Blaugust Day 28: Immersive Emotional Television Technology

Back in around 2012 I went to an event at BBC MediaCityUK, which showcased various upcoming technologies the the BBC was working on. One of those which at the time seemed extremely ‘out there’ was that they were trying to find a way to track people’s reactions to television in real time, particularly their levels of attention and emotional engagement. This would not only allow them to get real time feedback on how viewers reacted to content, they might then be able to individually tailor content to viewers according to their interests and reactions.

So when I read this article about an app called Cinemmerse, which tracks heart rate and emotion via smart watches, I realised that we had suddenly reached the level of technology to make that possible.

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The writer of the article didn’t seem convinced that film and television creators would actually be interested in that kind of feedback, but clearly companies have already already seen the potential. The Royal Shakespeare Company are currently using heart rate monitors as part of focus grouping for their current production of Titus Andronicus, which is an interesting idea as it’s an exceptionally gruesome production (although totally brilliant – I went to see it in the cinema earlier this month). This is allowing them to gauge the difference in reaction between the live audience and those watching cinema broadcasts. They’ll be releasing the results in November, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing if they discover some really interesting results.


Blaugust Day 26: VR Immersion doesn’t work for me

So VR gaming is most definitely a thing now. There’s no shortage of games being developed, and systems being worked on. Yet in spite that this, it still feels very much like a niche product. 

Previously this was definitely down to poor, overly-expensive technology. But now the price of VR is getting more affordable, and there are numerous options of system available.

So I began wondering what other barriers there might be to using VR in gaming, and I realised someone based on my own gaming experience.

Not everyone wants an immersive experience in gaming.

Sometimes, I might be really into a game, and totally focussed on it. Sometimes I’ve got a video or livestream on a second screen and I’m focussing on both those things. Sometimes I might be messing around in a game on and off, while doing something totally different on my PC or device. 

In fact, the more I write about this, the less appealing VR gaming seems, at least to me!

Blaugust Day 24: Email Marketing Notes Part Three

This is the end of this particular Highbrow course (part one and part two can be found here and here.) After I did the second blog, I needed to write a little more and make this the first pre-written, scheduled post to cover my time away from 24-30 August. So, the next few posts will also be pre-written, and I’ll be back on the evening of 30 Aug with a topic written that day. 
So onto the notes!

Email Personalisation 

Personalising your email is great, but this goes beyond just putting people’s names in the ‘Dear so-and-so’ bit – although you should absolutely be doing that!

Testing has shown that using the name of a person instead of just using the company name hugely improve open rates, though success can depend on the company and it may be be something to A/B test.

Goals and Analysis

It’s important to constantly look at how your emails are doing – and not just the positive metrics like open and click-through rate. Bounce rates will give you an idea of whether or not the email info in your database is still good, and unsubscribe will tell you if you are keeping a regular readership, or if people are giving up on you quickly.

Blaugust Day 22: Building an E-newsletter

In my day to day job, a lot of what I do involves helping to build marketing emails and newsletters.

In fact, I’ve recently been doing an email marketing course, and there’s notes about that in previous posts (and at least one upcoming one.) I enjoy making email newsletters, and I’ve actually just been finishing up one for Manchester Canoe Club (their first one ever, it’s a fun side-project). So I decided to do a little post on email newsletters. Obviously there’s no shortage of info and articles from experts on how to do it well and I’m absolutely still learning some things, but here are a few thoughts.

  • Keep it simple – both in design and in clear information. Most people spend less than a minute looking at an email, especially with the sheer number that most of us get these days. So while it’s nice to have lots of cool designs,
  • As a general rule, I like to build my newsletters – Title, text on one side, picture on the other (going to underneath or above the text on vertical mobile screens). It’s probably a cliche but I’m also a fan of alternating the picture and text in each row moving down, it can look a little stilted otherwise.
  • White space (in moderation) is nice. Crowded is bad. Keep colours to your brand, or keep them neutral.
  • A snappy title is important, but if this is your monthly newsletter, there might be something to be said for keeping consistency, especially if it’s to an audience that you also market to. Quirky titles might work as part of your brand, or they might be better off saved for a special occasion.
  • Lots of links shows that your website/social media etc. is content rich.
  • The best times to send are Tuesday – Friday. A lot of people don’t check their emails at the weekend.

