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  • On/Off Relationships

    21st November 11

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in business models

    Author: Sarah Eno (@enoism), Brand Planner, BBH Zag

    It’s nearly impossible these days to conduct any relationship entirely offline. Professional relationships are managed on email, Linkedin, and blogs; brands develop robust relationships with us through online loyalty schemes; friendships are built and maintained through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to name a few; and more and more people are meeting their romantic partners via online dating sites.

    So I suppose I shouldn’t have been particularly surprised the other day when I came across a set of start-ups in the area of online relationship management for couples. These businesses claim to help us keep the spark alive, monitor our relationship health and generally be happier together by using their online services. Here are a couple in detail:

    • Tokii claims to be ‘the world’s first relationship management platform’ with a suite of products designed to ‘proactively improve relationships’. Couples can use the ‘tradingpost’ tool to trade things like washing the car for a backrub, monitor each others mood through the ‘moodmeter’ and spice up their relationship with fun, interactive games.
    • The Icebreak helps couples keep their love lives fresh and fun through a game-like platform where couples score points by sharing moments from their day, answering ‘icebreaker’ questions and working together to improve their relationship health.

    In many ways, these businesses signal a natural progression to complete management of relationships online. If most of our relationships are blossoming online, why not throw our romantic ones into the digital world as well?

    Whether I’d personally use the service or not (undecided, at best), I have to admire the Zag-like thinking behind these businesses. They’ve identified an opportunity area that appears ripe for brand invention – you can see how by looking at the idea through these three key principles of brand invention and innovation:

    Principle #1. Meet a consumer need

    If romance is blossoming online (Match.com claims 1 in 5 relationships start through online dating), people will need a safe place for their relationship to develop digitally. Consumer need? Tick.

    Principle #2. Go where the money is

    Online dating is a growing business, as is the booming business of divorce. A digital service that helps keep the spark alive and maintain relationship health in the time between meeting and potential divorce could slot right in to this open space and scoop up all those struggling couples. Money? Tick.

    Principle #3. Piggyback on existing behaviours

    Self-tracking and the gamification of everyday activities are both hot behavioural trends currently connecting our ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ worlds. Tokii and The Icebreak both feature metrics and statistics that chart the health of your relationship over time and track improvement. They also reward you for improving your relationship with points and physical rewards, making working on your relationship like a game. Existing behaviours? Tick.

    It’s not easy to find open spaces for brand invention and I’d argue that these two businesses have managed to do just that. Well done.

    But perhaps there’s a bigger, moral question that has to be asked: There’s now a brand called Eulogy in the UK  which aims to bring death and mourning into the online/social sphere; there are countless online dating brands to help you find love; online brands help couples throughout the process of marriage counselling and divorce; and now we can manage our romances online too.

    So, are there any areas of private life that should remain private and untouched by brands?

  • Searching for Sagacity

    7th November 11

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in technology

    Author: Dan Harris (@gecko84), Social Media Manager, BBH Labs

    Every day we use technology to find answers, from Google processing billions of searches, through to emailing colleagues or sending a question on twitter. We are increasingly relying on algorithms, communities and the fact that our colleague’s eyes may pass over our request at the right time.

    On top of this, users have to contend with the filter bubble. This selective distribution of information based on a web user’s location, search history and previous clicks relies on a previous viewpoint and won’t necessarily reflect what somebody wants to know *now*.

    This reliance on a fast digital response leads us away from existing relationships and habits and all too often we forget the value that can be provided by people with decades of experience, thoughts and stories. For example, when my ninety-four year old Grandad listens to my fairly trivial stresses and comes back with the maxim “You can only give it your best shot son” it resonates because I know he fought in World War II, worked for 40 years, opened a lodging house aged 60 and has been through plenty of loss and happiness.

    Online searches may be able to supply the facts about historical events, but it will never be able to replicate the emotions and feelings of someone who was there and witnessed an event first hand or the personal delivery of that information. A status update asking for help is just as likely to illicit sarcastic responses as actual, useful advice. In fact, sometimes the best reply is sitting in a lonely old chap up in Scotland who is just waiting to be asked, whatever the question.

    Hugmail is a partnership between BBH Zag and Touchnote, a British technology company whose aim is to bridge the increasing digital divide and making it easier for different generations to keep in touch.

