We hear a lot about data and digital signage. This concept is often associated with metrics and measurement of customer demographics and interaction—driven by technologies including touch measurement, facial recognition, RFID, and data such as time of day, traffic patterns, social media, even what a customer may pick up in a store. That’s certainly the crucial value proposition of digital signage and the foundation for the future. But what if data were also the creative engine driving the experience itself—something material and instrumental to the storytelling and aesthetic?
One of the biggest data analytics companies in the world is software giant SAP, with worldwide customers for whom they crunch data that define business decisions, from sales to manufacturing to product design and beyond.
But data also tells a more experiential story if you know where to look. Within large datasets are ideas and connections that can come together in artistic ways to drive interactive and gamefied experiences in real time.
That’s the premise behind some of the most interesting work at boutique agency NoSlate, Los Angeles. SAP is an anchor client, and by extension, some of SAPs clients—including the NBA, Levis, Under Armour and Cirque du Soleil—have stories and experiences within their data just waiting to be translated to large format display experiences.
For example, at SXSW this year, visitors could test their basketball chops at the NBA Ultimate Training Camp Experience, co-sponsored by SAP and Under Armour, design and produced by NoSlate.
The goal was to attract a new demographic, driven by experience and fun. The attraction was located directly opposite the convention center as the gateway to SAP House. The ante at SXSW for branded experiences gets higher every year, and SAP Creative Director Philip Smeed was aware of this in commissioning the training camp experience for SAP’s first-ever appearance at SXSW.
Using motion sensors from Microsoft Kinect and Lidar aerial sensors, the immersive 45-second NBA Training Camp Experience challenges players to shoot from a number of locations on the court, all of which are highlighted on a touch sensitive LED floor. Animated reactive content responds to every move. Sensors— including on the hoop–track the player’s realtime position and performance as compared to NBA stats using SAP’s HANA database management tool. When it’s over, footage of your game experience is dynamically edited automatically and sent to the player.
Jeff Reed, creative director at NoSlate explains that when the company designed the attraction, they had the slimmest of briefs from SAP, a function of the longtime partnership. “He’s always pushing to move the boundaries,” Reed says of SAP creative director Sneed. Taking the high-level brief, the NoSlate team conceived and designed the experience, and handled production from visual effects, animation, and projection mapping to lighting to programming (through frequent partner Master of Shapes). The design called for a simple but elegant approach to hardware—complexity doesn’t translate to the constraints of non-permanent installations, including setup time. Frequent partner VT Pro, Los Angeles handled the install.
SAP has exhaustive and detailed data from the NBA, including every kind of performance metric imaginable for players. The storytelling art was in selecting how to take the idea of performance data and correlate to the “on court” experience at SXSW. In translating the realtime capture of visitors’ performance to corresponding NBA data, the point was made: data and performance improvement go hand in hand.
“The most challenging aspect of this project was bringing backend software systems to life, and simplifying the complexities into a streamlined and engaging visual experience,” Reed notes. “This is literally millions of dollars of data sets, with all the concerns of access and privacy you would expect. A lot of detail went into the gamification of it, which really made for gamification backed by data.”
Meet the company:
Master of Shapes is a self-described space surfing, geometry taming, buffalo riding, Future House. More prosaically they are a design-driven interactive studio specializing in Game Design, AI, VR, robotics, interactive installations, projection mapping, and lighting, app and UI/UX development, custom software and product design.
NoSlate Productions is a boutique creative collective of directors, animators, designers and directors providing a range of solutions for new media, broadcast, and in between, providing services from concept to design, fabrication, production, post production and programming for clients including Apple, Billboard, Best Buy, GMC, American Airlines, Google, Microsoft, Verizon, MTV, and the Grammy Awards and more.
In addition to the NBA Ultimate Training Camp Experience, NoSlate also oversaw production on a second branded user experience as SXSW that highlights how SAP, and its recently acquired Qualtrics Experience management software, helps Under Armour understand each runner’s personal needs and experience to design the perfect running shoe for them.
One of NoSlate’s major undertakings is always the SAP SAPPHIRE NOW/ASUG conference which this year was in Orlando May 7-9. (“We’re already working on next year,” Reed says.) This 1 million square foot exhibition space showcases experiential brand experiences across the range of SAP clients. But the conference is also an experience in itself, with SAP reserving the most cutting edge experience for the centerpiece attraction. It’s an inspiration piece that’s meant to expand the mind of the brand professionals in attendance.
This year, again drafting of SAP’s Qualtrics Experience management software, the story brief was based on aggregated data on airline customer suveys, communicated in real time on a most dramatic of palettes—a 30-foot high 360-degree LED tube. “It was a combination of experience and operational data,” Reed explains, with five vignette stories that play out across the surface translating survey data into stories about airline experience–as data sets change, the animation changes.
“We could have just hung a screen and make an animation—but instead it is a giant cylindrical space with curved LED walls and floor all LED curved walls that absolutely surrounds the viewer in all directions and above them. They have no choice but to engage with the content.”
Meet the company:
VT Pro is a full service creative technology design firm serving the live entertainment and music industries with tailored services in creative design, advanced video, fabrication, engineering, projection, mapping, interactive technology, custom media servers, content design lighting and audio.
“Despite a late change in direction for our central showcase, it turned out as one of the best loved and most immersive activations we’ve had thanks to NoSlate’s collaborative approach and ability to deliver under tight deadlines,” Johann Wrede, SVP, Head of Global Events for SAP Global Marketing, says.
Reed has other examples to share, all based on aggregated data whether it’s supply chain or customer specific. He’s used manufacturing data and process to create process as well as combining data sets and machine learning for large format AI gamified experiences. “We’re Just starting to capitalize on these massive data sets, as experiential content for the viewer.
“In general,” Reed continues, “I’ve seen the projection move from projector to LED to sensory aware, things that were more immersive or reactive, whether through LED display or projection mapping, which NoSlate also does—most recently treating 10,000 visitors to 100 years of UCLA history on the brick exterior of the university’s Royce Hall.
The transition between projection and television screens to LED has been amazing, with the gains in resolution and to be able to control the brightness and contrast ratios and color and give people very voluptuous images that they can immerse themselves.
But the idea of just throwing a huge beautiful image up on the wall seems old school already. How do we engage the customer with that branded content in a more interactive way?. Something that forces the viewer to interact and not be passive. How do we elevate things away from the expected or the ordinary, away from the 15 x 9 panel. That takes an agency to understand the brief and the high-level marketing needs to get across, come up with creative ways with the LED vendor and other technology partners.
“We work a lot with VT Pro and Master of Shapes,” Reed says. “And among the three of us it’s a 360 A-Z process to create a large format experience that’s practical to do but also unique through the application of interactive software.”
Significantly NoSlate and its creative partners have expanded interactivity beyond humans and hardware to the powerful engine of data interaction. As storytellers and experience makers they can tap into the massive content resource that lives within the vast and seemingly dry universe of numbers and metrics.