In the midst of the music and tech orgy that was SXSW, an unusual new app of sorts made its public debut. It was a prototype music poster called a "listening post." The poster listed local bands and invited users to press thumbnail images of the band to hear a sample of what they'd hear at a show.
The music fan in me gets giddy at the thought of being able to put a tune to the faces on posters before I commit to a show. The tech fan in me gets curious as to how you can "download" a tune from a paper poster instead of a digital device.
The process involves using conductive ink for the images. When pressed the ink completes a circuit that triggers the small circuit board holding a speaker and a small amount of memory to spit out the tune.
This "smart paper" is fairly easy to achieve given that the conductive ink can be applied by regular printing presses. The addition of the circuit boards is still manual but researchers are continuing to work on shrinking them even further so that they can be included in the printing process.
Liverpool design firm Uniform, was responsible for coordinating between the musicians and scientists in order to roll out the listening posts. They had some pretty lofty goals behind the interactive poster, including battling "infobesity."
Peter Thomas who heads up the firm told the BBC:
"People are saturated with information all the time, especially when it comes to music, this is a way to cut through all of that," he said. "We're trying to recapture some of the tactile experience you got with vinyl records. There's a really different reaction from users to physical media as opposed to digital media, especially when it comes to music."
Call me crazy, but I kind of get that. Of course I still have all my vinyl.
The company is working on rolling out interactive music postcards, but the real Holy Grail would be if the team enables the posters to the Internet.
Internet connected posters opens up the possibility of purchasing the song you've sampled or buying concert tickets. For bands and marketers it means being able to update the posters at the touch of a keyboard.
Add to that the "collectability" factor. Can you imagine that Black Sabbath poster that graced your bedroom wall coming with special messages or limited edition clips?
I swoon — equally over the concept of the poster and the word "infobesity."