I was reading The Sunday Inquirer and came across Karen Heller’s column titled The Tyranny of the Screen Reaches, and Ruins, the iPod. Heller writes “there are too many screens fighting for people’s attention, mostly people under age 25.” She calls what young people view on the tiny iPod screens junk. According to Heller music, which began life on the iPod as a personalized soundtrack, is going all visual on us and that is not a good thing. The visual aspects of music is the realm of stylists and hair extension artists, she writes, looks before talent.
That is an interesting view, one that does indeed merit some consideration.
The reality is that we are visual creatures. While we can turn off sound by focusing on what goes on in our heads, while we can choose to stand still for a spell, our vision is turned on from the time we wake up in the morning to the end of our day. We need to look to see where we’re going and to acquire knowledge, and we’ve come to rely increasingly on screens to pull our news, do our work, or be entertained.
Back in the day it was TV that killed the radio stars, as the song goes. As the Internet has grown in popularity and more producers of applications continue to make it easier to publish on the Web, that is becoming our interface of choice. We can watch movie clips on our mobiles, watch sports stars on stadium screens and, yes, watch music video clips on iPods.
Screens are multiplying and, in doing so, they are providing a new playground of opportunities to industries from marketing to entertainment to computing and telecommunications. Harry Joiner reports How Home Depot is Changing Marketing on their high-traffic Web site where vendors can communicate their stories via video.
Let's think for a moment what would happen if brick and mortar retailers provided the information that their online colleagues use to put order to massive variety and make choice easy. How cool would it be to have mini-screens available at supermarkets so we can sort products by popularity, comparative prices and reviews. Wouldn't we spend more time there? Wouldn't they sell more?
Kevin Roberts, CEO of idea company Saatchi & Saatchi, calls this phenomenon of multiplying screens SISOMO (Sight, Sound, Motion). He believes that creating emotional connections in the market through sisomo will see the transformation of every single player in the digital revolution. This transformation will be made with inspiration and emotion, not just technology.
Roberts believes that the three keys to the heart of consumers -- Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy -- come alive through Sight, Sound and Motion. Sisomo, he writes, is the key to the puzzle that is the growing complexity of technology – this is the true energy of the convergence equation, what allows for emotional connections with people.
Let’s think about this for a moment – the screen can be the new marketplace, the visual interface, the convergence of products, services, ideas, information, and inspiration. How do we design experiences through this medium that engage us to think with our hearts and feel with our brains?
What’s the screen's attraction?
It feels real – what comes through goes straight into the right side of our brains, the emotional, intuitive, creative space. Any memory we make on screen is a shared property of all who watched. Does Neil Armstrong own the memory of the first step on the moon? Not any more. We were all there with him, watching from our living rooms.
It is intimate – we love to feel special and unique. That’s why we have our own soundtracks on iPods. We customize our mobile phones, send photographs and videos,and many of us are addicted to our BlackBerries.
It pumps out content – these are the doors or windows to more stories, images, information, and excitement than ever before. If we pull the statistics of favorite gifts we may not be surprised to find out many of them have screens – plasma television sets, digital cameras, laptops.
It's physical – think of the full body interface of many sci-fi movies like the ones we've seen in Minority Report. These full body interfaces are already in the final stages of development. Screens are the perfect medium to deliver complex information. Think about a 3-D environment where applications such as traffic control, medical imaging and security are treated through sisomo. True interactivity is just around the corner.
It can be a loyal companion – do you know anyone who flips on the TV just to have background companionship? We leave or mobile phones on all the time. My niece not only designed the cover of her mobile phone, she also composed and recorded the ring tone with her electric guitar; she never leaves home without her phone.
It loves to play – let’s consider some statistics. Gaming is a $28-billion industry worldwide. I was sitting on a Lufthansa flight next to a soccer fan on his way to Germany during the World Cup as we were getting ready to take off. While he was playing a game on his mobile phone his two friends were trying to make conversation with him and the in flight attendant was attempting to have him to turn the device off. There was no way he was going to put his phone away, he had to finish his play.
According to a new report by analyst firm IDC, 64% of mobile phone owners play a mobile game at least once a day. Sales of phone games are expected to grow from $345 million in 2004 to $1.5 billion in 2008 in the U.S. alone. Informa Media Group, a London-based media and telecommunications research firm, says that worldwide cell phone games sales could reach about $1 billion in 2005 and $4 billion in 2007, compared with $584 million in 2003. First-day sales of Microsoft’s Xbox game Halo 2 were $125 million.
It's likable – from the early days of noses pressed against store windows, the twentieth century had an intense relationship with television. Alas today's distribution is the bottleneck of cable broadcast.
It tells stories – that’s why more and more people are uploading content that can be viewed through screens. Think of the popularity of YouTube videos.
Google Video launched January 19, 2006. Along with being a front store and aggregator of mainstream DVDs, it allows people to upload videos for free. And, by the way, there is a separate process to join if you're from a TV station or production facility through here.
It's connected – as more and more devices get connected to each other, let’s not lose sight of the fact that it’s the ultimate connection that counts, the one to people. We operate the devices through great technologies, yet that’s all they are. We experience connection through great content.
It adds up – 64% of broadband users watch television or read newspapers or magazines at the same time they are online. The figure rises to 71% if they are wireless broadband users. Screens don’t stand alone. They must work together to give people the experience they want.
It allows you to belong – think of the FIFA World Cup. Some of our greatest stories have been inspired by sports. The passion, the grace, the strength, the highs and the moments of shame – this is what Roberts calls storytelling at its inspirational peak, infused with drama, intimacy, mystery and the senses all on high alert. For me as for many people around the world, the World Cup was an experience I shared over the screen.
Video iPods and video-enabled mobile phones allow us to stream short form content meant to be watched in moments snatched between other things. Think about streaming the highlights of your favorite sports-game, what convenience. Entertainment could be packaged with longer content to provide greater substance and satisfaction, a-la-carte. Not any more the domain of mainstream media, it could be the work of teams who join niche projects ad hoc.
Do you see the possibilities?