Our new fortnightly 'Projecting Trends' series, created by digital strategist Bas Grasmayer, examines the latest news in tech and the implications for the music industry. First up: A look at Pokémon Go, AR, and Snapchat.
With all the buzz surrounding the game, it’s not unlikely that by now, you’re sick and tired of hearing about Pokémon Go. It’s important to understand the implications however, as it is changing the landscape of media, the internet, and thereby, music.
MIDiA, a media and technology analysis firm, argues that Pokémon Go will finally make augmented reality (AR) mainstream. The game goes further than Snapchat’s face filters (also AR), and layers virtual objects onto our physical world. It lets players interact with the virtual world by moving throughout the physical world. It has long been a promise by proponents of augmented realityand the Internet of Things and now it has finally garnered mainstream appeal.
This means that in the coming years, we’re going to be seeing new opportunities in seeding the physical world with virtual objects to generate revenue. The owner of a pizza restaurant in New York, has been able to increase his revenue by 75% by using Pokémon Go. Shortly after the game's launch, Redditors were reporting brew houses and ice cream shops benefiting from similar dynamics. An official McDonalds partnership is reportedly in the works.
The jump to music is not hard to make. Imagine partnering with a coffee chain and letting people unlock songs of a soon-to-be-released album by visiting local branches. It’s no wonder that music AR tool Landmrk is receiving a lot of attention in the wake of Pokémon Go’s sudden success. There are plenty more musical forays into augmented reality of course. Back in 2010, augmented music firm RjDj collaborated with Hans Zimmer to create a musical augmented reality app for the Inception movie. Two years later they repeated their collaboration and created an augmented soundtrack experience for The Dark Knight Rises. A great recent example of augmented music is Massive Attack’s latest EP / app, Fantom, which adapts the music to your environment, movement, location and time of day.
For a while, many assumed Google Glass would be the product to make AR mainstream. Instead, it was Google’s former ‘internal startup’ Niantic, the developer of Pokémon Go that achieved this feat. An AR-layered world is a place all of the tech giants want to get to first, so they can set the rules. Consider, for example, Facebook’s acquisition of virtual reality headset creator Oculus Rift and their attempted acquisition of Snapchat.
These companies are literally spending billions to get there first and up until recently it was hard to understand why. Now that Pokémon Go has doubled Nintendo’s value since the game’s launch, it has become easier to understand. All hype? Not necessarily, although Nintendo’s value did start dropping again after investors realized they overestimated Nintendo’s role. Virtual real estate has been a big business for many years. Domain name reselling and speculation account for hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Already a decade ago, in 2006, people were becoming millionaires by selling virtual real estate in Second Life. Now consider Google’s 2010 patent which allows them to place virtual ads on real-world billboards, allowing them to resell ad space they don’t yet own.
Where do we stand now?
We have devices in our pockets that are more powerful than the computers on our desktops a few years ago, and they’re always connected.
- We have immediate access to the information layer provided by the world wide web. This is already changing how we remember information, including details from our personal lives.
- Pokémon Go is the first successful mainstream application that has managed to combine this information layer with our physical world and has achieved critical mass. It’s crucial to note that this success does not come out of nowhere. Niantic’s previous AR game, Ingress, already had 7 million players in 2014.
Google has a big head start in being the dominant AR layer provider. Both through people’s reliance on Google Maps for directions, as well as by owning the location layer used by Niantic for Pokémon Go. These are two of the most widely used augmentation layers. Google’s ad platform on the web is near-omnipresent. Opening up new virtual layers will enable new streams of income and importantly for music: new forms of advertising.
Augmented reality allows for better ad targeting and personalization
Through actions occurring in a mix of the real world and the virtual layer, you can gain a great data-driven understanding of people and serve them with what’s relevant to them.
Augmented reality means ads with better timing
You’re not going to deliver a long video ad with music when someone’s running through a train station. Instead, you’ll deliver it when they’re sitting in the train. Snapchat recently patented a way to advertise products related to what you’re taking a picture of. Snapping your muesli brand? Why not come to our store for a 20% discount.
Augmented reality makes ads interactive
Advertisers will increasingly have different demands and expectations from music, such as the ability to create interactive experiences with it. It would be a waste to copy-paste a TV ad to the web, because on the web you can make use of immediate calls to action and get people to click. Click-through-rates (CTR) are one of the most important measures of ads' success online. Likewise, it would be a waste to just request a ‘click’ in an augmented environment.
You want people to interact and be engaged with your brand. This means the music either becomes interactive itself, or provides the soundtrack to this experience and can then function as a trigger to make people remember your brand and experience the emotions you want them to associate with it.
If you have not played Pokémon Go yet...
Take some time this week, install the app, go out with your grandchild, son, niece or cousin and catch some Pokémon. It’s not important if you resent games or loathe the hype, this is not about gaming. This is about the future of media, and this is a future that has been over a decade in the making, as this article shows. Augmented reality is accelerating rapidly, in part through the scale of investments made in virtual reality.
Go see how a virtual experience triggers real world actions and behaviour. Talk to some of the players you will run into and find out about their experience. Don’t just listen for the content, but pay special attention to the way they talk about it, body language, choice of words, seemingly unrelated things that might get brought up, etc.
If you’re not using Snapchat yet...
Get on there. People see it as a messenger, but it’s not just that. Its Story functionality means it’s basically an Instagram for ephemeral videos. Follow some of your contacts or do some searching for fun personalities to follow. Play around with the filters.
If you haven’t experienced augmented music yet...
Check out some of the apps mentioned in this article or download Hear and experiment with that. It takes the sound from your environment and filters it - kind of like an auditory version of the photo filters in Instagram, but in real-time.By playing around with these technologies, you can understand them. By understanding them, you can use them in your creative process. By using them in your creative process, you’ll stay ahead of the curve.