As I mentioned above, there’s no shortage of resources for email building, and this won’t apply to everyone, it’s just a little list based on personal experience.

Blaugust Day 16: Travel of the Future

There’s always plenty of articles floating around about the potential new and futuristic directions of transport. As a daily commuter (by train ­čś×) I always enjoy reading them, so here’s two recent ones that I particularly wanted to share. 
The hyper loop as a theory has been around for gases, but incredibly it seems like it might be a reality one day soon. Even if it comes from Elon Musk, a man of of occasionally questionable principles, and seems like sci-fi nonsense, it’s also coming from the mind of the man who created Space X and made private space flight a reality at a time when state funded space programmes were declining. (For the record, I am deeply disappointed with advances in space flight, and if we can’t have interstellar travel within my lifetime we’d better at least land on Mars.)

In terms of urban public transport (i.e. often the bane of my life) the technology described in this article is pretty cool, especially in terms of using space above the road!

Blaugust Day 7 – State (of the) Internet┬á

If privatised internet doesn’t work, what are the other options?

Last night I was reading this article about how Google was recently fined a massive amount  (though actually not a large amount for Google, a company with the GDP of several countries) by the EU for preferring it’s own shopping service over other companies in it’s search results. But unless Amazon decides to launch it’a own search engine – amazing that they haven’t done that already, what can anyone, even any multi-international trade bloc, actually do about it? Google pretty much owns the internet now, and regulations for one country or part of the world aren’t enforceable in another.

The problem is that the alternative – nationalised internet, would actually be a worse idea. There are various activist groups, lawsuits and organisations all over the world trying to stop Governments dictating how people access the Internet. Basically, it’s an incredible complex issue that no-one can solve. We want and need accountability, but there’s no perfect solution for for who Internet users would and should be accountable to. Even a United Nations of Internet type situation probably wouldn’t work, though it might be closer to ideal than what we have right now.

Blaugust Day Three: Proprietary Biochips, the new loyalty card?

Today I discovered that the WordPress iOS app is still far from perfect (though hugely improved from when I first started using it) as it managed to lose my original half-finished post from this morning. That may prove a blessing in disguise, since I wasn’t happy with the post while writing it and since then I’ve come up with an entirely new topic to write about. 

Browsing the news, I came upon this Guardian article – ‘World’s Lamest Cyborg’ – about a company in Wisconsin which provided RFID biochip implants for it’s employees- which can allow them to purchase food, but only from the vending machine on company property.

While it’s cool to see RFID technology finally out in the commercial environment, it feels a world away from the kind of stuff I’m used to hearing about – individual code-aware ‘biohackers’ who reprogram their own, usually self-implanted chip to whatever they want it to do. These people are augmenting their own bodies, having someone else do it for you, with a chip you don’t have access to, feels like giving up control of yourself to some degree.

But it got me thinking.

So a company controls what you do with your implant and how you can use it, but after all, it’s only one tiny, grain of rice sized chip, and the human body is a big place. Maybe this is the way forward with ‘customer loyalty’ – a chip that gives them exclusive discounts, access and more. And you could have plenty of them – or would they start to interfere with each other, signal-wise? How many chips is too many?

There are plenty more questions surrounding the commercial implementation of RFID chips. What happens if you want it out? Or if the company changes the chip function? Or it gets hacked? Would you need contracts drawing up – mobile phone plan style? Is the implanting company responsible for any subsequent health issues? The liability and litigation issues could be endless, and it will be interesting to see how companies handle that, now this place has set the ball rolling.