Swarm Gets Playful - Monthly Picks, February.

This month’s picks are focused on the art of play. Playfulness is at the heart of the best advertising campaigns and brand experiences. Giving audiences the opportunity to imagine their own version of ‘fun’ is key when creating an experience will leave a positive impression, whether that’s in a virtual events and music venue or exploring a real-life retail environment that has re-injected playfulness into the shopping experience. 

AR retail market set to be worth $12bn by 2025 thanks to pandemic boost
According to new data, the pandemic-driven boom in online shopping has forced more brands to embrace emerging technologies like AR and virtual stores. Major retailers like Ikea and Nike have rolled out AR tools for customers, and research expects many brands to follow. ABI research analyst Eleftheria Kouri said, “Online shopping will continue to grow after the pandemic, especially in product categories supported by AR experiences such as make-up, clothing, and furniture.” This acceleration of its adoption, aided by advancements in the democratisation of new technologies, will see the AR market in retail, commerce and marketing surpass $12 billion in the next four years.

Tobacco Dock turns into a virtual venue for hybrid events
Tobacco Dock has been turned into a virtual venue for hybrid shows hosted by London Warehouse Events. Developed in partnership with social VR platform, Sansar, "Tobacco Dock Virtual" is a detailed recreation of the London venue. Shows at Tobacco Dock Virtual will also offer a range of gaming options that enhance the experience. Guests will interact with the space through a mixture of digital and real-world experiences. There will be music and gaming events offering live entertainment. When in-person events can return the new platform will be used to host hybrid parties that can take place in real-time. Shows will take place across the physical and virtual venue simultaneously with integrations across select mobile gaming platforms.

A Little Less Rational and a Bit More Offbeat: Being Positively Bonkers Is the Most Sensible Thing
We thoroughly enjoyed this article from Matthew Saunby, ECD of 2050 London who is calling for brands to embrace nonsense to wake up the brain cells, creating a world of magic and wonder for their audiences. “For me, the most effective brand worlds are positively bonkers; imaginative and full of character. Positivity attracts people, unifies people, creates a magnetic pull towards your brand and embeds deep memories.” Read more about how to create long-lasting brands which live alongside your audiences most treasured memories here. 

Selfridges takes gaming experience to next level with Playhouse by Smartech
In December 2020, Selfridges launched its first-ever gaming destination, Playhouse by Smartech. Smartech took up residency in the Corner Shop of the Oxford Street store. The concept saw the space transformed into a playground, showcasing the future of gaming, bringing the virtual world into a ‘phygital’ experiment. Innovative applications of established technologies will create mixed reality experiences that merge digital and physical touchpoints. Beyond the interactive games and latest consoles, the Playhouse mission is clear: to unite and inspire the world through play. With every activation, the aim is to create a captivating experience that brings people together. Due to the success of the concept, the Playhouse by Smartech has secured a permanent location within Selfridges Oxford Street when the store re-opens this Spring. 

A spatial listening experience for Bottega Veneta
To showcase Daniel Lee’s AW 2020 collection for Italian luxury fashion house, Bottega Veneta in Seoul, Random Studio was enlisted to design a pop-up experience and store scenography. The agency created a spatial listening experience based on the ‘Acousmonium’ sonic installations as pioneered by Francois Bayle in the 1970s. Housed in a reflective inflatable structure, the experience blended acoustic properties with architecture and aesthetics, nestling 24 speakers of various sizes into its voluminous walls to produce a three-dimensional sonic landscape, determined by the speakers’ varying frequency response.

The aesthetics of the installation were mirrored inside the pop-up store next door, where Random Studio designed the product displays out of reflective materials and inflated structures. The two locations allowed for a focused experience design; one dedicated to an immersive brand experience and the other a powerful product display, with both sharing art direction and concept.

The Future of Sculpture
Explore some of the most innovative and enthralling kinetic sculptures from new media artist collective, BREAKFAST. The studio's practice employs a unique blend of computer science, mechanical engineering, and playful, emotionally-striking aesthetics to invite audiences to reflect on the relationship between the physical, the digital, the global, and the intimate - as well as the evolving relationships between human bodies and technological innovation in the Information Age.

Dream - Explore the future of theatre in a virtual forest
Inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “Dream” brings performance and gaming technology together to explore new ways for audiences to experience live theatre. The experience gives audience members a unique opportunity to directly influence the live performance, from wherever they are in the world. The performance can be accessed on any device and uses the latest gaming and theatre technology, as well as an interactive symphonic score which responds to the actors’ movement during the show.

Running brand On fixes the ‘broken experience’ of shoe shopping
On co-founder and CEO David Alleman says the new On store in Manhattan has something of the science museum about it, combining ‘storytelling and technology’. The centrepiece of the store, designed in collaboration with architect Andreas Bozarth Fornell, is a 62 ft long magic wall which aims to make finding the right pair of shoes fast and fun. One side of the wall is loaded with a video wall backed with all kinds of smart sensors and gait-analysis technology. Customers just have to take a few energetic strides for the tech to establish their exact foot size and volume and which three shoes best match their purpose and gait. An avatar of the runner appears on the giant screen, visible to passers-by outside, alongside a text breakdown of their running style. Discover more about how the store fixes the broken experience of shoe shopping here.

Image Credit: Retail Focus