With 10 million devices sold in just four months and Wired Magazine calling it the fastest-selling consumer tech product of all time, even Microsoft didn’t realize what it had when they launched Kinect back in 2010.
And you can’t blame the tech giant, really. The slim, black motion sensor was novel at the time but people quickly got on, dancing to Michael Jackson dance hits, slashing demons in a decrepit digital dungeon or ice skating on a fictional mountain resort in no time.
Gamers were obviously excited with the idea of a hands-free interface and so did marketers. With no controller standing between the user and the experience, brands immediately saw an opportunity to make it a powerful platform for experiential marketing.
But excitement didn’t necessarily translate to interest. Only a handful of brands so far like Chevy, Nike and Topman have used Kinect for marketing campaigns, with most preferring to let the technology mature rather than be a guinea pig.
“Until now augmented reality (AR) development remains a niche, but we see this grow rapidly in proportion to the generated interest in AR,” said Michael Ng, R&D head of NuWorks.
NuWorks is one of few digital agencies offering Kinect campaigns for brands in the Philippines. Ng shares with Marketing how they have used the technology locally so far, brands that suit Kinect and why gamification is here to stay.
How creative can you get with Kinect in advertising?
With Kinect, you are not just limited to games. Think of Kinect as a simple computer peripheral, let's say like a mouse, or a keyboard, except this time it gives you data of the actual person in 3D space. It allows the computer to see and recognize you. I hate to use the following phrase but i could not think of any better. "you are limited only by your own imagination".
Kinect is a very versatile tool for creating immersive interactive applications and games. In addition, Kinect and other similar sensor technologies are constantly being improved over time, adding new features and functions such as a heart sensor and native-finger tracking, just to name a few.
Giving a computer the ability to see allows you to do all sort of crazy things, like for example, dynamic advertising by customizing an advertisement based on the current viewer's gender. Another example would be an ad in travel agencies, where you can see yourself in a big screen with your background changed into a popular beach destination like station one Boracay.
Based in NuWorks past works, how effective was Kinect?
Kinect apps, combined with good visuals and sound effects, are very effective in sparking curiosity. More so if you couple it with a bit of product prizes. Within minutes we were able to generate a huge crowd of people. Filipinos, do need a bit of push to start, either through a brand ambassador encouragement or an invite in active voice.
Once you get someone to start, there will be no shortage of eager next players. There was also a significant number of spectators in those events. NuWorks offers a full service to clients so usually Kinect execution is but one part of a whole campaign. So far we are very happy with the results and how well our Kinect executions played its part to complement our campaign as a whole. Despite working with Kinect for more than a year already, we have yet to uncover its full potential.
My impression is that Kinect is fairly limited for more active campaigns. Do you agree?
It actually depends on how you define "active" campaigns. If by active you mean the interaction between the user and the application will be based on active motions such as, dancing or gestures, then I believe Kinect is not limited to those type of campaigns. Although our very own executions are what you can categorise as active, we are constantly working internally on applying this technology in a passive way.
Kinect is a very versatile sensor that can be used for face tracking, voice recognition, and other cool things other than gesture recognition. Passive approach in a way that the user will not even
bother to concern himself/herself of the technology behind an execution thus, delivering a brand message in a seamless way. Reusing the very rough examples i provided earlier, executions like dynamic ads by customizing an advertisement based on the current viewer's gender or an AR travel agency billboard, these campaigns would work with the technology supporting it in the background.
Are there brands/applications that suit Kinect better than others?
Yes, there are brands that are easier to utilize Kinect as their medium. Brands with target-market ages between 9 to 30 regardless of gender are very willing to engage in a Kinect activation. Some brands with a more conservative market can benefit from technologies like Kinect by approaching activations with less physical activities and more of a sensory approach or passive approach.
Why do you think games have become a key marketing tool?
Games make great key marketing tools because they tap into humanity's innately competitive nature and deep desire for rewards and entertainment. Games are more popular today due to the sudden increase in platforms where games can be consumed, platforms such as smartphones, tablets, and social media games [via laptops/netbooks].
With AR, Games became more immersive and personal to the user than ever before. The "awe" generated by such games creates a powerful bond between user and machine. Marketing adapted to this revolution because it recognized the engagement games generate to millions of users. Kinect games are awesome but Kinect and other similar technologies can even go beyond gaming.
Do you think gamification will take more space in marketing strategies? How about Kinect?
Gamification, in general, will be present in future marketing strategies. I see gamification more of a realisation in user experience engineering than a trend, however, I personally do not see direct correlation between gamification and brands going for Kinect executions. It is up to the agency to leverage Kinect for a campaign when it is appropriate. If one can go beyond the notion of Kinect as mere tool for gamification and transcend its perceived purpose as a more versatile tool, then application of Kinect will not necessarily be time-bound.
How popular is Kinect used in advertising in the US compared to the Philippines?
Numbers are scarce for comparison but the Philippines definitely have much less developers working on sensors as an advertising tool. This is because there are few career opportunities
for interested AR developers locally. We are actually in discussion with interested academic parties to include AR programming in computer programming curriculum. With more supply of talent we can increase uptake by allowing marketers to tap into AR more easily.