Editor’s Note: Sequestered within Razorfish’s New York office is the Living Lab, a flexible space that is part research laboratory and part living room. One day this past summer a Microsoft Surface appeared in the Living Lab. Experience Lead Bryan Hamilton describes how he and several colleagues put it to use.
Carville was the first Microsoft Surface experiment out of the New York office of Razorfish. It was created last summer over a four-week period and had two specific purposes: The first was to build experience designing and building with this new device; the second was to use a dealership scenario as a canvas to express a significantly experimental approach from what we had seen created before with the Surface. This approach was to embrace the game-friendly aspects of the mechanism itself (multi-touch, large enough for simultaneous use by more than one person and a table-like presence that encourages “gathering around”) to create an unexpected brand experience in an environment often cited as anxious for most customers in research.
It seemed to us that the Surface was often thought of as just a horizontal screen for a kiosk, and not a full 360-degree device for a brand. Several members of our user experience, visual, motion and tech teams worked in close quarters for four weeks to create an experience that “felt” like something different. Not the same glossy, dragging, sliding and pinching messy desk metaphor, but a simpler and more memorable experience that included art for the outside of the surface, physical objects used to interact with the application and printable assets used as a takeaway. All of these components conformed to the look and feel of the Surface application.
The one component we did not build was the web interface. The original intention was for the Carville in the dealership to be just one connection point that used web services to store data centrally online so that customers could continue their experience online after leaving the dealership, using a unique numerical code (on the bottom of a tiny paper car) printed out from the Carville application. Conversely, the experience could have started online at home, with customers printing out an optical key and then bringing it with them to the dealership where the Surface could read the code to download their progress and continue the experience.
What we ended up creating was part game, part brand experience and part sales tool. We have had the opportunity to show this to some marketing folks at automotive companies, and while they are much more interested in the sales/customer connections and the in-depth car customization then the more “game-like” attract modes, I still believe there is something emotional here that people can identify with. Unfortunately I don’t think that will be quantifiable until something like this is actually tried in the environment for which it was meant. I still believe that people like to have fun, and even more so, when they are currently not having any. If your brand can provide that, isn’t that more memorable then a sales pitch?
One of the rooms in the Razorfish Living Lab is designed to look like a living room and is equipped with a 54-inch television monitor.
This year we will continue to showcase the Carville application both as a potential solution for the automotive industry and as an example of what can accomplished given a simple idea, a four-week investment and a new technology.