Humanity has come to an intriguing crossroads. Our technology is evolving faster than ever, and yet the human experience hasn’t changed much since the golden age of Rome. We stand on the verge of a collision between these two worlds as our technology becomes increasingly integrated with the innate methods humans use to interact with the world. It’s a trend of “engaging the primal.”
Interface technology is an interesting field right now. It takes a long time to move forward, but when it does, the world moves along with it. For a time, we interacted with technology and computers through punch cards that indicated what we wanted done. Eventually, we re-purposed the legacy interface of a typewriter to arrive at the keyboard, expanding the accessibility of computers to most households. Then in 1963, the mouse was invented and with it computers eventually became centered around graphical interactions, no longer requiring arcane command line input.Â Today the hot new interface technology revolves around kinetics. Multi-touch screens, image and gesture recognition, internal gyroscopes — as these technologies advance, devices like the Wii and the iPhone are quickly moving from outliers to standards.
The step forward in interfaces will bring a host of new considerations for marketers. For many brands, there is a desire to create emotional ties between consumers and the brand. That’s a mightily interesting proposition when we consider that one of the prevailing theories of emotion, called the two factor theory of emotion, suggests that our emotions are a combination of cognitive and physical stimulation. As an example, there was a study that used placement of a pen in the mouth to cause subjects to tend toward smiling or inhibit it. These subjects then rated comics from a newspaper. Those smiling rated it much funnier than those unable to do so.
As technology ties into our kinesthetic core, it’s opening up new channels to our emotions. The next few years will be a lot of fun for brand managers and agency creatives. All new decisions will need to be made. On a multi-touch monitor running Windows 7 (the first operating system to support multi-touch from the ground up), how is the brand logo going to respond to being poked, stroked, pinched, or scratched? In the living room, when the Xbox 360 add-on “Natal” launches, will brands use the built-in facial recognition to change how their ad units respond depending on whether the user is smiling or not? The industry will need to shift its thinking from economies of cost-per-click to cost-per-hug (or poke, or smile).
Some of the better brand examples of this “out-of-the-box” thinking could be seen in the early days of the iPhone App Store. Carling had the iPint application, which enabled users to drink a virtual beer using the internal accelerometer to detect pitch. Target wrapped up an otherwise underwhelming gift recommendation engine into a highly engaging virtual snow globe during the 2008 holiday season. Today the iPhone App Store has matured, but in its mainstreaming, a lot of the innate promise of the platform has been ignored.
As 2010 progresses, there are a handful of platforms that will be worth keeping an eye on for experimentation with kinetic marketing.
Xbox 360’s Project Natal: Expected to launch before the year’s end, Natal is an infrared camera system that offers precise control of the Xbox 360 using body motions. With support for things like facial recognition, object scanning, and voice commands, there are a lot of promising technologies at hand. Considering Xbox already has a very strong integration with ad serving technologies and brand relationships, this is a key platform to watch.
Augmented reality on smartphones: On both the iPhone and Android platforms, there have been some innovative forays into mobile augmented reality. With internal accelerometers, GPS units, cameras, microphones, touch screens, and persistent data connections, these pocket-sized devices are very promising. While augmented reality is really its own subject, kinesthetic controls will increasingly become part of the AR experience as sensitivity increases to support motion and gestures.
Multi-touch and Windows 7: Microsoft made a major commitment to multi-touch by building in support for the technology from the ground up in Windows 7. Hardware manufacturers now have the capability to develop high-performing and consumer-marketed multi-touch computing.
Apple: Not to be ignored when it comes to a “coolness” factor, Apple has some very neat kinetic ideas on the back-burner. With the ability to merge both software and hardware innovation seamlessly, we’ve already seen the first multi-touch mouse released by Apple. Expect more in multi-touch, and also some innovative use of the built-in cameras on iMacs and Macbooks. One patent of note suggested using those cameras to control perspective of the screen based on user head movements.
As technology engages the primal, marketers will too. At first it will be the premium brands foraying into the space, but just as we see nearly all brands now developing social media and mobile strategies, they will all need a kinetics strategy. After all, in today’s innovation-hungry world, there’s little more damaging than being perceived as a relic, left behind and out-of-touch.
Originally published on iMedia Connection.