    That’s why Labs & Zag are excited to announce ‘Search for a Sage’, the hunt for Britain’s most interesting grandparent. We’re looking to find a great character that’s seen it all, with plenty of stories and a unique slant on life.

    We’ll ask a Sage to answer the nation’s questions via regular webcasts and take it from there.  We want to put real wisdom on a pedestal in a place where modern society is likely to look for it.

    So if you know a grandparent that fits the bill then send a nomination to hugmail.com.

    Our sage will be unveiled and start answering questions and laying down wisdom from 21st November.

  • P2P Storytelling – Telling Tales for Internet Week

    19th October 11

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in Events

    Author: James Mitchell (@jamescmitchell), Strategist, BBH London & BBH Labs

    Here at Labs, we’re fond of many things, but here’s two: the internet, and storytelling. (Mel also likes robots, but that’s her choice ) We wondered if this year, we could combine them.

    In the main, Internet Week Europe is about making better use of the internet, from bringing out the amateur behaviourist in all of us to trying to master its very nuts and bolts. And BBH Labs has been no exception: last year, we got together with google for the binary bootcamp that was Coding For Dummies.

    But while we should strive to do more with the net, it’s already done much for us to celebrate. The much-feted promise of connection that was heralded in 1990 has come true for us all, whether through Facebook, Twitter or a dodgy backroom BBS. And while it’s easy to talk about the macro impact cases, from Libya to London, the personal stories often remain just that: personal.

    So as part of IWE’ 11, on Thursday 10th November, join us at BBH from 7 for TaleTorrent: a night of true stories about the internet. It’s a conference, a campfire, a confessional. Eight storytellers will take ten minutes to tell us something.

    There are two ways to get involved. One: come along by grabbing a ticket on our Eventbrite page.

    Two: we are still looking for a couple of people to tell their stories – it could be five minutes, it could be fifteen – in our little gathering. Funny, sad, uplifiting, anything you like. If you’d like to share with us, get in touch with me at james.mitchell@bbh.co.uk.

  • Fuel for Little Gamers

    29th September 11

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in digital, Gaming

    Author: Pablo Marques (@pablo_marques), Creative Director, BBH London & BBH Labs

    YouTube Preview Image

    A few hours ago we introduced Weetakid to the world, together with his arch-enemy, Evil Eater. The game is a playful execution of Weetabix’s brand strategy and a great example of an idea as a direct solution to a clear business challenge.

    Weetabix’s boxes are making into families’ cupboards in great numbers, but they are just not making it out of there often enough.

    If we could increase the number of times the box makes it to the breakfast table we would be able to increase consumption and sales.

    So Weetakid was born to do just that. It is a game targeted at kids, especially those from 7 to 11 years old, as they are the gravitational centre of the household during the busy hours of our morning rituals.

    In the game, kids take control of Weetakid, a creature who has just seen his little world robbed of all its energy by Evil Eater, the galaxy’s villain. The game involves a quest to retrieve the items stolen by the Evil Eater which can be found through playing a number of engaging mini games.

    But Weetakid like any other kid, needs energy, especially if it is going to travel the galaxy to rebuild its world. So every morning kids will need to feed Weetakid to ensure that they both have a day full of fun and adventure.

    To feed Weetakid, players will need a box of Weetabix. And that is what makes the idea so special.

    To enable the interaction between the the product package and the game we’ve used a set of technologies more notoriously known as Augmented Reality.

    That link between box and game is a special and symbiotic one. It doesn’t get in the way of the experience, but actually enhances it. And it does it in a way that not only helps us solve our business problem but also enables us to start driving consumer behaviour to a place closer to our brand messaging, Weetabix is your fuel for big days.

    The pack has also become the place in which we are launching the game. With widespread distribution and wide readership (the back of pack is arguably one of the most read items in the household) it will be a perfect way to reach our audience and promote the game.

    A multi layered production challenge

    Weetakid, albeit a small game, was a big integrated production puzzle that involved many different disciplines. We had to create bespoke songs, write films, direct and record voice overs, create characters and animations, design a game and make a website, among other things. And we had two months to do everything.

    We had two amazing integrated producers from BBH working on it and coordinating the whole joint effort.

    As Dani Michelon (@danimichelon) our lead integrated producer on the project puts best:

    “By the time we contacted our partners we had gone a long way into the game already, we had game flowcharts, schematics and storyboards. We had a good picture of it in our heads but there was still a lot to be done to make it reality and it was humbling to see how all the people involved collaborated so well. It was great fun to work on it and see it coming to life.”

