Screenshots: Kinset 3D Shopping Browser

Kinset is a new company that builds virtual 3D storefronts for online and multi-channel retailers. The storefronts can be viewed with a special browser that comes in a rather small download. One of the potential applications for the service is a virtual environment that can be used to test real-world store layouts, and this video shows how these storefronts are generated and populated with merchandise. If you download Kinset browser and go "in-world", you'll see their two test stores populated with Amazon's affiliate goodies. Their news release says Brookstone will have built a store on the platform, apparently by the end of the year. Here's a recent Boston Globe's write-up on the company.

The idea sounds a lot like what P&G has been doing in Britain for a while -- using VR technology to research consumer in-store behavior. One of the downsides, though, of Kinset and similar initiatives in Second Life and other words is that on-screen shopping is not an accurate approximation of the in-store experience.

Here are a few screenshots and impressions from my own exploratory shopping trip to Kinset (click images to zoom in). The service is in beta, so not everything might be ready for the prime time yet.

The shelves in the middle behind the cash register are populated with search results -- one of the nicer touches of the application; merchandise on the side shelves is persistent.

While the virtual shelves work better for books and music that look fairly realistic, the electronics are rendered not as 3D models but as flat product snapshots. This, of course, is the most immediate future of all such attempts at shopping virtualization until there is a cheap and fast way to create and import large quantities of 3D product images. Having the TVs actually display videos would also be nice but probably not feasible any time soon.

Pointing on an item produces its Amazon description (right). The shopping cart is not rendered through a traditional cart metaphor, though; it's a simple window (top center).

The idea has potential but I there's a lot to be done to bring it to the point where the effort of going into a 3D interface to shop starts paying off. It would be nice to be able to pick an object up and look at the back panel (if it's a TV), or have the shelf updated with merchandise similar to the item you are looking at, or stream music samples for CDs, or talk to a live or a bot assistant.

To make Kinset a useful planogramming tool, it would make sense to connect the software to traffic sensors and visualize shoppers' paths around the store.

TV Viewing, 1952-2007

Nielsen: Historical TV viewing activity among households, from about 4hr 48min a day in 1952-53 to 8.14 in 2006-07.
-- TV by the numbers

Sony's Virtual World Brand-Friendly

A couple of announcements indicating that Sony's upcoming PlayStationHome (site, wiki) virtual world will have plenty of ad inventory: "SCEA has announced the formation of an in-game advertising business unit. Although the in-game advertising unit will be responsible for incorporating advertising across all PlayStation platforms, its emphasis will be on PlayStation Home, which 'will present opportunities for SCEA to deliver dynamic, relevant advertisements in game.'" [Oct 8 2007]

In July, Nielsen launched its GamePlay Metrics service which is based on "console data collected from Nielsen’s people meter TV sample (12,000 households with approximately 33,000 individuals), combined with Nielsen GamePlay Metrics’ proprietary audio signature library that matches the audio signatures of tracked games." Even before the service launched, Sony had said it would participate.

Screenshots: PlayStation Home

Mind Control for Second Life Avatars

Pink Tentacle: "A research team led by professor Jun’ichi Ushiba of the Keio University Biomedical Engineering Laboratory has developed a BCI [brain-computer interface] system that lets the user walk an avatar through the streets of Second Life while relying solely on the power of thought. To control the avatar on screen, the user simply thinks about moving various body parts — the avatar walks forward when the user thinks about moving his/her own feet, and it turns right and left when the user imagines moving his/her right and left arms."

This page in Japanese has a couple of links to a .mov (169.3MB) and .wmv (14.9MB) videos.

Mobile Phones Help Fit Glasses

Digital World Tokyo: "Glasses superstore Megane Top has just started a handy service where browsers of the frame selection on their mobile website can go one step further and try them on virtually. This involves the would-be customers taking photos of themselves on the phone and combining them with shots of glasses downloaded from the Megane Top server." More details and pictures on the technology provider's site, in Japanese.

Or you can go low-tech and do what a glassware shop on Harvard Square in Cambridge is doing: snapping Polaroids as you try different frames.

