Music, Love & Robots: could you ask for more? How about some progressive synth & beats, building to a blistering funk guitar crescendo? You got it!
AR is considered by some to be a logical progression of VR technologies (Liarokapis, 2006; Botella, 2005; Reitmayr & Schmalstieg, 2001), a more appropriate way to interact with information in real-time that has been granted only by recent innovations. Thus, one could consider that a full historical appraisal would pertain to VR’s own history, plus the last few years of AR developments. Though this method would certainly work for much of Wearable AR- which uses a similar device array- the same could not be said for Mobile AR, since by its nature it offers a set of properties from a wholly different paradigm: portability, connectivity and many years of mobile development exclusive of AR research come together in enhancing Mobile AR’s formal capabilities. Despite the obvious mass-market potential of this technology, most AR research continues to explore the Wearable AR paradigm. Where Mobile AR is cousin to VR, Wearable AR is sister. Most published works favour the Wearable AR approach, so if my assessment of Mobile AR is to be fair I cannot ignore its grounding in VR research.
As aforementioned, VR is the realm at the far right of my Mixed Reality Scale. To explore a Virtual Reality, users must wear a screen array on their heads that cloak the user’s vision with a wholly virtual world. These head-mounted-displays (HMD’s) serve to transpose the user into this virtual space whilst cutting them off from their physical environment:
The HMD’s must be connected to a wearable computer, a Ghostbusters-style device attached to the wearer’s back or waist that holds a CPU and graphics renderer. To interact with virtual objects, users must hold a joypad. Aside from being a lot to carry, this equipment is restrictive on the senses and is often expensive:
It is useful at this point to reference some thinkers in VR research, with the view to better understanding The Virtual realm and its implications for Mobile AR’s Mixed Reality approach. Writing on the different selves offered by various media, Lonsway (2002) states that:
“With the special case of the immersive VR experience, the user is (in actual fact) located in physical space within the apparatus of the technology. The computer-mediated environment suggests (in effect) a trans-location outside of this domain, but only through the construction of a subject centred on the self (I), controlling an abstract position in a graphic database of spatial coordinates. The individual, of which this newly positioned subject is but one component, is participant in a virtuality: a spatio-temporal moment of immersion, virtualised travel, physical fixity, and perhaps, depending on the technologies employed, electro-magnetic frequency exposure, lag-induced nausea, etc.”
Lonsway (2002: 65)
Despite its flaws, media representations of VR technologies throughout the eighties and early nineties such as Tron (Lisberger, 1982), Lawnmower Man (Leonard, 1992) and Johnny Mnemonic (Longo, 1995) generated plenty of audience interest and consequent industrial investment. VR hardware was produced in bulk for much of the early nineties, but it failed to become a mainstream technology largely due to a lack of capital investment in VR content, a function of the stagnant demand for expensive VR hardware (Mike Dicks of Bomb Productions: personal communication). The market for VR content collapsed, but the field remains an active contributor in certain key areas, with notable success as a commonplace training aid for military pilots (Baumann, date unknown) and as an academic tool for the study of player immersion and virtual identity (Lonsway, 2002).
Most AR development uses VR’s same array of devices: a wearable computer, input device and an HMD. The HMD is slightly different in these cases; it is transparent and contains an internal half-silvered mirror, which combines images from an LCD display with the user’s vision of the world:
There are still many limitations placed on the experience, however: first, the digital graphics must be very bright in order to stand out against natural light; second, they require the use of a cumbersome wearable computer array; third, this array is at a price-point too high for it to reach mainstream use. Much of the hardware used in Wearable AR research is bought wholesale from liquidized VR companies (Dave Mee of Gameware: personal communication), a fact representative of the backward thinking of much AR research.
In their work New Media and the Permanent Crisis of Aura Bolter et al. (2006) apply Benjamin’s work on the Aura to Mixed Reality technologies, and attempt to forge a link between VR and the Internet. This passage offers a perspective on the virtuality of the desktop computer and the World Wide Web:
“What we might call the paradigm of mixed reality is now competing successfully with what we might call ‘pure virtuality’ – the earlier paradigm that dominated interface design for decades.
In purely virtual applications, the computer defines the entire informational or perceptual environment for the user … The goal of VR is to immerse the user in a world of computer generated images and (often) computer-controlled sound. Although practical applications for VR are relatively limited, this technology still represents the next (and final?) logical step in the quest for pure virtuality. If VR were perfected and could replace the desktop GUI as the interface to an expanded World Wide Web, the result would be cyberspace.”
Bolter et al. (2006: 22)
This account offers a new platform for discussion useful for the analysis of the Internet as a component in Mobile AR: the idea that the Internet could exploit the spatial capabilities of a Virtual Reality to enhance its message. Bolter posits that this could be the logical end of a supposed “quest for pure virtuality”. I would argue that the reason VR did not succeed is the same reason that there is no “quest” to join: VR technologies lack the real-world applicability that we can easily find in reality-grounded media such as the Internet or mobile telephone.
A new gum brand is about to hit the shelves. 5 Gum is designed to ‘stimulate the senses’ and it’s one of the most exciting new brands of the year.
I was lucky enough to get hold of a sample set:
The marketing lifecycle is about to kick off here in the UK with a heavyweight branding campaign designed to encourage product sampling. Let’s look at how the product was launched in the US, taken from the Wrigley corporate site:
- 2007 In March 2007, Wrigley introduced U.S. consumers to 5, the most exciting development in sugar-free stick gum since the launch of Extra® more than 20 years earlier.
