Modern Molinism

Quick Read: Want a sure shot ticket down a rabbit hole? Your bet: Choice Design. So much for free will. 

Morioka Shoten Ginza is a book store in Tokyo where you wouldn’t have a problem with deciding which book to buy.

Why?

Because in any given week it sells copies of a single title. Each title is displayed for six days in a row—Tuesday to Sunday—and then swapped out for a new book.

Yoshiyuki Morioka – the founder of this “single room with a single book” concept believes that focusing on a single book would help foster a deeper relationship between a book and its reader and drive up the pleasure of reading to a whole new level.

Additionally, every evening an event is organised to discuss the book and connect its author with readers, while pieces of art that relate to the book are displayed around the store for the readers to soak in and enjoy.

Morioka-Shoten-bookstore

(Morioka Shoten bookstore: Pic Source)

Unsurprisingly this approach of ‘choice design’ combats decision fatigue and stifles crippling indecision that customers tend to face in a conventional book store set up – online or offline.

Result: An invisible hand that influences its customers’ free will, subtly leading them from a cursory browsing mindset to that of a deeper meaningful engagement leading to purchase.

One customer at a time. And one book title at a time

According to Morioka, the store has sold more than 2,000 works since it opened last year and attracted numerous visitors from all over the world. (source)

Meanwhile at the other end of choice spectrum 

A unique adventure beckons you with the promise of debilitating you with mind boggling levels of choice at every turn of the journey.

Sample this.

You’re sitting alone in your apartment minding your own business when, out of nowhere, someone bursts through your front door. So what do you do? 

ClickHole

(Source: Clickventures)

So begins your adventure that starts off on a simple note.

But even before you realise, you will soon find yourself deep down a rabbit hole staring into frustrating levels of complexity and a ridiculous set of choices being thrown at you at each turn.

And surprisingly you find it addictive!

Clickventures, as they’re called, are exercises in absurdist escalation.

Despite the apparent air of triviality around them, each clickventure is an evil design experiment that lies at the intersection of comedy, interactive fiction, game design and behavioural research.

No wonder, brands are not far behind in tapping into this space.

For e.g, Old Spice has created a wild and wacky choose-your-own-adventure social experience on Instagram with Wieden + Kennedy.

The more you click, the further you go and the more wackiness you can experience. Exactly like in the Clickventures. Try out few of them here and see who wins.

Your “free” will? 

A basic tenet of Molinism is that in addition to knowing everything that will happen, God also knows what His creatures would freely choose if placed in any circumstance.

It’s essentially a doctrine which attempts to reconcile the providence of God with human free will.

Molinism is perhaps still going strong in the 21st century. It’s just that these molinists go by a slightly different name today.

And they subscribe to a doctrine that attempts to reconcile the providence of an invisible hand (also known as the ‘choice designer’) with human free will.

Now, did I just call marketers, the modern day molinists?

(Featured Image: Quote from the cult movie The Matrix)

Video Games As Disruptive Innovation?

Quick Read: Today’s video games like Grand Theft Auto V, are more than just stunning life like gaming experiences. We could have some exciting possibilities here – where experiential & interactive branding can be embedded in games. And more interestingly, a world where video games can be virtual beta testing grounds for new product and UX design. These could be potential disruptive innovations for fields like Market Research and Product Design. 

Visit Los Santos & Blaine County – where plastic surgery, bad movies and big sharks rule the roost – see for yourself.

So says the landing page of Grand Theft Auto V – the super hit block buster action adventure video game that has been rated as the fastest selling entertainment product in world history.

It broke industry sales records by earning US $800 million in the first 24 hours of its release, and US $1 billion within its first three days.

gta-5-grand-theft-auto-99

One of the key features of the game is that it has an Open World game level design – i.e., a world where a player can roam freely through the fictional city of Los Santos and is given considerable freedom in choosing how or when to approach objectives. So as a character in the game you have the freedom to spend your time pursuing adventure sports, lounge about by the beach, go shopping, visit the local artisan, enjoy music and other such entertainment options.

Los Santos(The Landing Page of GTA-V that lists the possibilities and features of Los Santos city and Blaine County)

But Fernando Pereira Gomes – a street photographer by passion and a game enthusiast who went to the midnight launch of the game and played the night away, noticed something even more interesting.

