Analysis & Opinion

IoT @ IBC: “It’s a Wild West of creativity”

Hugo Gernsback's TV Glasses

Hugo Gernsback’s TV Glasses

Posted by Joanna Jones @ IBC 2015

The word “screen” implies both vision and division. When an audience consumes something on a screen (whether that’s on their phone, TV, iPad, whatever), they do so with a basic sense of separation from what they’re viewing.

Well, according to those on the ‘Disrupting Storytelling: Wearables and what you watch‘ panel at last week’s IBC, it is precisely this conventional separation between viewer and viewed that wearables and IoT threaten to do away with.

“The origin of story-telling was very interactive: someone sitting in front of a campfire telling a story” stressed Redg Snodgrass, CEO for Wearable World and chair of the discussion. “The difference between then and now is now there is no feedback loop with the audience.”

The aim of the panel was clear: to convince the broadcast industry that the nature of storytelling was about to fundamentally evolve (or revert back to its roots). Forget mobile, Snodgrass and his panellists (Gawain Morrison — CEO & Co-Founder Sensum, James Chandler — Global Mobile Director, Mindshare, Joerg Tewes — CEO, Avegant, and and Dr Shawn DuBravac — Consumer Electronics Association) repeatedly insisted, forget social… the disruption threatened by wearables was going to make those revolutions look negligible.

At the hub of this revolution is the emerging capacity of wearables to effectively, easily and affordably read emotion. A principal exponent of this capacity on the panel was the Gawain Morrison, whose company Sensum has been working with audience responsive story-telling for years, and who hailed the “Wild West of creativity” wearables would soon introduce.

In the middle of the discussion, Morrison performed a demo in which an audience member watched a piece of content (someone gallivanting about on a high wire above a gorge) while their emotional response was measured by a wearable. This response was then played back to the audience in sync with the footage.

This sort of capacity is straightforward enough, but it’s fair to say that the opportunities it presents for broadcasting are immense. Programme makers (not to mention advertisers) will soon have the option of accessing instinctual audience response en masse. In some instances, content could shift to reflect this. In others, alternate scenes/advertising prompts could be tested to deduce which has the preferred effect…

The potential, of course, cuts both ways. Via wearables, an athlete’s or rock star’s or politician’s emotions could suddenly become visible, accessible, to an audience. Their ‘screen’ of privacy could be torn asunder, and their real feelings revealed. (Could this, one panellist suggested, be the end of the insincere politician?)

And where will it all go next? What’s the ultimate destination? Hmmm. Well, just look at Thync’s mood-altering headset, a wearable that electronically induces feelings of elation or relaxation. Is it only a matter of time before sensation itself can be mirrored, recorded, shared?

“Imagine being able to understand the rage of the crowd when you’re watching on CNN,” said Snodgrass, “or experiencing the dopamine pleasure of a mother holding a new born baby – these are all emotional pieces of content we could have access to in the future…”

With all this in mind, the first Internet of Things World Europe show (sister event to the largest IoT event globally which takes place annually in Silicon Valley) will feature a dedicated session aimed at examining just how the wearables market will continue to change and evolve. This session will highlight new, niche markets with huge potentials, how to create an effective UI for the consumer as well as the latest security and privacy concerns.

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