    Firstly we contacted Yum Yum London (@yumyumlondon) and worked with them to develop the characters and animations to bring our universe to life and to design the back of the Weetabix boxes.

    Secondly came Radium audio (@radiumaudioltd) to create the amazing music that players will enjoy in the game and North Kingdom (@northkingdom) to actually put the game together and code all of that magic in.

    We also engaged society46 (@society46) who designed our Weetakid website.

    And finally The Mill (@millchannel) helped us produce our trailer.

    So after many long weeks and nights we pulled the game together; an effort of epic proportions. It was a clear labour of love and the amount of fun myself and the creative team (Felipe Guimarães @think_felipe and Lambros Charalambous @creativelamb) felt borderline illegal.

    We hope you and your kids can enjoy playing it as much we enjoyed making it. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

    Full project credits

    Creative Direction: Pablo Marques (@pablo_marques) / Dominic Goldman

    Art Direction: Felipe Guimarães / Pablo Marques / Yum Yum London

    Writer: Lambros Charalambous

    Game Design: Pablo Marques / Felipe Guimarães / Lambros Charalambous

    Lead Producers: Daniela Michelon, Jo Osborne

    Strategy Director: Nina Rahmatallah

    Business Director: Nick Stringer

    Team Manager: Luke Algar

    Legal: Henry Rowan-Robinson

    Character Design / Awesomeness: Yum Yum London

    Music / Sound: Radium Audio

    Sound Producer: Sam Brock

    Game and interface programming: North Kingdom

    Trailer edit: The Mill

    Website design/production: Society 46

  • Let’s Be Acquaintances

    20th July 11

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in Friendship

    someecards.com - Your reluctance to put me in a Google Plus circle makes me question our Facebook friendship

    The launch of Google+ brings once again the opportunity/chore to categorise our real world and digital relationships into some sort of meaningful schema. It’s the social media equivalent of copying out names and numbers into a new address book (remember those?) and analysing the probability of ever needing that contact again.

    Is the person I spent a night with drinking at a conference and discussing our children a friend, an acquaintance or a co-delegate? Where do colleagues fit in on my relationship map? And what about the person who I’ve never met in ‘meat-space’ but correspond with regularly in conversation on twitter/flickr/facebook? Do I need to worry about circling someone as a ‘Social Media Maven’ rather than a ‘person who does cool stuff? (Answer: Yes)

    “Create around one at least a small circle where matters are arranged as one wants them to be.” – Anna Freud

    It will always be hard to put people into broad categories because, well, we’re all special and unique flowers, man. But questioning the nature of online friendship is an exercise worth revisiting every now and again. As the lines between online and offline blur we’re going to need to find new ‘friendrank’ algorithms. So, while code can reveal to us who we communicate with most often, it can’t tell us who we care for. Right now I’m categorising ‘friends’ as people I am genuinely pleased for if something good happens to them and ‘acquaintances’ as those whose news I am merely interested in.

    This is as far as I’ve got with my Circle Schema and is subject to change – I’d love to hear your strategies in the comments below.

  • Working Nights for Bragging Rights

    20th July 11

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in interactive

    Author: Priyanka Kanse, Strategist, BBH London


    If you are under 11 you might be aware that Fruit Shoot launched something very cool last week. If you’re not, here is the story of Champion of the Playground:

    http://www.vimeo.com/26663730

    The work we’ve been doing with skills for the last couple of years meant that the Fruit Shoot brand was in good health, but this wasn’t transferring to success at the checkout: our core target audience (8-10 year olds) were turned off by the younger kids coming into the brand and didn’t want to be seen drinking the product.

    Our solution wasn’t a big ad campaign, but a branded gaming platform which merges the virtual world with the real world and recognises the importance of competition and challenge for 8-11 year olds.

    One of the very first pieces of paper that the creative team wrote were the principles of Champion of the Playground (below). It’s really nice to sit down at the end of phase 1 and think that the site is still true those original principles.

    What we’ve learnt

    Much of the commentary about participation platforms seems like common sense, but how the hell do I implement it? We’re learning all the time and there is so much we could say about this project, but these are some of our most interesting findings:

    User first:

    Measure every decision you make against what your user will find compelling. I’m not always a massive fan of research for traditional advertising, but for Champion of the Playground it was essential. One, we’re not 9-year-olds and two, the project lives or dies by its ability to engage.