Polaroid and Word of Mouth

Handvertising Goes Scalable

Whip out your vendor Rolodex (can a Rolodex be whipped out?) and add HandvertisingUSA for all your handvertising needs.

Advertising As Proof of Entry

British Spies Advertise in Video Games

image source

Yahoo/AFP: "The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Britain's intelligence listening post, will embed the adverts as billboards in video games including 'Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent' in a bid to attract 'computer-savvy, technologically-able, quick-thinking' recruits.'

The ROI Of Digg Front Page Spot

Forbes: "In fact, every headline that reaches Digg's home page receives an average of 129 links, according to search marketer Neil Patel, and each of those links can push an online business' traffic closer to the coveted top spots in Google or Yahoo!'s results. Digg is by far the greatest source of links and traffic among social media sites: A popular story on the site gets as many as 100,000 unique visitors. Sites like StumbleUpon, Reddit, Newsvine and Propeller can each add between 5,000 and 10,000 more."

Heineken Bottle Bricks

Another quick post on the topic of designing product packaging with the entire life-cycle in mind, from acquisition to disposal or secondary use. These are Heineken bottles from the 1960s designed to double as bricks once the beer is consumed. Inhabitat: "The final WOBO [world bottle] design came in two sizes - 350 and 500 mm versions that were meant to lay horizontally, interlock and layout in the same manner as ‘brick and mortar’ construction. One production run in 1963 yielded 100,000 bottles some of which were used to build a small shed on Mr. Heineken’s estate in Noordwijk, Netherlands."

Thoughts on Current Trends

Welcome Mobile Communication Robots

International Robotics
makes "the most powerful Techno-Marketing tools you can use". How's that for a sales pitch: "Mobility, reliability, and communication skills combined with an uncanny ability to comfortably interact with any segment of society - including the media, government officials and VIPs, make these robots superb for any event or promotion."

Pencils Have Better Interfaces

image source

Wouldn't you agree that most regular pencils have better interfaces than most regular pens? I see at least two reasons:
1. Troubleshooting: If a pen stops running, it will take you a while to figure out why. If pencil stops running, you know it's because the tip is either broken or the graphite is too short. Both problems require only one solution.
2. Status indication: You always know how much of a pencil you have left just by looking at it.

Yes? No?

The Beautiful Prose of Annual Reports

Nancy Friedman talks about how Warren Buffet writes his own annual reports and does it so well that the reports read like engaging novels: "Reading a Berkshire annual report is like sitting across a booth in a diner with a great conversationalist possessed of both intelligence and insatiable curiosity."

My favorite quote: "And I know I wouldn't enjoy many of the duties that come with their [top managers'] positions -- meetings, speeches, foreign travel, the charity circuit and governmental relations. For me, Ronald Reagan had it right: 'It's probably true that hard work never killed anyone, but why take the chance?' So I've taken the easy route, just sitting back and working through great managers who run their own shows. My only tasks are to cheer them on, sculpt and harden our corporate culture, and make major capital-allocation decisions."

Nancy also looks at the language tricks at work on this Comcast poster. See if you can spot all of them.

Google SEOed

Since Google doesn't come up anywhere near the first page in its own results for, say, "internet search", it clearly can use some SEO magic, including keyword frequency, inbound links, fresh content and social-media optimization. Here's what a SEOed Google looks like, with Digg comments.

Vanity Zip Codes

Saks Fifth Avenue's shoe department is so big it has its own zip code.

The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Having your own zip code is no longer just the punch line to a fat joke.

The U.S. Postal Service has allowed Saks Fifth Avenue to have its own vanity zip code - for the shoe department at its flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York. It was just rechristened "10022-SHOE." Saks is the first entity to receive such a customized code.

The Postal Service maintains that these last four letters are just a fun, creative marketing strategy and that they have nothing to do with processing or delivery. The agency also claims that there are no plans to allow others to receive vanity zip codes at present. But others have inquired."

Also, see a press release back from May.

