Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sisomo and interactivity

As you know, I am no great lover of surveys, tests or focus groups. Yet every now and then someone looks at the human condition through that kind of lens and gets results that are fascinating, even if how they got them was kind of dull. My example of the day is a project Disney has going at the moment. As fully paid-up members of the sisomo society, Disney is very keen to find out exactly what works in the screen age. Which screens work best, big or small? Is high-definition more or less compelling? That sort of thing. Important questions, although I find the technology focus old school. Haven't technology users already taught us that what we thought was perfect doesn’t even flicker the dial for them?

For this quest, Disney have set up an emerging media and advertising research lab in Austin, Texas. Led by Professor Duane Varan, it is apparently about the shift from "a paradigm centered on exposure to one increasingly focused on engagement with the viewer". Sound familiar? In this lab, they are testing the biometric reactions of around 4,000 people using measurements like heart rate and readings from electrical impulses via the skin (I did warn you there was a boring part to all this). The goal is to find out which programs and types of content have the most potential for interactivity. Let’s face it, anything that’s not interactive won’t fly in a few years so Disney’s in the right space, but check out how fast Apple is moving and making money right now.

The iPhone App store opened online in September and in one month, Apple had about $30 million in sales. Sales made up of sensible functional stuff (timetables, tools, etc.) and crazy stuff which seems to have one purpose: impress friends. Why else would you want an application to turn your phone face into a block of wood that thunked satisfactorily when you knocked on it? To me, this is where the true value of interactivity will be won – ideas that connect emotionally, ideas that entertain, ideas that entertain and, yes, engage.

Looking at the “I” in sisomo, I’m thinking maybe it should stand for interactivity. Sight, Interactivity, Sound and Motion. Don’t even try to pronounce it.

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