    The first response by kids to the initial ideas was ‘but how do you stop other people from cheating?’, which meant without unique codes that encrypted the Skills Kit scores, the idea would be fundamentally undermined. We were told that we’d have to wait over a year to get kit with codes, which didn’t really fit with our delivery date, but our Creative Technology wizards worked directly with suppliers  to program boards and test prototype equipment.

    I also now have a favourite ever research moment:  In user-testing with a site prototype one of the kids was asked if they would play the game. His response? “Yeah, but they have to advertise it on TV so I know about it” – so well trained!

    Picking the right battles:

    Not that we had lots of fights, but it’s really hard to pick what to invest development time, brainpower and cash into when all the features look so darn good. And sometimes the most important details are the ones that you can’t see. We bought a games designer in to fix the games and reward logic so that the game felt fair. Just writing that sentence makes it sound simple, but it’s such a delicate balance to achieve and so crucial to the playability.

    Being able to win trophies, badges and cool stuff for your avatar is a reason to play even if you can’t be the overall winner

    And finally

    For us, Champion of the Playground is a great example of how a brief doesn’t have to be answered by traditional advertising solutions. Why do we expect our audience to spend time with us if we’re not entertaining? By creating a game which is inextricably tied up with kids’ personal progress, we are giving them something that they genuinely want to participate in.

    When you create an idea that isn’t a campaign, you naturally earn the right to exist for a longer time and in different formats. The initial response to Champion of the Playground from kids has been enthusiastic, which means that we get to keep creating and keep evolving. So keep an eye on FruitShoot.com, because we have some exciting things planned.

    Credits (names in bold might as well get COTP tattoos, such has been their dedication to the cause)

    Clients: Nadia Moussa & Debbie Eddy

    Creative team: Simon Pearse & Emmanuel Saint M’Leux

    Creative directors: Rosie Bardales, Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Digital producer: Susan Liu

    Technical director: Jim Hunt

    Head of Creative Technology: Jon Andrews

    User Experience: Ricky Faria

    Account team: Ngaio Pardon, Alex Monger, Anna Halliday

    Strategist: Priyanka Kanse

    Strategic Business Lead:  Nina Rahmatallah

    Production Company: Unit 9

    Game consultant: James Sheahan, Metagames [http://metagames.co.uk/]

    Below the line agency: The Marketing Store

  • Sell the audience, not the story

    30th June 11

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in Participation

    Labs were lucky enough to be invited back to Power to the Pixel’s Pixel Lab held at Schwielowsee this week. The attendees – writers, filmmakers and producers among them – spent most of the week intensively workshopping their cross-media projects, punctuated by tutorials and talks from external experts.

    Raising money in a still nascent format is always going to be challenging, so Pixel Lab participants were keen to know how brands and advertisers viewed transmedia storytelling as a platform and what approaches were likely to lead to successful fundraising.

    Using the smart thinking from Metafilter forum user blue_beetle as the starting point I suggested that rather than try and sell a story to a brand, selling the audience might be a more productive approach. This is partly because it’s so noisy out there that a brand needs to work exceptionally hard to cut through with a story and also because increasingly brands see participation (through a variety of mechanics) as a good route to engaging an audience and building brand loyalty.

    It wouldn’t be a Labs talk if we didn’t reference Kevin Kelly, and his ‘Six words for the modern internet‘ made for a useful primer on participation and behaviours. Taking each of the behaviours and looking at campaigns that had shone them through a branded lens I asked whether it was possible to extend the idea of audience as product and ask what they paid with for each form of participation.

    With each of these costs of participating the audience clearly need to be rewarded and this reward will vary with the depth and type of participation. The reward might be a story or another form of transmedia experience but there are other rewards for participation and access and engagement might sometimes be reward enough.

    The full presentation is below – let us know what you think in the comments.



  • Canning It

    16th June 11

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in Cannes

    http://www.vimeo.com/21571373

    With Cannes just a few days away it’s time to wish bon chance to all those striving for Lions. We’ll be keeping our eyes on the progress of all the Young Lions and our fingers crossed for the UK representatives in the Cyber category, BBH London’s Diego Oliveira and Caio Gianella, whose Unicef Wrapping Project is shown above.

  • 3D or Not 3D?

