The third session of the Blooloop Live event featured inspirational – and at times, mind-bending – presentations on the future of technology for the attractions industry. Talks from Peter Cochrane OBE, “futurist, entrepreneur, business and engineering advisor to international industries and governments” and social psychologist, broadcaster and journalist Aleks Krotoski were chaired by Kevin Murphy, Development Director at Event Communications Ltd and sponsored by Green 4 Solutions.
CREATING EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS AND IMPROVING THE VISITOR EXPERIENCE
Introduced as having “more degrees than a thermometer” Peter Cochrane CEO and Chairman of Cochrane Associates described himself as a ‘disruptor’.
Having previously worked for international brands such as Disney and Sony, Peter began by stating that success for the entertainment industry lies in creating sensory excitement, mental stimulation and an emotional connection.
He said ensuring constant innovation, great mobile content and making visitors feel they have learnt something when they leave, were important factors in capturing customers’ attention in a competitive market.
Looking specifically at technology for visitor attractions, Peter exclaimed there was no longer any excuse for making customers queue; stating that making visitors wait half an hour to ride a rollercoaster for a 3 minute ride was not giving them value from their experience. Mobile devices and payment technology already exist to help improve the visitor experience right from the start, and that ensuring customers feel they have had good value for money should be the goal for all industries.
This led Peter to explain how fundamental commercial objectives for the attractions industry (and any other) should always be to make the customer experience better, simpler and cheaper with fewer resources and that all technology used should be accessible for all ages.
USING EVERYDAY TECHNOLOGIES TO UNDERSTAND AND ENGAGE WITH VISITORS
Speaking of communications, Peter stated how paid-for promotion across paper, radio, TV and web was passive, linear and slow, saying that there are many off-the-shelf technologies that can be used to better effect.
He acknowledged how effective social is in getting your customers to pay for you where promotion is concerned. He also stated how GPS, text and voice technology now means that “your mobile knows more about you than you do.” These off-the-shelf technologies are providing huge opportunities for attractions to sell themselves more effectively and create advocates.
Moving on, he stated how CCTV technology and human recognition can now provide attractions with the ability to track behaviours. Behavioural analysis can be used to look at the technology of intent, associated to how people share content and their behaviour in groups. Though commonly used in the security industry, this technology can be used to look at both big data and metadata to detect and steer customer behaviour.
ENGINEERING & ROBOTICS DEVELOPMENTS AND IMPROVING THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
Looking at not so obvious technologies that could be adopted by attractions, Peter showed us examples of 3D maps that visualise terrains, currently used in the military, along with modelling techniques traditionally used in places like airports to test fire safety standards; both of which could be used to look at how people move around attractions. He also looked at the shape shifting architecture of certain plastics being tested in the automotive industry by companies such as BMW, which can change shape and colour to suit requirements.
Speaking of robotic futures, Peter talked about robots that are programmed to ignore Asimov, such as the works of Boston Dynamics, a company acquired by Google which produces advanced robots with mind blowing capabilities in terms of mobility, agility, dexterity and speed – see WildCat. He then talked about those programmed to obey Asimov, such as the ASIMO by Honda, which have been developed over years of research studying how to emulate human movements through robotics technology.
Peter then asked whether the advancement of artificial intelligence posed potential for conflict or cooperation. He showed us a clip of IBM’s Watson computer – which uses cognitive human-like processes to generate answers based on its own learning – destroying the contestants on Jeopardy with its general knowledge.
Bringing the technology in-line with the leisure industry, Peter highlighted how some of this intelligence could be used for customer service and to improve the visitor experience; making sure customers are responded to quickly, in the way they want, with the correct information every time.
THERE ARE FIVE – WHY YOU DON’T NEED DIGITAL TO BE RELEVANT IN THE MODERN WORLD
The second talk came from Guardian journalist and presenter of Radio 4 series Digital Human, Aleks Krotoski. Aleks introduced herself as a social psychologist, otherwise known as a ‘people watcher.’ She explained that she was interested in social influence; or the way in which people interact with one another to get people to do things, whether that is influencing attitudes or behaviours and primarily looks at this within online communities.