-- via Base Notes forum

Toyota's Advergame First on XBox Live Arcade

Gamespot: "Now the Xbox 360's downloadable game service is getting its own advergame, as Microsoft announced that Toyota's Yaris will be one of this week's Xbox Live Arcade Wednesday releases. The game lets players hop behind the wheel of one of three new Yaris models and race through oddly twisting tracks, shooting enemies with a tentacle rooted in the car's hood, collecting loose coins, and unlocking a dozen new Xbox Live achievements along the way."

Here's the game.

Brandscapes: Longaberger Basket Building

image source

Longaberger makes baskets. Their corporate headquarters (if that's what Home Office means) in Newark, Ohio looks like, what else, a giant basket. Here are all the pictures on Flickr. Genius.

Related post:
Brands as Landmarks (on

Related book:

Brandscapes by Anna Klingmann sounds offbeat but interesting. The two authors of the famous Experience Economy gave it two (four?) thumbs up: "Brandscapes is the first architecture book that takes the Experience Economy as its premise to show architects -- and by extension designers, engineers, and indeed all experience stagers -- how to create places that are authentic, meaningful, and engaging." On Amazon for about $20.

A List of Great Screensavers

Smashing Magazine has a huge list of really cool screensavers. The one pictured above is Briblo that creates random Lego bricks constructions. Do you know any similarly cool branded screensavers that are not by entertainment / media / game companies and that don't display RSS feeds?

Disappearing Ink, Self-Destructing Email

  • Times Online: "Scientists have unveiled a new kind of 'ink' that disappears from a page 24 hours after printing, allowing paper to be re-used. When a document is printed on the reusable paper, the text initially appears similar to normal printed text – only in a shade of dark purple, rather than black. Eight hours later, however, the image is a shadow of its former self and after a day – much like the McFly family photograph in Back to the Future – it is gone completely."

  • A list of services that let you send various flavors of self-destructing emails.

  • A direct marketer's opinion: "I think self-destructible e-mail could help marketers create a sense of urgency for time-sensitive promotions. It would be just an added feature at our disposal and might be beneficial for time-sensitive e-mail campaigns."

  • Create your own disposable webpage with a clear expiration date, like this.
  • Open House at MIT Comparative Media

    Every once in a while, a few of you write to ask about the Comparative Media Studies at MIT and whether it's suitable for someone who plans a career in advertising. My usual take is that even though it's not a portfolio school and there is no advertising major, it's a perfect program if you know what you are looking for. Besides, the need in geek marketers is on the rise, says Steve Rubel.

    Anyway, the department is inviting you for an open house on October 16 plus a few online chat sessions, and Dr. Henry Jenkins, the program's co-chair, has more details on his blog.

    Event: MIT's Futures of Entertainment 2, Nov 16-17

    The registration for this year's Futures of Entertainment conference at MIT is open. The event will happen on November 16-17 in Cambridge, MA. Unlike last year, the price of admission is $395, but judging by the list of confirmed speakers, the event is going to be entirely worth the money. If you want to see what it was like last year, there are videos and podcasts of almost all sessions. If you decide to come, get in touch; maybe we can all meet up and go play pool at Flat Top Johny's or something.

    Doom As Tool for System Administration

    A project to turn Doom into a sysadmin / data visualization tool back from 1999: "I am proposing a new mapping for managing system loads. As mentioned above, people frequently talk about "blowing processes away", and the Unix command to destroy a process is "kill". This suggests a metaphor for process management. Each process can be a monster, and the machines can be represented by a series of rooms."

    From a related search: VisitorVille is a real-time visualization of site traffic as a 3D crowd.

    Do you know of any interesting attempts to visualize web traffic and server events in real time apart from VisitorVille and Digg Labs? Something like Fudgie, maybe? Comments open.

    Study: How People Bond with Products

    UI Garden: "During the doctoral research, Ruth Mugge investigated the topic of product attachment – the strength of the emotional bond a consumer experiences to a specific product. [...] Based on the literature, four factors were distinguished that can influence product attachment: self-expression (can I distinguish myself from others with the product?), group affiliation (does ownership of the product connect me to a group?), memories (related to the product) and pleasure (provided by the product). Although these factors are all relevant for stimulating the experience of attachment to products, they differ in the degree to which designers can influence them through product design."