    2nd June 11

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in animation, Film

    Last Saturday during coverage of the Champions League Final, BBH released our first 3D advert for Audi. Guest author Davud Karbasssioun, BBH Head of Film explains why this was the right technology for the right brand.

    Over the last two years you would have had to be holed up on Pandora not to know that 3D was making a serious comeback.  Some experts insist that film’s transition to 3D is as pivotal as the adoption of sound or the move to full colour.  I’m not sure it really is that ‘black and white’…

    More recently 3D has been used as a gimmick to add novelty to films rather than enhance their storytelling power, which hasn’t done the 3D brand any favours. Cynics would argue 3D is Hollywood’s answer to piracy, their way of ensuring bums on seats in an age of free sharing and piracy.

    Either way the platform is here for all advertisers to embrace.  Channels are desperately trying to get everyone to watch everything in 3D and all the electronics brands are falling over themselves to convince us that those brand new HD LCD’s we’d just invested in needed to be replaced with new 3D TVs.

    But if brands are going to embrace 3D they must learn from the mistakes Hollywood is making and do it by respecting the technology.  To me, Audi’s recent 2 ½ minute Le Mans film is a good example.

    (The video above requires red/blue 3d glasses – for other options including plain old 2d, click on the 3D options button)

    The ad features Audi Le Mans driver Allan McNish describing what it takes to win the legendary Le Mans 24-hour race. BBH Creative Directors Kevin Stark & Nick Kidney conceived the concept for the film after viewing a presentation by the charismatic McNish, describing the intensity, precision & endurance required to succeed in the race.  From that moment on the brief was to dramatise that experience of the race as best they could using Allan’s own improvised narrative.

    3D was never in the brief, in fact the guys specifically wanted to use 2D hand drawn art to give the film a simple, personal charm that matched the drivers personality.  The idea of shooting Allan and making the film in 3D came later with Passion Pictures when it was clear that viewing the film though a stereoscopic lens would only further enhance the viewer’s engagement.   Using both the Sky 3D broadcast of the Champions League final and the launch of the final Harry Potter installment in 3D are the perfect events to share it.

    Anything that increases the creative spectrum is a great thing.  3D, if used appropriately and well, enhances the story.  3D, used badly, is terrible.   Unfortunately, Hollywood is so desperate to generate hype to sell tickets that there is inevitably going to be overwhelming pressure from movie studios to push 3D in the hope that this will rescue the basic shortcoming of the film itself.  That is the fundamental problem right now.

    Wim Wenders’ film Pina is for me a rare example of 3D used beautifully.  Here the 3D technology is used to open up a stage to give the Pina Bausch Dance Group the space to perform on,  The results are as effective as they are beautiful (not sure it will challenge Hangover 2 at the Box office though).

    Like Pina this Audi film is a rare example of helping dramatise an experience for the viewer that wouldn’t be as full an experience as in simple 2D.  To me that’s how 3D technology should be used and how it will be most respected by the viewers,  a win-win for brands.

    Essentially the way I see it Audi are simply taking advantage of the 3D technology, or in German ‘Vorsprung durch 3D Technik.’

  • No Tangible Limits

    4th May 11

    Posted by Jeremy Ettinghausen

    Posted in Location

    “Nothing Propinks Like Propinquity” - Diamonds Are Forever, Ian Fleming

    Last Thursday I cycled from work, popped into a speciality liquor store and stopped at a pub for a swift pint near my home. In case anyone was out and about and our paths intersected, I published my movements via twitter for the world to see. While I went on my way, my phone checked me automatically into places I spent more than 10 minutes in, boosting my Foursquare ranking. I also dropped my future self a couple of geocoded notes (a reminder about some shopping that I needed to do and directions to a friend’s house) which pinged up on my phone as I got into the approximate locations over the weekend.

    I did these things using Geoloqi which was one of the most interesting things Labs saw at this year’s SXSW. And others seem to agree – last week Geoloqi won the Best Mobile App award at Appnation. So, with the current fuss about Apple’s collection of iphone generated geodata and the seemingly explosive growth of location based services, it seemed to be a good time to talk to Geoloqi’s co-founder, Amber Case about Geoloqi, location and cyborg anthropology.

    Labs: Where did the idea for Geoloqi come from?