He noticed that the characters in the game had phones with cameras at all times during the game play. This means the players can practically take pictures from within the game(!) and upload these. So with this new tool, and the huge world of Los Santos and its streets, he started experimenting with the camera and went on to take some truly stunning photographs that he has started to share on his blog. Ever since its launch, his blog and the pictures have been rapidly climbing up the popularity charts – thanks to the ingenuity of his idea and the beauty he captures from within the game’s landscape. See a demo video on how he does it here. Now that is Street Photography taken to a completely new level!

He goes on to say..

What I found was remarkable. The game is so realistic that it felt like being in the streets outside, running around for shots, anticipating passersby’s movements and reactions. In a way, it was also incredibly frightening that these algorithms could look so real, or is it that we ourselves are becoming ever more algorithmic?

StreetPhotoV(Los Santos Street Photo by Fernando Pereira Gomes sourced from his blog)

On first look this is fascinating for two reasons:

  1. For the GTA V’s rich media, content and the game design that enables such  interesting possibilities (makes a definitive commentary on the evolution of game design).
  2. And for the creativity and ingenuity of someone like Fernando Gomes who has ventured beyond the apparent possibilities in the game and went on to make a mark for himself.

On second look, and from a marketer’s and a product designer’s stand point, I thought there could be even more compelling possibilities dormant here waiting to be realised. Two things I could think of:

In Game Experiential Branding

In game branding is nothing new. But how about adding an experiential / interactive angle to this ‘in game branding’? More specifically, how about, say a brand like Samsung, tying up with the game franchise and embedding its full camera functionality in the game’s camera phone? Wouldn’t it be an interesting way to let the gamers – many of whom tend to be tech’s early adopters and thereby potential customers of “the latest phone out there” –  try out the phone’s exciting new features?

The opportunities of ‘customer involvement’ here could be limitless – almost life like with little risk involved while affording an almost first person experience of the phone and/or its camera to the user. The best part is the free marketing that these early adopters could do for the brand if and when they share these pics on their social network.

A Virtual Beta Testing Ground For The Upcoming Wearables  

Let’s take Google Glass as an example  (one among the most awaited wearables in the market for 2014). As we speak now, it is in its Beta testing phase with some early adopters signing up to use, explore, develop and test new possibilities. In fact an Android developer Mike DiGiovanni looking to test the concept of using Glass as a second screen, has managed to capture Grand Theft Auto’s crucial in-game GPS interface, beaming it to the player’s Google Glass eyepiece in real time (source).

But how about embedding the functionality of  something like Google Glass within the game and let the players use it and explore its possibilities by themselves? I would guess something like this could give a treasure trove of real time feedback and insights to the product designers in order for them to refine its design and functionality.

Google Glass

Implications

Ben Hammersley  in his must read WIRED article on Wearables as the 3rd wave of computing, rightly says that when it comes to something like Google Glass, how our social progress plays out will be just as interesting as the technology itself. The social component of the implications would probably need to be tested and tried in real life, but the technology component and its possibilities can perhaps be tested in the game’s ‘reel’ life already today.

And may be when the game design becomes so smart to be able to reflect life like social dynamics – a not so unlikely prospect in the near future –  we might not even need the good old focus group or the hordes of beta testers!

Now, that could be a disruptive innovation for market research and product design!

Market research agencies and product designers of the world – hope you are investing in video games. No?

(Featured Image: Source, Fernando Pereira Gomes Street Photography on the streets of Los Santos within the game Grand Theft Auto V)

Soundscapes And Sonic Tapestries: Part 2/2

What do Cyborg Artists, Automobile Engineers, Game Designers and Branding Specialists have in common?

At least those featured in this blog post, that is. Surprise, surprise… all these have sound at the core of what they do!

See the part 1 of this thread here. In part 2, let me share some fascinating examples whereby sound and our ability to decode sound waves is complementing and supplementing our perceptual experience in truly astounding ways!

Sound As A Complement To Our Perceptual Experience

Sound (and its design) can be deployed in a very strategic manner to compliment our perceptual experience. Two compelling examples:

(1) Soundscaping In Product design: We know that there are armies of designers and engineers that work towards designing and developing  a car – it’s mechanics, electronics, aesthetics, thermodynamics, fluid dynamics etc. But did  you know that car companies  also employ sound experts to design the noise of a car? Read here a fascinating account of how GM makes a car sound like what a car is supposed to sound like. On that note meet Kara Gordon  – GM Noise & Vibration Performance Development Engineer who has designed the quietest Chevy.

