The one thing everyone was talking about at Web Summit (and it's not the Donald)

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Web Summit draws to a close today. So what was all the fuss about? Web Summit is the largest technology conference on the planet. A great place to find out what the tech world is working on and what the next big thing will be. What is my key takeaway for companies that want to be future-proof? Storytelling.

Wait, what? Not VR, AI or drones? No, storytelling. Almost every panel or speaker I’ve seen here in Lisbon has mentioned storytelling as an important factor in the success of new technologies and their uptake by consumers. Full disclosure, I’m a marketeer and I mostly followed the content and marketing stages here at Web Summit. But even the engineers working in VR and AI have a vested interest in storytelling. And so do you. Here’s why.

 

Virtual Reality

VR is definitely the wave of the future. But no-one seems to know exactly what form it will take. When technology meets great content, magic happens. But how do you get someone to put on a VR headset after the novelty wears off? Great content. Even Google thinks so.

 ‘The best campaigns invite people in with simple, compelling, and engaging experiences that are easy to access and enjoy on multiple platforms.’

VR is also changing content. Creating content for VR is different than for normal video. The combination of a gaming engine and immersive experience requires new ways of thinking about plotlines and storytelling according to Maureen Fan from Baobab Studios. Autonomous characters, vivid experiences and brilliant narratives are the lynchpin. But that is easier said than done. Great storytelling is the key to making user experiences rich and lasting. Here you can see a preview of what that could look like (watch it from your phone for the 360 experience):

 

 

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence will also play a major role in user interactions. Bots are already being used for interactions on social platforms like Facebook. With a focus on sociality they can even improve conversations as this experiment by Ryan Kelly at Kik proves.

When AI starts playing a role in VR, making the characters in the story capable of interacting with the user, it will really enhance the immersive experience. In the first few years, we’ll probably see VR playing a bigger role in entertainment, according to Dr. Dave Ranyard, designer of Sony’s ‘The London heist’:

 

As VR gets better and better, companies can expect to reach customers through these new forms of storytelling. And that applies for all kinds of new technologies, like drones.

 

Drones

The most interesting conversation I had during Web Summit didn’t actually happen at Web Summit. It was with the owner of the Drone Racing League, Nicholas Horbaczewski, whom I met during a Crossfit workout the first day I got here. Yes, I’m a bit of a crossfit addict.

The Drone Racing League didn’t even exist 18 months ago, and now they are going to be on ESPN. They have raised 12 million dollars and are expanding very fast. Why is this important for companies? If you want to reach your target audience, you need to know what they’re interested in. The best content to reach millennial males? Drones, according to the CEO of Imgur, Alan Schaaf. And these guys are the forefront of early adopters, and share the most content online. 

How do you make drone racing interesting to this public? You guessed it, storytelling. By marketing the pilots and their characters. It helps that the technology is cool though. A sport driven by technology and heavily invested in storytelling? That has got to be a winner.

 

 

The attention economy

No blog on Web Summit is complete without a Gary V quote: “It’s about attention.” In the greatest shift in media since the printing press, the combination of technology and great content is what will keep people engaged with your brand. So storytelling is absolutely crucial to the attention economy. And you can get in on the ground floor for VR and AI right now. We are at VR 1.0 and there are great opportunities in capturing people’s imagination. Like Gary said, "just try it". Storytelling through technical platforms is the future. And you can get in on it right now. At Intracto, we would be glad to help you do so.