- 2007 In August 2007, 5 gum unveiled its marketing campaign titled ‘Stimulate Your Senses.’ The advertising spots described “what it feels like to chew 5 gum.” Set against an industrial, futuristic backdrop, the cooling, warming and tingling sensations created by 5 gum flavors Cobalt,
- Flare and Rain are expressed through dramatically stimulating visuals and sounds. The campaign also strongly leveraged magazine, cinema and online media advertising to showcase our new brand.
- 2008 In 2008, 5 brand launched two new fruit gum experiences. Lush gum provides a crisp tropical sensation and Elixir gum is a mouthwatering berry sensation.
- 2009 5 gum takes it to the next level with unique, game-changing flavor experiences. Solstice, a warm and cool winter, and Zing, a sour to sweet bubble, are new-to-world flavor transitioning experiences.
Do check out the 5 Gum YouTube channel for examples of the TV/Cinema creative, but in this post I’d like to review the packaging, which I believe is a point of difference that will give the product luxury status.
So to begin with, we’re starting with an initial three flavours: Cobalt – a cooling peppermint; Electro – a tingling spearmint and Pulse – a crisp tropical. Packs will reportedly go on sale at £1.50 RRP, to reflect that they are a considered rather than impulse purchase.
I’ll be looking at Pulse – the tropical flavour, which comes with little speckles of sharp citric stuff that actually gets your mouth watering when you first start chewing:
Notice how slick the box looks. Think about the colour of the last pack of gum you bought, and now say that 5 doesn’t look cool on this front alone. It does not look clinical like most gums do with their greens, whites and light blues. They look more like smart trading cards or a packet of condoms for that matter – gum for grownups.
It might be hard to tell from the above but the packs are slightly textured, with a heavy feel in the hand like holding a deck of cards. They slide into a back pocket pretty well. Build quality is excellent, made from a thick card and high gloss colour.
OK I admit the above is a shit picture, but it’s just to give you an idea of how you open and close the box. That flap of paper is embossed with glossy material so you can easily slide the box open with your thumb. Very James Bond. A bit like a book of matches, it’s an old school but perma-cool ‘paper technology’.
And there’s the money shot. You would not be ashamed offering someone a piece of this stuff, rather than one of those pocket-lint covered chiclets you have to fight the foil to thumb out. The designs on the inside are different for each flavour. This would be a great place to feature a QR code or even exhibit work from young artists.
And that concludes my short assessment of 5 Gum’s packaging. Look out for the TV, Online and Print creative coming soon. If you can’t wait, 5 have teamed up with Vice Magazine to generate early interest and reach into the difficult to please Hoxtonite crew – more info at Viceland whose readers have been asked to work with band Hot Chip to create a Launch Event in London that will stimulate the senses.
If you would like more of these sorts of reviews from me, please leave a comment. I look forward to hearing your feedback. Happy chewing.
As you’ll see from my Last.fm profile, I’ve been listening to a lot of Daft Punk lately. For those who haven’t heard their stuff, this track in particular is the one I think best sums them up:
Buy it, use it, break it, fix it,
Trash it, change it, mail, upgrade it,
Charge it, point it, zoom it, press it,
Snap it, work it, quick erase it,
Write it, cut it, paste it, save it,
Load it, check it, quick rewrite it,
Plug it, play it, burn it, rip it,
Drag it, drop it, zip, unzip it,
Lock it, fill it, call it, find it,
View it, code it, jam, unlock it,
Surf it, scroll it, pose it, click it,
Cross it, crack it, switch, update it,
Name it, read it, tune it, print it,
Scan it, send it, fax, rename it,
Touch it, bring it, pay it, watch it,
Turn it, leave it, start, format it,
Sound familiar? Thought so – it’s the soundtrack to our modern lives.
And it begs the question: are we slaves to our media or is the media subject to us?
Digital Media (as referred to in the above) is the most pliable of all forms, possibly all materials. But do we lose anything by acting as their conduit? Do we define their being by the act of using them?
By way of answer, Marshall McLuhan states that:
Physiologically, man in the normal use of technology […] is perpetually modified by it and in turn finds ever new ways of modifying his technology. Man becomes, as it were, the sex organs of the machine world, as the bee to the plant world, enabling it to fecundate and to evolve ever new forms.
(Understanding Media, 1967:56)
Punchy stuff indeed, and his point rings truer now than in 1967 when it was first written (for more McLuhanism check out The MemeStream, an older academic blog of mine). The relationship between Man and Machine is blurred in Daft Punk’s own appearance – they are never seen in public without their robot masks.
As I see it, Daft Punk have tapped into the zeitgeist of a world growing ever-reliant on our technologies, without much thought of how these forms may be exploiting us. It’s a beat-heavy warning to the masses to stay human, and not to be anyone’s “sex organ”.
So what do we think? Are these French electro-popsters oracles for a future world? Answers on a postcard please, or in the comments box below.
This piece from The Onion brutally destroys both Sony, and the wider electronics industry for their shameless plugging of products they ‘think’ we all want. Of course, what we all really need is convergence between existing products, rather than entirely new products that defy comprehension. That aside, check out the video: