Sometimes, you see a technology that is extremely cool and can’t wait for it to hit the market. And sometimes, you see something like Headphone:X from DTS that feels more like a pipe-dream that leads you to imagine where it might make the most sense. Could this X-Factor ever really be heard by more than a select few? Which got me thinking that DTS and Headphone:X is a prime technology candidate for marketing and experiential sampling.
We first experienced Headphone:X at CES 2013 and blogged about it in the recap. They put people in a room with 11 speakers placed about and did a white noise cycle. Then they asked everyone to put their headphones on and seemingly repeated except they did not use the speakers, all the directionality was via the headsets alone. They then went on to showcase a bunch more music and sound effects and challenged you to take the headphones off to kill your disbelief.
Needless to say, it sounded amazing – but the questions were:
- What content was engineered in 11.1, and
- Was a new receiver required or was it backwards compatible with existing DTS receivers.
The immediate response on site was that you would need new hardware…
To me, its an incredible sounding gimmick that might never really find real momentum, just like 7.1 is hard to come by because very few elements are engineered for it, nor do most consumers have the required 7 speakers in their music room. Headphone:X is a great solution as you can use most any set of headsets, but that processing and source engineering poses some release challenges.
Now, if we’re talking about experiential environments that can truly transport someone through audio alone, there’s a huge opportunity – but you’ve got to find the client or content creator with a need and wherewithal for such a thing. Creating that environment that truly tickles the senses in a way people aren’t accustomed to is much stronger than just re-purposing video or an experience the consumer could easily have elsewhere. With the right utilization, Headphone:X could be the X-Factor that differentiates your message being heard rather than ignored.
As we know, Apple has established itself as the preeminent purveyors of great technology design. They have that strong history of not only making great hardware and operating systems, they make them actually look great. It’s no coincidence that their competitors have borrowed from some of those designs. While some have gotten close on product design, none have really matched the beauty of their actual packaging. Half the fun of opening a new apple product is the unraveling of the packaging as if it were a beautifully intricate flower. The design always served the product, until now. With the opening of the Apple Store in Santa Monica, CA, they might have tipped their hat and gone too far in packaging their product to be beautiful at first sight – but it fails to place the product in the best light.
When the store opened in December, you could already get a glimpse of the inherent issues. In a video capture of the opening by YouTube personality, iJustine, they mention the heat and the noise near the end of the video.
Apple places a strong emphasis on marketing and innovation in everything they do, but this direction in store design did too much innovation while adversely affecting the product. When you enter the store, it is especially beautiful at night, but still loud due to the flat walls and glass ceilings – it is a veritable noise chamber. When you visit during the day, it has that same loudness but the glare and heat are almost unbearable.
Now, months in, the issues are very clear. If you are trying to check out the products, you can’t see a lot because of that glare, and if you are waiting for the Genius Bar or getting individual instruction, the loudness and heat make you not want to stick around. One woman even brought a box for her one-on-one to place around her product as she was well aware of the issues.
While this is not the first Apple store with a glass ceiling – there has been one in the Upper West Side of Manhattan for a number of years – it seems they did not really take everything into consideration and aimed for looks more than substance. Perhaps the bigger Santa Monica store concerns were never an issue in Manhattan due to more limited direct sunlight and extended cooler weather. It’s a shame that they didn’t take into consideration that there is more heat and sunlight in the beach city of Santa Monica.
I hate seeing Apple miss and I hope this is just a hiccup and not more indicative of what’s to come. If they continue to make decision based more on looks than substance, we will all lose out.
Posted in Ruminations
Tagged Apple, Apple Stores, Consumer, Design, iJustine, Innovation, Marketing, Packaging, Planning, Product Design, Research, Santa Monica
Though I don’t believe the Mobile World Congress actually drops the gavel, when it does “fall” next week in Barcelona, Scarlet Strategic/Scarlet Terrier Productions will be there. Continuing with the success from CES, the Mall Wall and Cloud-Connected Table that is presented as part of the ngConnect program will be shown in Alcatel-Lucent’s booth. Even in the short time since CES 2013, the systems have been strengthened even further and truly showcase how connectivity can add another dimension to interactivity and digital signage.
From the 25th through the 28th of February, these products can be seen in Hall 3, booth 114. If you can’t make it to Barcelona, you can get a very basic sense of the Mall Wall and Cloud-Connected Table by clicking on either – certainly not the same as being there, but…
With the double offering of better connectivity in public spaces and heightened interactivity with content via NFC, these products are perfectly positioned for generating even more interest on the Mobile World Congress floors.