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The cutting edge needs an angle

I’ve recently been getting up to speed with new developments in technologies that could help to enhance, but are not exclusive to, our employee comms. offer.

These technologies are tricky to sum up in one catch-all phrase or category. But they all involve communication-based technological innovations which may well become part of the fabric of our lives in the near future. And which we would do well to be aware of in order to respond more creatively to briefs, or to proactively offer as solutions to clients.

Over the last few months I’ve visited several events, exhibitions and suppliers to try out these technologies. I was mightily impressed by recent advancements in functionality and responsiveness. It felt like many of these technologies were coming of age, becoming more cost-effective and less clunky.

However, their applications left me feeling slightly underwhelmed. Impressive and innovative as they are, they can often appear gimmicky, almost a conjuror’s trick. For example, I tried out an augmented reality website for a jewellery retailer. It featured gestural interactivity, which allowed users to ‘pick up’ items of jewellery on-screen and see how they behaved as if in the real physical world. Could this really replace the tactile experience of actually holding and wearing a piece of jewellery? And where was the message?

It occurred to me that almost all the applications I experienced were in the retail sector, geared towards selling a product through the use of novelty. What many of these exciting innovations lacked was a well-considered design rationale. The technology was driving the content – technology for technology’s sake – and design appeared to be an add-on, a veneer. Design should breathe life into these technologies, to give them a real purpose of communicating a message effectively and memorably.

What practical, effective and aesthetically pleasing applications could The Team come up with that integrate the technology as part of a bigger idea?

How would this technology work if harnessed for the purposes of a charity, for example Fight for Sight, Parkinson’s UK or The Stroke Association?

How could this technology benefit employee communications within large global organisations such as BAA, BP or Logica?

The Team recently proposed the use of discreet projection and proximity-sensed window transducers to convey BP’s Values and Behaviours within an office environment. The ideas were well received and are now doing the rounds within the BP hierarchy. So with luck, we’ll soon have the opportunity of harnessing new communications technology for one of our biggest clients, and measuring its effectiveness.

Watch this space.

If you want to find out more, here are some sites I’ve been looking at.

Gestural interactivity

Movement-based interaction with screens, similar to Microsoft Kinect

3D images

With or without the requirement of 3D glasses, both screen-based and projected

Interactive projection

The use of projection onto transparent holo-film or solid surfaces, with motion sensing that allows the user to interact with the image.

3D printing

The creation of bespoke objects using devices similar to inkjet printers.

Audio transducers

Devices that can convert suitable surfaces into speakers, e.g. windows, tables, etc. which can also be activated by proximity.

Directional sound

Audio that can only be heard by one person in a particular location, meaning several audio feeds can be used in a space without sound overlap.


Transparent lcd glass able to carry full-colour moving images. The glass can also be off or on, i.e. digitally blacked out, or entirely transparent

Near field communications

The ability to transfer information between devices through proximity.

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