In preparing a report on the psychology of wearable tech at the London College of Fashion, I’ve found ‘Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire and the ...

Enchanted Objects (and the future of digital branding) – Speed Summary and more...

Enchanted Objects (and the future of digital branding) – Speed Summary

enchanted objects

In preparing a report on the psychology of wearable tech at the London College of Fashion, I’ve found ‘Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire and the Internet of Things’, by MIT’s David Rose, consistently thought-provoking. For consumer brands looking for opportunities in the Internet of Things (IoT), Enchanted Objects is a useful read, highlighting the key opportunities to seize and obstacles to avoid.

Here’s a quick summary.

Beyond the Tyranny of the Glass Slab

Rose has a vision for the Internet of Things, let’s use it to re-enchant the world we live in.  Make ordinary everyday objects extraordinary by infusing them with simple sensors, simple connectivity and simple appeals to our five senses.   The enchanted umbrella that glows when it’s forecast to rain, the enchanted orb that glows different colours based on whatever matters to you (temperature, surf or snow report, stock market movements), or the enchanted pill box that glows when it’s time to take your medicine. Yep, there’s a lot of glowing going on in Enchanted Objects, and that’s because sight is our richest sense – and we have a lot of peripheral vision, but don’t do much with it. From glowing tables to glowing jewellery and apparel, one simple take-home for consumer brands is this – how could we make our product more useful, elegant or desirable by making it glow? This apparently bizarre question may just turn out to be a whole lot smarter and more profitable than the one many brands are posing to themselves – how can we build an app? Most brand apps end up relegated to the digital dead pool that is screen three on the ubiquitous glass slabs we carry around with us. Rather than dead apps, could the future of digital marketing lie in enchanting everyday products with a little digital magic?

The Future of Ambient Marketing – Enchanted Objects

Ambient Marketing involves advertising on items an objects in our immediate environment (i.e. our ambient environment) – think ads on bus tickets, on handles of supermarket shopping carts. Given falling costs of sensors and connectivity, the future of ambient marketing may lie in advertising on everyday objects – think Kindle’s special offers. But the big opportunity for Rose, is to create enchanted and enchanting brand avatars, physical manifestations of the brand that surround us. The Kindle makes Amazon real, bringing the brand into real life, just as the American Express card is an object with a magnetic strip and embedded radio frequency identification (RFID), but also an avatar for your secure spending power and a symbol of prestige.  The big IoT opportunity for consumer brands is to create enchanted object that becomes brand avatars – signalling personality and value in our ambient surroundings (Rose headed up a company called Ambient Devices – information at a glance).

Forget Virtual Reality, we want Enchanted Reality

Rose paints a vision for the future of consumer IoT where technology enchants the real world, full or everyday objects, rather than replaces it with either a pixelated overlay (augmented reality) or an alternative software-based virtual reality. Having led a number of enchanted reality projects, and startups Rose outlines the four critical success features of enchanted objects

  1. An ordinary familiar object, augmented and connected to the cloud.
  2. Passive sensing, so you don’t have to manually record anything.
  3. Unavoidable, ambient information display for constant feedback.
  4. Emotional engagement and/or social incentives.

Glanceability and Loveability

Enchanted Objects are simply smart objects with attitude. Rose argues that we need to make smart technology loveable by humanising it and making it more familiar – think of the smiley form on the top of the Roomba, or Alexa – an AI with whom many have an emotional attachment. One missing step in so many connected technology #fails, is to anthropomorphise the object, making it more human. In addition to being loveable, enchanting objects means making them glanceable – allowing interpretation through a quick glance. Too many smart objects involve learning complex interfaces – and are therefore doomed to failure. If you want success in consumer IoT, make sure you’re glanceable and loveable

Glanceability – Stick to Steps 1-3 of Information Processing

1. Is the data worthy of attention now?
2. What is the information in summary? What’s the headline?
3. What’s the trend of the information? Is it getting better or worse?
4. Finally, what are the details of the data itself?

Dodging Obsolescence

Rose notes two big problems with enchanted objects, or their utilitarian siblings, smart objects

1) objects go out of fashion quickly (leading to obsolesence)
2) technology goes out of date quickly (leading to obsolescence)

His two part solution is ‘modularity’ – replaceable hardware modules that can be changed inexpensively, and over the air (OTA) cloud-based software updates. The book is light on examples of hardware modularity, but notes falling costs of sensors and connectivity are making this viable – we just need to build modularity into products.  Rose also note that OTA updates are a significant commercial opportunity for brands. Imagine Tesla selling OTA update/upgrade packages with one touch/one word “authorize” to bill a the credit card on file.