(2) Sonic Logos In Branding/AdvertisingSonic Branding is big today. Think about the sound of ‘Intel Inside’, a call on Skype, the default ring/message tones on your phones and you’d get the idea. In fact Audi’s heart beat logo is said to be one of the most recognized sonic logos in the world today.  By the way did you know that after 14 years of using this sonic logo, BMW in March 2013, has changed it to this? This change didn’t get many fans by the way.

Sound As A Supplement To Our Perceptual Experience

Sound (and our ability to decode sound) can potentially also supplement our perceptual experience in new and interesting ways. Two examples again:

(1) Audio Games: What would happen if someone wanted to take the “video” out of video games and make users rely solely on their other senses?

At first the idea of Audio only games might sound like just another lateral marketing -isque variant (of video game formats).  But when you read about Deep Sea,  or about  Vanished you’d see that we are at the cusp of another revolution in game design and experience. These games are some of the best (if not the first) of its kind that explore the frontiers of what sound  (and our ability to decode sound) are truly capable of.

For e.g., Vanished – an iOS game as of Oct 2013 –  uses the iPhone’s internal compass and accelerometer to recreate a person’s movement. Players hold their phone in the direction they want to travel and touch the screen to walk. When in danger, they shake the phone to attack. All exploration is done with the help of audio only cues; as players move, the world “rotates” and provides different sounds.

Vanished

(iPhone Screenshot of Vanished – The Audio Game, Source)

(2) Hearing Colors: They say that you can see sound, but can you hear a color? Apparently Neil Harbisson can!  His profile on TED says this.

Artist Neil Harbisson was born completely color blind, but these days a device attached to his head turns color into audible frequencies. Instead of seeing a world in grayscale, Harbisson can hear a symphony of color — and yes, even listen to faces and paintings.

So there we have – some truly  fascinating examples from the recent past on how sound (and our ability to make sense of sound waves) is being leveraged in some truly exciting ways.

The next time you remind yourself to pause for a moment to appreciate the scenery and to ‘smell the flowers’, don’t forget that you could also take in the richness of the surrounding soundscapes in all their aural splendor.

All you need to do is incredibly simple. Listen.

(Featured image source)

Of trucks, specs and monopolies

Buri nazar wale, tera mooh kala

Sounds familiar? It losely means:you with the evil eye, may your face turn black. Does this remind you of anything? I guess for Indians the question should be how many such phrases do you remember?

HORN OK PLEASE/AWAZDO/HUM DO HAMARE DO/and most common ‘JAI HIND’

I am sure that the list could be endless with a gazillion kinds of messages having tones that are quirky, humourous, funny, cunning, spiteful, romantic, ambitious, fanatic, patriotic and sometimes absolutely ‘WTF kinds’! And I am talking about the messages that are painted on the back of trucks in India

See here, for a good detailing of some history behind some of the most popular write ups on the back of trucks. A infotainment indeed.

Besides my realisation of the obvious ‘service’ that they do to the roads by lighting up moods, igniting conversations and sometimes even helping drivers stay awake, what was interesting for me is the phenomenal reach and the audience that each truck (or even an autorickshaw in a city) has in India.

It is in this context that I felt a creative to be hitting on the ‘desi cool’ theme.

Brand Titan Eye+ (clock here for a larger view of the picture below)

Though the creative is interesting and has a real ‘desi cool’ ethic, I am not sure how impactful or even relevant that would be for the kind of consumers that Titan Eye + wants to speak to (why? that’s a different post altogether). Unless this is part of a larger 360 campaign that spans across all relevant touch points, I am sceptical about its success (of this single medium) in delivering results as claimed above.

While reading about trucks in India, another interesting thing that I came across is this new ‘genre’ of monoploy game that the popularity of trucks has spawned.

Truckopoly, as the game is called as per the designer Shantanu Suman, is adapted and designed on the basis of the truck industry of India. The objective of the game is to become the wealthiest truck owner through buying, renting and selling property and goods across the country. The game involves various rules that have to be followed by the truck drivers while transporting goods from one city to another. The challenge is to stay on the top while incurring losses in the form of fines and penalties.

A cool idea that can be translated to the digital realm and marketed as the desi farmville’s of the world. Has there been any popular online Indian game that has captured the imagination of kids and adults alike in the new milieu? Good ideas, seeded through the right channels with decent funding and some innovative marketing is all that it could take to make it big. Hmm.. some food for thought there?