The development of Facebook, currently the most important social network, was rapid. When the project started in 2004, the feelings of the potential users were mixed. The social network has nevertheless prevailed: perhaps because the basic idea is so simple that even inexperienced computer users can understand it. Over the years, Facebook has tried many innovations, which were sometimes more and sometimes less well received by users.
In contrast, there were hardly any real innovations. Now, of all people, some Austrians who are about as far away from Silicon Valley as the people from the moon want to end the creative dry spell in the social networks.
The basic idea is just as simple as that of the Facebook founders: instead of having to individually access countless programs and networks, users should contact others via a single platform. Additional functions such as games or multi-media functions are intended to expand the social feeling within a virtual environment - if desired, the user can even look after a virtual pet.
The people of Graz have the VR social network connect baptized. It's not particularly innovative, but it does give a first impression of what users can expect. Interested parties can connect Support Kickstarter from now on via the crowdfunding platform.
Virtual Reality: Boom is just around the corner
Letting computer users immerse themselves in virtual worlds in order to experience digital content up close is not a new idea. As early as the 1990s, basic ideas arose in the video game industry to draw gamers directly into the game with the help of technical solutions. Even nowadays, developers are still a long way from uncompromisingly implementing these visions. Yes, virtual reality is a trending topic. Yes, the hardware has improved noticeably over the past few years. And yet experiences in the virtual world are currently reserved for a few users - mostly those who have the appropriate budget for purchasing the required hardware. The Austrian Michael Schöggl also thinks that VR hardware is still immature, but he is still orienting his start-up E.com towards the mass use of virtual reality. Schöggl confidently takes on the social network giants: “How attractive virtual worlds are then - in contrast to now - no longer depends so superficially on the VR glasses, but on the software and the possibilities that it offers has. Many large companies like Google or Facebook are working on virtual reality networks because they foresee the coming trend. In contrast to them, however, we are a few big steps ahead in some areas, including the possibility of really moving freely through virtual space and interacting with everything. " Admittedly, if you want to survive in a lion cage, you have to roar the loudest.
The world of technology is only just about to experience the boom in virtual realities. Large companies such as Microsoft have deliberately avoided the innovation of virtual reality when developing new hardware (for example the Xbox One X). Others, such as Sony with the Playstation 4, have taken the opposite path to offer fans unique experiences and a real USP (Unique Selling Point) through VR hardware. How you ultimately rate the quality of VR games for Sony's Playstation or on the PC is sometimes a matter of taste. From a purely technical point of view, current VR solutions do not offer the performance that would be necessary to adequately implement the basic ideas from the 1990s. Schöggl sees it similarly: "The hardware is not yet ready to appeal to the general public." This is why it starts connect not as a pure virtual reality product. The mastermind behind the network leads a twelve-person development team, the connect should also cast a spell over users without VR devices: "connect may and will never see itself as a pure VR app, 95% of all users will still use connect without VR over the next few years. The VR hype that was tried to be artificially created has collapsed or is not really coming into being. "
Still until September 16 Backers have the opportunity to invest their money in the project. The start-up E.com has set a financing target of around 25.000 euros - and is thus below the sums that are estimated for far less innovative projects. The feedback from the first testers seems to be positive. Despite the joy of the feedback, the Austrian Schöggl remains realistic: “95% of all VR testers are totally overwhelmed and enthusiastic, use the opportunity for many minutes to hours and give us tremendous feedback. But we know for sure: this experience is short-lived. For frequent, regular use, the hardware is simply - very scarce - not yet ready. But all these developments - higher resolution, elimination of the cable, lighter glasses, more power - are happening right now and will lead to results that are really suitable for the masses and also affordable in the next 1 to 2 years. "
So there is still a certain risk. Despite all the good ideas, the success of VR is not certain. What connect In its current form, interested parties can try out the campaign via the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter support.
Grazer with moral ideas: Don't fuck privacy!
Data security is a key issue in social networks that has even cost the giants many users in the past. Personalized advertising is more of a nuisance for users, but it generates income for companies. The line between user interests and corporate ideologies is fine - and it is not uncommon for discussions.
The Austrians from E.com are contributing connect Data protection efforts are paramount right from the start. Schöggl promises continuous improvements, but believes connect is safe even at this point in time: “We already offer end-to-end encryption, in which only the two people who are communicating with each other have the opportunity to read the messages. Not even we could do it, let alone a secret service. The keys are exchanged after a few messages, so a secret service would have to spend years decrypting a few messages before the same fun begins all over again for the next message. Facebook and WhatsApp are now making similar promises - even if that wasn't an issue in 2014 when we started. "
The users of connect should enjoy their communication - free of data transfer, personalized advertising or restricted freedom of choice. Individuality is one of the core factors of the multi-messaging project.
With connect, Austrians rely on individuality
The freedom of design of current social media networks is limited to moving display elements - if personalization is possible at all. connect on the other hand, should give users a lot of freedom to enrich their virtual space with their own ideas. Michael Schöggl describes connect even as a kind of virtual living space: “With us you can swap furniture, open drawers, switch lights on and off, etc. In addition, there is an almost photo-realistic graphic, which in my opinion is particularly important in the field of VR, because here you can enjoy an illusion that should look as real as possible. Now is the perfect time for connect, because pretty much at the same time as our rising success, the hardware will finally provide the necessary conditions for a great experience. "
That sounds like a gimmick at first, but at the same time it underlines the countless possibilities of VR-based applications, which only seem to be limited to the creativity of the developer. In addition to communication options, users can also use connect Access games, video or audio services or Internet services - all under the guise of a single application. Additional functions can be provided at any time by the users themselves or by partner companies via an upload platform. Well-known companies, for example from the toy industry, have already expressed their interest in the project. The modular adaptation is always user-friendly and easy to understand. No wonder that usability comes first for Schöggl and his team: “Our goal is to design this new social network in such a way that it is attractive to as many people as possible. In my opinion, this can only succeed if it fulfills two requirements: It must be maximally customizable - because tastes are different. And despite the many options it has to be intuitive and easy to use, otherwise the operation is annoying and you will soon no longer enjoy it. "
All of that could connect to a serious competitor for Facebook and Co. - even if the way past the genre dominus seems barely achievable at the moment.
Virtual Reality is similar to the development of the smartphone
Michael M. Schöggl from E.com compares the development of virtual reality with the development of the smartphone. It will be years before VR becomes a mass phenomenon. The number of users will, however, increase continuously in the coming years. A few years ago product designers would have been mocked for claiming that communication, media applications, entertainment and business functions could be combined in a single device no larger than the size of the palm of your hand. The smartphone is one of the most important inventions in human history. Virtual reality could be the next technical milestone in the future. The first hints already show what can be made possible with VR technology.
The social media project connect could change the boundaries between the real and the virtual world in a playful way - sustainably and maybe even pioneering. What happens when the hungry large companies become aware of the Austrian project is currently not certain, but it can be guessed at.