Electricity and Swarms

Enchanted Objects finishes by proposing one metaphor and one trend that will help brands see the future of IoT. The metaphor is electricity. Think of networks as electricity – plentiful, invisible, and powering the products we take for granted. The key to spotting opportunities in smart technology – whether enchanting or not – is to think of networks as the new electricity. If your product was powered by a network, what could it do? For example, networking an infant’s onesie can allow parents to monitor breathing, movement and position The trend Rose pitches is ’swarms’ – the atomisation of artificial intelligence into a myriad (swarm) of connected devices. Each dumb, but together smart. We shouldn’t fear a ‘singularity’ as in Kubrick’s AI dystopia, when HAL an omniscient and omnipotent executive AI takes control, because that’s not how technology – or intelligence for that matter works. The future of AU is not about central intelligence, it’s about distributed intelligence. So don’t think KITT from Knight Rider. Instead think antilock brakes, autodimming headlights, rain-sensor windshield wipers, a navigation system, cruise control—hundreds of technology piece-parts. Distributed.

Take Away

From connected locks to connected apparel and accessories, the Enchanted Objects featured in Rose’s book are kooky, enchanting, and sometimes useful, but what they are not are runaway commercial successes – yet. Consumer IoT may be the future, but right now – sensor-based connectivity is technology all dressed up and no where to go. It’s interesting and mildly ironic that Rose himself has left his enchanted world of enchanted objects and succumbed the the tyranny of the glass slab with an brand recognition app for detecting brands in social media photos.  Nevertheless, the idea of using digital to enchant the world, rather than dehumanise it is an inspiring vision for all in digital marketing


Eight Examples of Enchanted Objects

  • 1. The Enchanted Jacket – Melissa Chow‘s design inflates a little to replicate the sensation of a hug when someone likes you on Facebook

hug jacket

  • 2. The Enchanted Shirt – the Hug Shirt from CuteCircuit transforms a text hug into a hug sensation for the wearer

hug shirt


  • 3. The Enchanted Sweater – GER mood garments that change colour based on mood of wearer

mood sweaters

  • 4. The Enchanted Dress – gaze activated, this dress by Ying Gao has patterns that move when you stare


  • 5. The Enchanted Umbrella – handle glows when the weather forecast warns of rain (see also the oombrella project and the haz umbrella)

ambient umbrella

6. The Enchanted Tattoo (temporary tattoo/plaster) from L’Oreal warns of UV exposure



  • 7. The enchanted onesie from Mimobaby monitors an infant’s respiration, movement, and temperature


  • 8. The Enchanted Orb glows to whatever matters most to you (e.g. snow/surf reports)

enchanted orb

The World of Enchanted Objects



The Psychology of Pokémon Go – Augmented Reality Creates ‘Augmented Self’


Within a week of launch, the location-based augmented-reality game Pokémon Go already enjoys more daily active users in the US than Twitter, more minutes per user than Facebook, and has supplanted Candy Crush as the most successful mobile game of all time. The formula seems simple – take an old mobile game developed by Google (Ingress) and slap on a popular franchise with a track record in viral success (Pokémon, Pokémon cards…).

But Ingress – now rebranded as Pokémon Go – also sports the three critical success factors identified by psychologists for successful games. It’s the ARC of happiness again – games have greater appeal if they promote a sense of Autonomy, Relatedness, and Competence – the three psychological drivers of human happiness according to the much-researched and influential self-determination theory.

  • Pokémon Go promotes a sense of autonomy by opening the door to an augmented world, and empowering you to explore freely. In other words, the game promotes a sense of self-navigation, of individual autonomy. In other words, augmented reality creates an ‘augmented-self’ (or extended-self)
  • Pokémon Go fosters a sense of relatedness – feeling connected to others – with both in-game social interaction and by providing a new (conversation-worthy) but inclusive experience with few barriers to entry. The free-to-play, easy-to-play formula can create a sense of ‘we’ relatedness through a cultural activity that has conversational currency. We play Pokémon Go and we feel part of something bigger than ourselves.
  • Pokémon Go builds a sense of competence with challenges, achievements,  levels, feedback and rewards. Providing players with an enhanced sense of competence and mastery (sometimes in stark contrast to the real world that knock us down time after time) is a standard game mechanic that has been linked to increased levels of participation)

Whether Pokémon Go points to the augmented-future of OOH (out of home advertising) and installation art – thought-provoking virtual installations on and in landmarks that you see via your digital eyes – remains to be seen (but check out this video).  But say hello to the Augmented-Reality game Pokémon Go, and you’ll be saying hello to your Augmented-Self.




The Psychology of Brexit – the ARC of Happiness

Brexit ARC of Happiness

Here’s a simple psychological rationale for why people voted for Brexit and to leave the European Union.  People strive for happiness, which according to a well-researched influential model in psychology – self-determination theory – is driven by three things: the ARC of happiness – a sense of Autonomy, a sense of Relatedness, and a sense of Competence.