    Related book:
    Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things, Donald A. Norman.

    Avatar Machine And Other Virtual World Stories

  • "Avatar Machine is a system which replicates the aesthetics and visuals of third person gaming, allowing the user to view themselves as a virtual character in real space via a head mounted interface." In other words, it's a camera that let's you see yourself from a third-person isometric perspective, just like in a video game. Trippy. (via brand flakes for breakfast). Related: Creating Out-of-Body Experiences

  • For a fee of about $20, Metropix will let you transform your flat 2d floor-plans into 3d walk-throughs with a click of a button and export it into Google Earth.

  • Georgio Armani and Herman Miller (Aeron chairs) are now in Second Life. Herman Miller is trying to fight virtual knock-offs.

  • CNN writes about how Second Life and similar worlds are great for testing ideas quickly and cheaply: "Aside from these cycles of hype and anti-hype, the original goal of uninhibited mass experimentation proceeds apace."

  • A review of Ben & Jerry's island in Second Life, particularly interesting because it is one of the several new branded gateways through which SL newbies are channeled and trained.

  • Bruce Sterling's 2o04 speech at SIGGRAPH about spimes: "The most important thing to know about Spimes is that they are precisely located in space and time. They have histories. They are recorded, tracked, inventoried, and always associated with a story." That sounds a lot like products in Second Life.

  • From pet rocks to Tamagotchis to on-screen pets: AdAge looks at toys that boost kids' abilities in virtual worlds, like this hi-tech Barbie that "unlocks tons of new features on, including special fashions, furniture, accessories, pets, and access to Club Beauty!"

  • CNet: "Virtual-worlds platform developer Multiverse Network is set to announce a partnership that will allow anyone to create a new online interactive 3D environment with just about any model from Google's online repository of 3D models, its 3D Warehouse, as well as terrain from Google Earth." Another company with such partnership is Scene Caster.

  • A Mashable list of 27 best avatar-making applications.

  • Bonus track: looks into the next 25 years of video gaming. Year 2018: "About five minutes after the eye-projection technology hits the market, advertisers will find a way to superimpose ads over every damned surface you look at. It will detect your eyes staring at some girl’s boobs, and suddenly across her cleavage you’ll see the URL for"

    Year 2023: Advertisers will "be able to target their ads when they know your exact emotional state. The day after your girlfriend dumps you, the porn ads will blanket the landscape."
  • AdWeek on Target's and Wal-Mart's Facebook Efforts

    AdWeek runs a kind of post-mortem on the two nearly identical Facebook back-to-school campaigns by Target and Wal-Mart. Nothing really new here; Target's was apparently successful, and Wal-Mart's became a board for voicing broader anti-company concerns. This quote about Target's effort is funny: "Target also wanted to communicate in the students' vernacular [...] Instead, words such as "awesome" were used with some frequency." Wal-Mart would've been crucified if it openly tried something like that. Actually, it was: "Students immediately perceived the inauthenticity of Wal-Mart trying to give fashion/style/taste advice and called them out on it." The reputation-rich are getting reputation-richer.

    Some numbers. The article says Target is rumored to have spent some $500K on the sponsored page and banners on the site from mid-July to October 1. In return, it got
    "7,176 members, 409 photos, 483 posts and hosted 37 discussion groups." Which makes $70/member, or $1222/photo, or 1035/post, or $13.5K per group.

    Video: Toyota in World of Warcraft

    This ad for Toyota Tacoma set in the World of Warcraft has been airing for a few days and has hit the front page of Digg and just about any WoW forum. The spot is a riff off one of the most famous WoW player moments, Leeroy Jenkins (wiki). The ad is not unlike the famous Coke spot made to look like it was set in the world of Grand Theft Auto.

    Yankee Group Pulls Second Life Report

    Yankee Group has apparently pulled its "Wither Second Life?" report after the New World Notes blog started asking questions about the numbers (they started asking here).