    AC: I met my co-founder Aaron Parecki in 2009 a few days after he moved to Portland from Eugene. Someone at a networking event told me that I should meet “this guy who had been tracking his location every 5 seconds for the last year”. When I met him, I immediately became very excited. I’d been talking for years about so many of the systems that Aaron was actually building. Soon after that, Aaron and I began working on micro projects together. Later Aaron set me up with an automated check in system based on GPS coordinates. The system allowed me to check into locations without having to load an interface. This was about 2 years before any of the geosocial systems were readily available.

    I was elated by the discovery that Aaron and I had been working on the same idea independently of each other for the past two years. After a while, we began to present on cool things people could do with persistent location data. The presentations had large audiences and people wanted to do cool things with location data as well. The only problem was that Aaron was using an old Windows mobile phone at the time to track GPS data, and I was using an old Boost Mobile feature phone. The iPhone was just barely capable of tracking GPS data and neither of us knew how to develop apps for the iPhone, but that would soon change as we dove head-first into figuring out how make what we called “non-visual augmented reality” accessible to those with regular mobile devices.

    Labs: What is the short term development road map for Geoloqi?

    AC: We plan to finish the iPhone app and build up the Android app to the same level. We’ll be making the apps and the website much easier to use and polishing them up. You can expect to see some significant improvements in the features we currently have available, and there will be some new features soon such as calendar integration and improvements to our Foursquare and Facebook integration. Our next feature will allow you to add reminder@geoloqi.com to meetings on your calendar. Fifteen minutes before a meeting you’ll get a message from Geoloqi asking if you’d like to share your location with the meeting attendees. If you say yes, your route will be shared with them, and if you arrive at the meeting before the scheduled meeting time, you’ll get points. It’s all about trying to reward timely behavior.

    Labs: Where do you see Geoloqi as a product further down the line?

    AC: I can’t tell you where we will be, but I can tell you where we’d like to be. We see Geoloqi as an essential, perhaps even invisible, part of everyday life. As a tool for ambient discovery that provides information that is relevant and useful, instead of jarring and irrelevant. Basically a customized experience that frees up one’s time to be more human.

    Labs: In the week that Apple and Sony have had to answer questions about collection and storage of personal data, do you worry that services like Geoloqi encourage people to give too much of themselves away?

    AC: I think that Geoloqi encourages people to be mindful of what they give away. It’s a default-private service with information that can be shared for limited periods of time with certain people. I think that Twitter and Facebook encourage and reward the sharing of information with others. I don’t think that sharing is a bad thing. I think it opens up opportunities to meet others with similar ideas and experiences. However, location is something that is more than just talking on the Internet. It is a very private thing and should be dealt with accordingly. The idea behind Geoloqi is that it is a private location-sharing service that allows one full control over their privacy. We built it out our own desire to share information in a controlled manner with others for limited periods of time.

    Labs: You’ve just given up your day job to work full time on Geoloqi – was this a hard decision and what are the differences between working for a company and being a start-up?

    AC: This was a decision I thought about a great deal. Leaving a stable job is a difficult thing, but I felt more constrained every day.To me being a startup is going after something that hasn’t been done right, or building something that brings joy or excitement into the lives of others. A lot of technology out there is broken. Technology in general is very difficult, and there are problems out there that are very difficult to solve. I think it is a very valiant thing to try to solve those problems.

    Labs: I remember a quote which said that a technology won’t propagate unless it satisfies a human/social need – what human/social need do you think Geoloqi satisfies?

    AC: The need to be human. The need for technology to get out of the way and let humans live their lives. Innovation in technology comes from reducing the time and space it takes to perform an action, or compress redundant actions in order to free up time. Computers used to be the size of gymnasiums. Now we have computers in our pockets, begging for attention. We’re constantly planning for our future selves. We look at Yelp! reviews to prepare our next culinary adventure. We want to guarantee that our future selves will have a good experience. We’re connecting to tons of people to do this, connecting to the collective wisdom of a data set that consists of many samples. The more samples, the more accurate the data set. Why ask one person when you can ask many?

    We want to guarantee that our future selves will have a good experience.

    A vehicle is a physical transportation device. There are limits to how small it can be made. But a computer is a mental transportation device. It need not be limited by tangibility. Because of this, it has the potential to fill up with data without the limits of a tangible object.

