The Interactive Shift: Mobile Sensor-Based and Physical-Based Tangible Interaction

QR Codes, augmented reality, NFC, motion-based video game technology, RFID, and more have been much debated real world-virtual world technologies. They allow for users with smartphones to interact with mobile communication technologies independently. While all are at various levels of popularity, Ana Serrano in the 2012 Stratford Report believes the latter are just first-generation examples of mobile interactivity.

“While the critical device in today’s ICT world is associated with the individual, we can anticipate that tomorrow the critical device (that is, the device around which innovation will concentrate) will be the ICT device associated with things,” Serrano says. “The success of the Nintendo Wii, detecting the motion of a player through simple accelerometers, is a first-generation example that only hints at the promise of such forms of entertainment in an Internet of Things.”

She calls Cineplex’s TimePlay app, an interactive cinema gaming experience that allows the audience to interact with each other at select theatres in the Greater Toronto Area, a second-generation example of mobile interactivity. Movie-goers can win prizes and receive special offers for playing games. They’ll be able to do that in addition to watching the endless amount of movie previews before the start of the featured film.  

Initially launched last fall, it is more interactive and one step ahead of text messaging to answer trivia at live events. It has however been scolded by many users for the interactive advertising platform that comes with the app.

Movie-goers are now bombarded with advertising on two fronts—the big screen and the small screen. But when have trivia nights or interactive trivia come without some sort of sponsored advertising?  

3,800 bars in North America have interactive trivia called NTN Buzztime, which has been around since 1985. NTN has players answer trivia questions while playing against the rest of the bar and the network on television screens.  

“It becomes important to think of entertainment products in a multi-platform context,” Serrano continues, “where a movie, for example, is launched in combination with a related massive multi-player mobile game, music, and viral promotional product.” 

Techvibes has reported on apps like Flixel, which allow photos to come alive. While that app in particular has had thousands of downloads, similar competitive apps worldwide have had hundreds of thousands of downloads.  

Technically speaking, this is known as tangible interaction. It is defined as an interaction design concept that promotes the physical embodiment of a static image or object.

It is a new growing trend that even a Vancouver-based agency named their company after. On the site, they display a number of tangible interaction examples produced entirely by them or in partnership with another companies.

It includes the Arcade Fire LED Balls we showed on Techvibes last year that are known as zygotes. Those zygotes have been used in a few other similar campaigns worldwide. I also showed some various other examples of tangible interaction in a recent article from the FITC conference in late April. Some of the examples are full-on sensory experiences that people can interact with in the everyday physical world. 

The Stratford Report’s Serrano further added: “The very recent example of the KONY12 transmedia docu-activist campaign is a testament to how the moving image, though central to the future of entertainment, when embedded within the digital, networked, interoperable and hence social infrastructure, takes on a completely different form we have still yet to wrestle to the ground.”  

Tangible Interaction’s website even says: “We may not be able to change the world, but we can change somebody’s world for a moment.”  

At the very least, Kony 2012 did change the world for a moment, at least on the Internet, becoming one of the most viewed videos of all time. But nobody really showed up to the live protest weeks later showing how fast a trend can die in the digital space.  

However, sensor based and physical based tangible interaction continue to invigorate audiences around the world in different ways.