The cure for the coronavirus … blues
We all remember some of the initial lockdown laughs: bets on the rate of divorces increasing due to COVID; memes of parents tying up their kids or adults their partners in the quest for some peace and quiet; and for those on their own, the viral TikTok videos simulating toasting a beverage of choice (usually alcoholic) with their alter egos.
There was an important new reality core to all of these jokes and memes — every person was now confined to a single environment, either alone or with existing companions, with no option to opt out or change. There was no escaping either of these two parameters: people or place. And this unexpected new reality pushed many to (and beyond) their limits.
Could there be an answer to the escape we all clearly needed then and still now?
For years we have been talking about augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). However, many of the use cases have been associated with ‘nice to have’ home entertainment, such as gaming, or linked to medical emergencies, such as performing remote surgeries in rare and life-threatening circumstances. Until now there hasn’t been a focus on an everyday mass consumer need or opportunity for this technology. Then we had a pandemic and enforced worldwide lockdowns.
In the UK, within the first 2 months of the first Coronavirus lockdown, mental health apps were downloaded more than 1 million times. These apps and what they aim to achieve are incredibly important. Yet, if normalcy is at the core of what’s being sought, then perhaps there is another role for tech — affordable AR/VR experiences at scale which simulate pre-COVID everyday life.
Clearly tech will never replace the need for human interactions, but it just might help those challenged by the current restrictions to have the option of a multi-sensory connection and experience with others in an environment of their choosing; thus allowing us to tap back into the pre-COVID19 ordinary ways of living.
The list of ‘normal’ activities potentially to be offered is as long as the proverbial piece of string. For example, a full multi-sensory experience of: Friday evening drinks with friends at the pub, that morning commute on the London tube, walking through crowded Oxford Circus window shopping, the family holiday, going on a date etc.
We often think of technology as a key enabler for something new, shiny and extraordinary. Perhaps what we need in 2020 is for the tech community to help enable the mundane — at least until the vaccine comes to our rescue. This might just be the beginnings of an “answer to the lockdown blues”.