    One’s location is valuable to another if and only if that location or person is socially relevant during that time period. The basic case here is the meeting. Person A and Person B need to meet each other, but GPS data is only shared between them when they have a scheduled meeting. When the meeting ends, the data wall closes off, giving them back their privacy, kind of like a wormhole of temporary transparency between two people. This solves the problem of extreme bouts of “checkin-ism”, as well as the issue of remaining privy to one’s whereabouts all the time. If more people were on the network, this sort of action would have to be taken. Negotiations of privacy and messages would have to be structured so as to prevent push and SMS notification exhaustion. When done correctly, the system is a valuable time saver that decreases anxiety, showing that technology is not inherently good or bad. It is design that is important. The key is to dissolve the interface – to get it out of the way and let humans live their lives. I talk about this in my TED talk.

    Labs: Do you see a role for brands to use Geoloqi and  what might this look like?

    AC: There are four ways companies and brands can use Geoloqi. First, Geoloqi can be white-labeled so that its location capabilities can be used in applications. Second, the Geoloqi API can be used to bring location functionality into any existent application. For instance you could use Geoloqi to reward a user if they entered a store within a certain time period. Third, brands can make their own layers in the app that users can subscribe to. These three models allow Geoloqi to branch into many markets.

    Finally, with the advent of the MapAttack! game, Geoloqi now has a gamification layer accessible to partners. Brands who are interested in leveraging Geoloqi for location-based interactive games are now capable of doing so. The key behind the brand use of Geoloqi is that it provides users a way to opt into rewards and services vs. just having advertising messages blasted at them. Location based recommendations and services, when done well, are something that helps one spend less time with technology and more time with reality. This is where advertising and marketing has to go in order to survive.

    Labs: You describe yourself as a cyborg anthropologist – what does that really mean?

    AC: A cyborg anthropologist studies the interaction between humans and technology and how technology affects culture. My thesis research was on cell phones and their technosocial sites of engagement. My research consisted of observing how thousands of people interacted with and through non-human objects. Mobile technology allows one to stand almost anywhere in the world, whisper something, and be heard elsewhere. These devices that live in our pockets need to be fed every night, and they make noises and require our attention. In only a few years these devices have become inexorably intertwined into the reality of our everyday lives. They offer us respite from the boredom of waiting in line and a way to keep in touch when no one is nearby, but they also paralyze many of us when they run out of batteries.

    Mobile technology allows one to stand almost anywhere in the world, whisper something, and be heard elsewhere.

    I’m fascinated with mobile devices for another reason – they are a bundle of sensors that we walk around with every day. That sensor data can be used to do very cool things, such as automatically turn on the lights in your house when you get home, or turn the lights off when you leave. This is because a phone can know when you’re within the region of space defined as “home” or not, and send a signal to your house to turn on or off the lights based on whether you are home or not.

    Labs: What do you and Geoloqi need to succeed?

    AC: We need to increase our ability to offer a good experience to our users and make things easier and easier to do. Right now we’ve barely been able to scratch the surface. My methodology for user experience design is something I call “superhuman design”. The idea is to make make the user feel like a superhuman. Flipboard does this incredibly well. The application offers rewards in greater proportion to the slightest interaction with the application. Geoloqi needs to be able to provide great value with minimal interaction. Information should be presented in a useful, non-invasive way to people without them having to seek it out. Technology should be an empowering experience, not an intimidating one.

    ****************

    Geoloqi are playing in an exciting area and one which is full of interesting problems in terms of technology, privacy and behavioural psychology. Our relationship to geography and location is undergoing fundamental change – it seems likely that a few years from now it will become impossible to get lost, except deliberately. As GPS enabled mobile computers become ubiquitous and an increasing number of services ask us for permission to store and broadcast our location we are going to need to think carefully about how easily we want to be found and who we are going to allow to do the finding.


    (note: my iPhone has 25 apps that have requested its location in the last 24 hours)

    This is all new, exciting and sometimes scary – sharing with friends, strangers, brands and the whole of the World Wide Web is something that needs to be carefully considered, both by users and by those who facilitate the sharing. The Geoloqi team are clearly aware of these issues and their default-private, timed-public model seems to us to be a considered balance between privacy and useful openness. We’ll be looking forward to seeing how the service develops and what comes from their Layer API.

    Let us know what you think and tell us how much you’re happy to share and with who. And a big thank you to Amber and Aaron for their time – guaranteeing our future selves a good experience is a notion we’re happy to sign up to.

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