Mo. Shared music, shared moment [updt]
[youtube=www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UAULk1RlHU] //The movie was not working due to copyrights, new version!
In Technology for all the Right Reasons (pp. 64), I used the concept of a social music player (developed by Nora Helms, Anna Kuperski, and Simon Pfarr in a course I supervised with Anke Bernotat, see Philips Creative Challenge) as an example for the claim to design an experience before the product. The point was that without a clear idea of the social experience to be crated, neither the functionality nor the form of an .mp3 player can be determined. In her Diploma thesis, Eva Lenz (supervised with Sébastien Lienhard) further explored this concept and made it into a fully fledged design – a Mo.
The Mo is foremost a standalone music player. However, it can be loaded with favourite music and taken to a party. When a Mo meets other Mos, they connect and play the combined playlist in a random order. A Mo can be taken up to listen into the music stored on this particular Mo (the main speaker reduces its volume). One can skip through the music and place a favourite song on hold. It is then slipped into the random playlist as the next song. The Mo registers all songs played on an evening. When being back at home, one can relive the party by listening to its soundtrack (missing songs are completed by services such as grooveshark).
Eva based the complete design – concept, functionality, interaction, form – on her idea of the experience to be created. She first explored, how objects could mediate the desired experience (acting out, see video) and then created and tested functional prototypes (see video).
Based on all this, she developed a final design. Eva did not think about Mo as an .mp3-player, but as a way to create a playful and enjoyable social music experience. And she succeeded in every detail. The Mo supports anticipation (putting together the playlist) as well as the reliving of the experience (the actual playlist of the party as a souvenir to take home). The Mo is a distributed system: Bringing themalong creates the necessary technical infrastructure to listen to music together. The random playlist made of all the favourites stored on the Mos delivers simply good music. But Mo also caters for the moments, when people want to explicitly listen to a particular song. Just pick it up and place the song on hold. Eva's design of this conceptual detail is insightful. She dismisses competitive approaches, such as voting. Anybody being to a party, where people stare on their iPhones to vote for the next song played through iTunes, knows about the disruptive effects of voting. Mo grants everybody the right of a song. However, to avoid that people take over the party, only one song can be placed on hold and the function is only available after this song was played.
Mo is a good example of how we can rethink technology, if we only see it for what it actually is: an experience, a mediator of (hopefully) positive moments, and not a product.