Having presented the Channel 4 computer game review programme ‘Bits’ in the late 90’s, Aleks mentioned how interested she became in the phenomenon that is the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft. Instead of being interested in the mechanics of the game, she wanted to find out more how the game influenced players’ behaviours and interactions.
This extended to looking at the digital medium as a whole and the significance of the five senses in our interactive experiences. Aleks argued that with the push for everything to become digital, the medium (including social) is still lean and good at only two things – text and video. She said currently, to make the digital world do what we want we have to make amends, workarounds, hacks or excuses.
Talking about her love of theme parks and rollercoasters, she said digital had a lot to learn from the attractions industry in terms of creating magical, immersive experiences involving all the senses. Though social allows people to communicate and is where audiences are spending their time, she said it currently wasn’t an immersive experience.
BECOMING A MASTER OF THE SENSES
To create immersive, physical experiences, Aleks suggested we need to take note from the masters of the senses; so she presented video/audio from talking to a timekeeper on making things universal, a sound designer on tricking the mind and a scent designer on the power of memory.
Timekeeper Cathy Haynes featured in the first video and spoke about how we traditionally view time as linear, with continual progress being made with a chronological timeline, though there are many other ways to look at time and how it can be manipulated. She said that social media has shaped our perspective on how our life should be measured, with our important dates and events. She emphasised that how we value and measure our time online is often different to our lived experience.
CREATING TERRIFYING IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCES WITH AUDIO
The second video featured multi-award winning sound designer Nick Ryan, who explained how sound is closely bound with emotion, meaning that when we hear a sound we can’t help visualise the thing that makes it; our brain automatically makes cognitive assumptions.
He emphasised that traditionally recordings have been non-interactive, but developments now mean we’re able to immerse ourselves in recorded sound by interacting with the heard experience.
Working on the development team for horror-themed audio game Papa Sangre for Apple iOS devices, Nick explained that the game created an evocative audio-only space where you can hear the effect of your actions which are made by your thumb movements on the touch screen interface. Creating a virtual space relying solely on sound is crucial for an imagined space and has created a truly terrifying gaming experience.
THE POWERFUL CONNECTION BETWEEN SMELL AND MEMORY
Scent Designer Lizzie Ostrom said in the audio that what interested her most were people’s different reactions to the same smells. She highlighted how closely connected our memory emotions and instincts are with smell and that this never goes away.
She spoke of how dementia sufferers often suffer from loss of appetite and therefore weight loss, so there are fragrances that have been developed to help those in nursing homes associate certain smells with times to eat eg the smell of toast and marmalade to indicate breakfast times used to stir people’s memories and create positive associations.
Following on from this, Lizzie highlighted the potential for using fragrance to influence moods and behaviour with those that suffer from anger related problems or anxiety.
THE PHYSICAL CANNOT YET BE REPLICATED BY THE DIGITAL
Aleks concluded her reasoning behind the videos by saying “this is about the physical that cannot yet be replicated by the digital. This is about the physical that has not yet been interpreted by the digital.”
The physical element of attractions is their unique selling point, therefore Aleks questioned “why go digital?” She said other industries should learn from the way attractions tap into the minds of their audience and manipulate experiences by manipulating the senses and that these things need to be used in order to fully explore the possibilities of digital.
She ended with a bang saying “you get us to feel, they get us to do.” Aleks said that although there is power in getting people to do stuff, the lasting effect is getting them to feel. She encouraged the audience to change the online space in order for it to be deserving of their experiences and attractions.
TECHNOLOGY AND VISITOR ATTRACTIONS – KEY TAKE-OUTS
The two technology talks were immersive experiences in themselves; changing attitudes, engineering developments and social behaviours were common threads of both talks, highlighting many opportunities for the attractions industry.