Once there was a code on a movie ad. It was lonely. Not accompanied by any sort of identifiable information. No instructions. No call-to-action. No expectation-setting. Not to mention, eye-level with a bug. Just the code. A hidden, lonely code. (Can you find it?)
Then, there was another code on a movie ad. This one not hidden at all. Right in front of your face (waist, really), saying, “hey look at me, guess what you can do here!” This code was not lonely. It was surrounded by all sorts of friendly information. Instructions. Call-to-action. Expectations of special offers. All, with its different colors and fancy style.
These two codes teach us an important and elementary lesson in context.
Codes like this are intended for interaction. If interaction is your game, you must be clear and prominent to have any chance of meeting the intention. It’s this intention that must be present in the context of whatever you’re trying to drive interaction around. In this case, a code. But what about touch screens? Or check-ins? Or short codes?
There are interactive whoosits and whatsits popping up all around us – on the places and things that we encounter every day. Soon, even all those physical screens outside of our homes and offices will be interactive, too. To have any chance at driving interaction, proper context must have a presence. Without it, assumptions are made. And assumptions, as far as emerging technology goes, will lead the way of the lonely code.
I’m a sucker for cheap clothes, especially for the kids! So it was that my wife and I found ourselves in Old Navy, first to do a quick walk through but inevitably got sucked in for about an hour worth of shopping. (I didn’t find anything for me, but we found great deals for everyone else in the family.) As we were looking through the kids section, I stumbled (literally) upon this interactive floor projection.
This is the first time I’ve reviewed a gesture-only-based experience, so let’s see how she does.
Purpose – From what I saw, the main purpose of this experience was to keep kids occupied. I’ve seen these “in a box solutions” (I think this one is from our friends at GestureTek) before and I think they’re a good idea, but they sure are small (not the box, the interactive “play” area.) While I was in the store, I did see a few kids playing with it, but not for very long. Maybe this is a function of content, maybe a function of placement (I’ll get to both later). I do feel like Old Navy can do more with this, even in terms of advertising, even though the majority of eyeballs seeing it are going to be young kids. They can certainly draw attention to the cool, new clothes that they’re trying to sell. The system is set up to be highly interactive, so this sort of content can be worked right into the existing game’s architecture, or even new games. Instead of kicking around some soccer balls, kick around some polos and cargos. Or better yet, set up a memory-type game with all of the inventory, and if the kid wins, they win some sort of discount. Make it flashy and a bit obnoxious so they’ll tell their parents and get them involved. There’s just got to be more to it than keeping the kids occupied.
Drama – This thing was tucked away under a table in the back of the store. Granted, the kid’s section was in the back of the store, but I’m not kidding when I say I stumbled upon it. I don’t know if I would have ever seen it if I wasn’t looking for special sizes behind all of the display clothes that they put in the front of each of the shelves. These little boxes are a bit awkward, so I understand the need to hide it, but I don’t think placement behind a table does it the type of justice it needs (or maybe it does for this purpose?). At least put it where the adults can plainly see it so they can push their kids in that direction, just to keep them occupied!
Usability – These floor-based, gesture experiences are hard in this category, even if the experience is simple. Could I use this? Yes. Did I get lost in the experience? No. I wish I would have known how long the experience loop was, but I don’t know that it would have kept me there longer. It didn’t hamper the experience. The interesting thing about an experience like this – one with no real purpose – the inability to properly use it doesn’t have a huge impact.
Interactivity – You can see by the video, the ball didn’t really do what I wanted it to do. Maybe I want exact and kids could care less. It was responsive, just not precise. Now, when there was no game-play-like interaction (ie – the Old Navy logo), the system reacted just fine. It produced the ripples that are so fun to produce and I was satisfied.
Information – I just think Old navy could do so much more with this if they wanted to. It almost seemed like they got everything out of the box, took the most popular games, plugged their logo in, and haven’t paid attention to it since. I could be way off base, but nothing about the experience seemed purposeful. They could easily incorporate any of their sales/promotion items, have a little fun with it, get the adults involved to by incorporating some sort of discount or prize. My thought is that if you’re going to do something like this, use it to benefit your end goal. There are ways they could use this to drive sales for sure.
Personalization – None. It would be really cool if this system could hook into the POS system somehow and take information given by the user on the floor to at least synch up with the associates behind the counter. That’s more of a crazy idea, but integrating with mobile is less crazy and something that makes a lot of sense. If older kids could text something in to be projected and ultimately “played” with or were able to control elements of games with their mobile phone and their feet – that would be cool.
I was happy to see one of these in an environment where it was actually being used. I think the “gesture-based-projection/interaction-in-a-box is a fantastic idea, but clearly something that needs to be thought through to have a great impact.
As always, let me know your thoughts on this and anything else. I’d love to hear from you.
How far away do you really think we are from mass adoption of interacting with the physical spaces around us?
Can this be the year of mobile and “interactive out-of-home?”
Has technology made “medium” really irrelevant?
My answers: Closer than we actually think. Yes and quite possibly (who would have thought?). Technology has shifted each medium’s relevancy from consumption to experience, thus shifting the necessity of each.
For anyone who does not know what “out-of-home” (OOH), “digital out-of-home” (DOOH), or my own “interactive out-of-home” (IOOH) is, or does not believe its place or efficacy in today’s media environment, I believe you will learn very quickly otherwise.
I’m struck by examples of new technology that I have seen in a short 12 months, each adding another element of seamless human-to-computer interaction, directly affecting our experiences in the spaces around us:
Layar – through the use of your mobile phone, you can simply hold it up in any environment and instantly see, through this “augmented” reality, people around you, what they’re saying, what they’ve said, where they want to go, where you should go, etc…The open space around you instantly becomes interactable.
Audio Graffitti – here, you can walk up to any surface, speak or make a noise, and “tag” it for others to hear/experience from that point forward. The surfaces around you instantly become audible.
Project Natal/Kinect – this gesture-based controlling system brought to us by Microsoft/Xbox was formally announced last night at the E3 conference (although the technology has been open to developers for at least a year.) This is a game changer (pardon the pun, it’s just the right thing to say) – it allows users to control their experience in games without pressing a button of any sort. Nothing. All actions are controlled by the user’s gestures. The displays around you instantly become responsive.
This Kinect news is really groundbreaking in my opinion. Now, this technology is available for gamers, just a fraction of the general population, but in a year from now, how much bigger does that fraction get? Who else is this kind of technology available for on a mass scale?
Technology is no longer the barrier. Yes, it’s going to continue to get better and take different shapes, but as evidenced by the three examples above, it’s at the point where we no longer need to touch anything to interact with the spaces around us. Just take a minute to think about that.
The other common thread among these three – they are all inherently social.
I’ve said before that “DOOH” as a medium is talked about wrong (“digital” just means display and without interaction, it is dull, tired, and un-sustainable) and I’m afraid that it is already becoming extinct, before it even gains traction. We are rapidly moving beyond one-way, static displays, digital or not.
Take a look at the spaces around you when you’re on your way to work, or at the grocery store, or at the park. Think you can interact with them? If not, think again.