    Browser-Based Second Life Client

    "MovableLife allows Second Life users to log in to Second Life using only a web browser. MovableLife allows you to chat, IM, search, teleport, manage friends, groups, and much more. If you just want a quick and easy SecondLife experience without all the 3D graphics, then MovableLife is exactly what you are looking for."

    Bravia's Bunny Ad Out, Controversy In

    Image: Gizmodo

    Gizmodo claims the new (and beautiful; liked it better than the previous Paint) Bravia Bunny spot has been, hm, inspired by this panorama of New York by Kozyndan.

    Heat-Sensitive Wallpaper

    This heat-sensitive wallpaper shows the flowers blooming when the heater is turned on.
    - via poppytalk

    Friday Special: Nostalgic Gadgets

    Any Phone is analog-looking handset that plugs in into any cell phone (via SciFi blog).

    Cassette MP3 Player is an "MP3 Player built into a standard cassette casing, letting you either use it as a uniquely old school shaped MP3 Player, or with any car cassette or cassette player to play MP3 Music."

    RCA Victrola Turntable CD Radio with Real Metal Horn.

    DMP Player -- a prototype of a dual CD/MP3 player. Why is it a retro gadget? Because it is apparently inspired by the Audio Technica AT-727 Sound Burger, a portable 8" record player from the 80s.

    Verbatim's Digital Vinyl CD-Rs modeled after 45 rpm singles, with grooved black circles surrounding album labels in the center.

    Brand Experience Through Game Peripheral

    Porsche 911 Turbo S wireless force-feedback wheel for PC and PlayStation3 is "the original reproduction of a 911 leather steering wheel [that] gives you the genuine Porsche feeling," is licensed by the car maker,

    The "hand stitched leather wheel" is "manufactured according to Porsche quality standards" and is "available through Porsche dealers" and at this web shop for $350, which, as SciFi blog aptly put it, is expensive, but it's still probably the only thing you can afford from Porsche."

    HD DVD With Shopping Feature

    Associated Press: "The HD DVD of "Evan Almighty" will be the first disc to include an online shopping feature, Universal Studios announced Wednesday.

    "Evan Almighty," to be released Oct. 9, will contain a simple Web browser that connects to Universal's online store, which will be offering products vaguely related to the movie. Previews of the site featured toilet paper made of recycled materials - 12 rolls for $14 - and a rain barrel for $135 (the movie is a retelling of the story of Noah's Ark). The products offered may change by the time the disc goes on sale."

    You can find a few screenshots of the new service on

    Two Facebook Parodies

    Two Facebook parodies: Arsebook, Crackbook.

    Get a First Life
    Get a Third Life
    Video: Second Life Reenactment

    Study: Second Life's Growth Slows

    Press release: "Yankee Group revealed that the hype surrounding Second Life doesn’t match its actual marketplace impact. Despite near-continuous coverage in the popular and business press, metaverses like Second Life are experiencing slowing growth and limited impact because of the tethered nature of their virtual world experience.

    According to the recently published Yankee Group Note, Wither Second Life?, the growth rate of Second Life users has slowed since its peak in October 2006, while user engagement (as measured by average time spent per user) has leveled off at just 12 minutes per month."

    And there I was thinking that the slower growth was due to the decrease in the amount of media hype.

    Anyway, Yankee Group gives its own reason behind the decline; it's the lack of mobile access: "However, for virtual worlds and metaverses to achieve greater potential in the marketplace and grow beyond early adopters, the experience must be untethered to meet the needs of the Anywhere Consumer."

    No idea where this conclusion is coming from -- it's not like a lot of people in the US are using phones for anything other than voice calls and txting. I haven't read the entire report, though. Some mobile functionality wouldn't hurt -- financial transactions, alerts, and chat all seem like fairly low hanging fruits -- but is mobility such a deal-maker?

    And if you don't like the doom and gloom of Yankee Group, you can always turn to the much more optimistic Gartner that promised 80% of internet users in virtual worlds by 2011.

