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Technology. Innovation. Design. Experience. News.

16 Sep 2019

The Social Experience: How Art and Tech Reimagine Public Spaces

by Kirsten Nelson
Cadillac House | Photo by: Eric Laignel

There’s a beautiful video wall in the lobby. It’s on a size and scale and shape that no one’s ever seen before. It’s custom-fit to match the contours of the building, and it’s totally unique. But now the question is, what’s going to be shown on this remarkable digital landmark?

Lobby displayPhoto credit: Caleb Tkach

It’s a question that arose with the first flat-panel video displays that began appearing in corporate lobbies years ago. Except it’s not the same question anymore. The question, according to David Bianciardi, founder of experience design studio AV&C, “has now become orders of magnitude more difficult than just filling 16:9 rectangles. Now there's an appetite for esoteric shapes and ridiculous pixel counts. It's not unusual for us to have 100 megapixels to manage in some weird shape where you can't just slap something up and hope that it crops nicely.”

Wells Fargo CenterPhoto credit: Caleb Tkach

So, where to begin. One thing is certain, aesthetic trends dictate that the comparatively crass visual language of advertising must be cast aside in favor of the modern brand-building preference for a location-specific work of art [ https://tideconference.com/tide-articles/taking-a-brandless-branding-approach ]. And in order for the content to resonate with passersby, it should be “responsive,” Bianciardi asserts, “meaning these spaces aren’t just passively droning on with media, but are sensitive to context, people, what they’re doing there, and respond with relevant canvas behavior.”

So it’s simple then, have the agency create some nice visuals that can run day and night, every day, for years to come. Except, Bianciardi notes, you’re now looking for 9,000 hours of content per year. And while a brand might not flinch at spending a million dollars for a 30-second ad spot, they’ll be staggered by the price of producing a year’s worth of 8K or 50K content.”

Cadillac HousePhoto Credit: Eric Laignel

“And if you think about that in linear content, either it’s going to go stale really quickly, in which case, you have to ask, ‘Why did we bother building this thing?’ Or you're going to go broke trying to feed it.”

Right. So, what’s the answer? Bianciardi has it, and he’s calling it “deep media.” He explains, “Deep media is about creating something beautiful and exciting while being responsible to stakeholder strategy. It’s a platform that can renew itself.”

Yes, by investing just a bit more up front and adding some intelligence on the back end, creating a platform that generates its own content, that mega video wall can become revenue neutral within a few years. This is a promise that has made CFOs truly happy about that digital landmark in the lobby.

The “intelligence” part of the question is where the depth comes in. By opting for any of a plethora of “generative” content options, a subject which quickly goes deep media in the sense that now you’re looking at a bunch of “responsive” techniques. Those usually include some mix of APIs that can pull in data and translate it into audiovisual spectacle, maybe adding some interesting software and filters (often from the “real-time” world — , or employing AI concepts like style transfer. Then the whole beautifully stylized piece is output according to some clever scheduling algorithms that ensure things look consistently relevant.

Synapse

“The approach is then to fit those techniques together into a system that a non-technical end-user can curate and create,” Bianciardi adds. “They can determine what they want to talk about without necessarily having to worry about what it looks like, or that it’s on-brand, or that it’s using the right kind of materials. Because all those design choices have been made and baked into the engine.”

Ultimately, deep media is about providing a fully realized visual instrument to the client, rather than just a big display. It’s a living platform that transforms a physical space with an intelligent, expressive digital layers that can keep the relevant storytelling going for years to come.

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