  • Does the EU foster a sense of individual autonomy – or should we take back control?
  • Does the EU enhance our sense of personal relatedness with other EU citizens – or is EU migration a problem?
  • Does the EU improve a sense of competence in how our affairs (and our money) are run – or are EU institutions wasteful?

With this psychological lens, we can understand how people’s emotional reaction to the EU is not happiness. And since we may tend reject those things that do not make us happy, the United Kingdom has gone ahead and ditched the European Union. This is not a political point, it is a point of insight (For the record, I am a committed European internationalist and profoundly concerned about the consequences of leaving the EU – including the potential loss of the 1/3 of startup investment deals in the EU that went to the UK.  So why did the UK leave the EU? The EU did not deliver on the ARC of happiness.

Now it’s easy to provide post-hoc rationalisations for why things happen after the fact, but the smart thing to do is to learn from them – spot a pattern and then profit from it.  So the big opportunity for business, branding and innovation is to realise that the ARC of happiness matters, and now act on it. Do you foster a sense of Autonomy, Relatedness and Competence for your customers? If you do, you may flourish and grow; if you don’t, your customers may desert you – just as the British have deserted the EU.


From CB Insights


Customer experience is worthless.  Memories of customer experience are priceless.


At last week’s Digital Innovation Day 2016 in Frankfurt, I outlined a new vision for CX – one not focused on people’s problems but on people’s wellbeing, and using insights from positive psychology – the science and practice of improving wellbeing – to redesign products, services and experiences with people’s happiness in mind.

One example I spoke about in the positive vision of customer experience was how something called the Peak/End rule could be used in experience design.  The peak/end rule explains how happy we feel with an experience and is based on simple formula – quality of experience is the average between how you felt at the end of the experience with how you felt at the most emotionally intense moment (‘peak emotion’).  So no matter how many touch points you have in your customer journey – the only two points that matter from this understanding of customer experience is the point at the end, and the point when emotion is at its most intense.  Why? Because these are the moments (the peak and end moments) that get encoded into your memory – we tend to forget the rest. And because it is our ‘remembering self’, the self built on our memories that informs our judgements and  behaviour (such as buying more or again, or recommending), memories are what matter. In other words…

Customer experience is worthless.  Memories of customer experience are priceless.

The Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman demonstrated the Peak/End rule in practice by looking at the customer experience of a colonoscopy.  What he found is that customer experience is better with a far longer uncomfortable procedure but that has a less uncomfortable end (patient B), than with a far shorter procedure that involves less pain, but that has a more uncomfortable end (patient A).  As a result, doctors sometimes leave patients on the table at the end of a procedure, when there is less pain and discomfort – to engineer a better customer experience.


Two simple takeouts…

  1. If your customer journey map has an intimidating number of touchpoints to manage, focus first and foremost on what really matters to the customer experience – the last touchpoint and the most emotionally intense touchpoint.
  2. Stop focusing on customer experience itself, and start focusing on memories of customer experience.  CX is about memory making.  We are memory makers.

#UberInsurance – This is what the future of insurance looks like [download]


Today, we’ve been speaking at the Accenture-sponsored FinTech Innovation and Disruption 2016 in London, presenting a disruptive UberInsurance concept based on the Uber model. You can checkout the presentation below (and download it here)- but here are the key points

  1. Insurance is ripe for disruption, and investors know it – $650M investment in #InsurTech in Q1 2016 alone
  2. But the InsurTech scene is complicated – just check out the Periodic Table of InsurTech – so many shiny new startups, and most will fail.  Where should we invest?
  3. Follow the money – if you take a look at where the money is going – so called ‘Unicorns’ (startups valued at $1Bn) they are investing in #ConvenienceTech and #EgoTech – tech that saves us time and effort and panders to our fragile ego. #ConvenienceTech + #EgoTech = Unicorn DNA
  4. Uber is a combination #ConvenienceTech (tap for automagic service) and #EgoTech (puts you at the centre of the world – all those car icons running around the screen are your slaves…)
  5. Applied to insurance, the UberInsurance is about more than insurance for gig economy; it’s about easy on-demand personalised insurance that uses realtime robo-broking to ensure you’re always getting the best deal and the best coverage, when you need it. In other words it’s #ConvenienceTech + #EgoTech
  6. Think of UberInsurance as the on-demand service from trōv/sure/cover/fitsense combined with the robo-broking (personal digital concierge) of insurify’s evia / knip / brolly.  Like Uber, UberInsurance is all about owning the relationship but not the costs (smart intermediation), whilst combining #ConvenienceTech (tap for automagic service) with #EgoTech.


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