    Ebay As Branding Medium

    MetLife: "Following the MetLife Snoopy in Fashion Show, Peanuts fans and fashionistas alike will have a chance to bid on the designers' unique runway creations in a special eBay auction benefiting Dress for Success ["a non-profit organization, which promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire"]"
    - via AdRants

    ConnectR, The Spying Son of Roomba

    From iRobot, the makers of Roomba, comes this itinerant webcam: "ConnectR enables real-time virtual visits over the Internet. Equipped with high-quality audio and a video camera, the robot is located on-site in the home of the “host” party. Using a computer keyboard, mouse or joystick, the remote (“visiting”) party can drive the robot around and interact with those on-site, virtually participating in activities at home or wherever the device is located (for example, in the home of your grandchildren). The on-site host party can also direct the robot’s movements with a remote control."
    -- via tech.blorge

    TV Show Measures Power Consumption

    Reuters (article and image): "Television manufacturers and broadcasters have produced what may be the world's most boring TV program to measure energy consumption on new-generation televisions. TV broadcasters and manufacturers edited together a mix of different genres spanning soap operas, nature programs and sports, and assessed the proportion of broadcasting for each type of genre in the world. This is because the power needed by a television for the images varies according to the type of program broadcast." (also, press release)

    Do TV ads consume more electricity than regular programming?

    Cool Stuff You Sent In

    This post consists of all the cool stuff sent in by Adverlab's readers over the past two weeks. Sorry I couldn't respond on time, guys, the work's been crazy.

    Human Flipbook -- 150 shirts, 150 drawings, lots of patience, one very nice commercial and a making-of video. (thanks, John)

    A periodic table of branding elements. Nice idea, needs work. The beauty of the original periodic table is that it accommodates even for the elements that are yet to be discovered and that the elements' properties change in a predictable manner from one end of the table to the other. Here's the same idea applied to visualization methods. (thank you, Tanya)

    A virtual bookshelf full of Harry Potter books to promote German release. David, who sent this in, says, "Every fan can reserve their 'own' Harry Potter copy on the shelf and personalise it with marks or even pictures. The virtual book will be reserved in the bookshelf, till the day of delivery."

    A script for Firefox that replaces all instances of the word "consumer" with "person" or "people". Dunno, I don't understand this entire "don't call me consumer" thing, but then again, I'm not a local so I might be missing some finer cultural nuances. But couldn't it work the other way too? "Stop calling them marketers. They are people." First rule of propaganda -- dehumanize the enemy. (thanks, Jeff)

    Inflatable billboards from Adscore in Australia. (thanks, Michael)

    And huge billboards installed next to airports to be seen from the sky, from Ad Air. (thank you, Chad)

    An entire book about Spam (the meaty kind). A million-dollar question: how did spam (the junk emails) influence Spam the brand?

    Dove Spot Hits Digg Front Page

    Today a site dominated by male geeks discusses a commercial designed for women as the new Dove Onslaught spot hits Digg's front page:

    "I don't get it... aren't Dove products beauty products?
    Aren't they shooting themselves in the foot?

    Which kind of sums up this recent article in AdAge:

    "As Dove's widely lauded Campaign for Real Beauty enters its fourth year, the results aren't looking so pretty anymore. After two years of double-digit sales growth and share gains, Dove's sales have abruptly slowed. That raises the question of whether the campaign, hailed as one of the most courageous creative breakthroughs in recent years, went a step too far in embracing aging in all its naked, wrinkled and sagging glory."

    Or this one in Slate two years ago:

    "But there's a dirty little secret here. Because, in the end, you simply can't sell a beauty product without somehow playing on women's insecurities. If women thought they looked perfect—just the way they are—why would they buy anything?"

    Facebook App Pulls $20K on eBay

    The "I Am Hungry" Facebook application was sold on eBay yesterday for $20,100. The application has 250K+ installs and records of some 150K users (the number of daily active users is under 1000), which means that user records in the deal went for $0.13 apiece. The price is in line with the valuation estimate on Adonomics.

    From the eBay description: "Buying "I am hungry" will give you access to a quarter of a million users that are just waiting to be energized and attracted to the application. If your company has related products such as ordering food online or restaurant guides, buying this application and investing some time to improve it would give you a jumpstart in the Facebook application world."