nutritional facts about your food or learn new things about plants, buildings, and history as you walk around your city.

Things to Consider If You’re Using AR on Social Media

While integrating AR into social media can provide endless, exciting ways to socialize, there are also a few risks to think about:

Perception impairment and distractions

When graphics are superimposed onto the real world, AR can increase distractions and create more hazards. Wearable AR glasses and lenses, for example, could be dangerous if you’re walking on the street and looking at social media pop-ups. Aside from distractions, substandard designs could lead to serious consequences if something goes buggy or gets hacked. With so many users on social media, the cybersecurity risk is heightened.

Additional cybersecurity risks

Like any other connected technology, AR is vulnerable to security threats and unauthorized access from hackers. Cybersecurity challenges for AR include monitoring issues, credential exposure, DDoS attacks, and impersonation, so individual users must take care to protect themselves when using this technology.

However, developers and AR manufacturers must do their part as well to analyze security risks and find appropriate solutions to these problems. The best way to do this is by hiring or consulting cybersecurity professionals, who are increasingly becoming important in today’s digital landscape. If looking for a consulting expert there is a much wider pool to choose from than before, due to the rise of online degrees which have made cybersecurity more accessible. There are now online cybersecurity courses that are just as thorough as tradition in-person courses, and teach stringent security measures such as knowledge in ethical hacking, networks and security, and digital forensics. This means you do not have to focus purely on large security companies in order to create AR systems with strong internal defenses. A cybersecurity consultant with the right qualifications will be ideal for ensuring your AR is safe for social media.

Potential privacy issues

AR applications need to collect huge amounts of personal, sensitive data to optimize and enhance user experiences — which can potentially violate our rights. Because AR gathers information about our surroundings, as well as personal information from social media, it can be used as a vehicle for surveillance.

Devices used in public spaces can record our everyday life, but can make bystanders uncomfortable as well, especially in cases of political rallies or protests. There is also a rise in deep-fakes and nudity filters, which can be abused with AR and easily shared across social media. Developers, creators, and regulators should work together to ensure protection for private individuals, before unfettered AR adoption takes place.

AR is fast becoming the future of social media and it will make interacting with people, brands, and the world around us more optimized and convenient. In order for this to work, these changes need to be implemented with strict safety measures.