In marketing and agency talk, we sometimes hear the terms “3rd screen” or “4th screen” which are used to describe the historic progression of digital content consumption from TV and internet (1st screen & 2nd screen) to mobile (3rd screen) and then to digital signage (sometimes referred to as 4th screen).
These terms are typically used to help brands and content providers understand the behaviors of how consumers are contextually bouncing around and using different devices interchangeably to engage with their content.  As these devices have evolved to be more interactive, internet capable, smart and socially connected, the lines that define how consumers are using these devices to consume content are blurring and becoming much more complex.
For example, we watch a show on our smart tv, chat about it via a laptop or smart phone with friends, ask Alexa for advice on new shows to watch or scan a QR code on a billboard to purchase a song on a playlist, or a video series that will be accessible on all devices, even in our automobiles. It is one big, integrated digital content/device loop.
Up until recently, however, despite the different types of devices and screens, digital content has remained relatively unchanged. Yes, the quality and accessibility (streaming, compression, responsive design, etc) has evolved, yet we still consume text, images, audio and video on square screens, with speakers and microphones, of various sizes, browsing at various distance, left and right, up and down.

The Fifth Screen

Now, with the recent evolution of immersive media: 3D, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (XR) we suddenly have a completely new content type (we like to call it 5th screen) which requires a different set of devices to consume it. They also require a different set of terms to define the usage.
This new content now has depth. You can either position it or move around it in your own physical space (AR, XR), enter it to become immersed inside of it (VR) and physically interact with it using your body.
Despite these new content and device types, for it to be widely accepted and accessible by the masses, it all still has to integrate and synchronize seamlessly and contextually with traditional 1st – 4th screen media types and devices.
Immersing into a VR or XR environment can also include 2D video, text, images, websites, social media, etc. Marketing and sales of immersive content in 1st -4th screen devices should contextually bounce the user into its respective 5th screen device or environment. Engaging with these new content types will also need to adapt to new interaction devices such as touch controllers, haptic feedback, eye tracking, or headphones that support spatial audio.
The pathways in which we interact, browse, consume, market, sell, purchase and travel in between the various media types and devices will need to be seamless, just as we have come to expect it to be in the current web and mobile ecosystems. The ways in which we aggregate and manage all of this content need to also be seamless and will require new, flexible delivery platforms.

The 5th Screen will take time

We think the future looks awesome, and while we agree with many popular opinions that 1st – 4th screen devices will eventually be replaced with these 5th screen devices, we are also realistic in understanding that this will take some time. Probably much more time than anticipated.
We currently have very siloed experiences in regards to immersive media, yet, as devices and content evolve, proliferate, prices lower and the demand grows, the lines will continue to blur and become more complex. The demand for seamless browsing experiences that bounce from 2D to 3D devices will also grow.
Preparing your content strategy to adapt and be flexible with this exciting new 5th screen environment will be increasingly important. Creating platforms that integrate this new content with existing content and platforms will become crucial.

How can we help?

We at Rocketbike ARVR have been working hard at positioning for this 5th screen future by developing platforms, such as booomVR, that address these new challenges. We have been working with several clients in the entertainment, mobile, gaming, travel, sports, construction and automotive industries to help them to both understand the challenges of the future and to create solutions to help them deliver both new and old content in new ways.
If you have questions or would like to discuss how we can help you position for the future, please get in touch!

Author: Sean Earley – CMO/Creative Director – Rocketbike ARVR