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Spotify: Listening is Everything

I logged into Spotify today to see my 2020 Wrapped. The page started with Spotify and the words “Listening is everything”. That made me think, yes, listening is everything!

Every day we’re moving in the direction of a more connected, augmented world. We transform our photos with face filters and photo lenses. Augmented reality is built into our phones so that we send Memojis instead of our own faces.

Brands use augmented reality to get us to use our phones to view their products in “real space” instead of trying to imagine how it would look in our homes or on our bodies from a 2D image. Augmented reality images give us context like what size shoe to buy or what shade of lipstick looks best on our face. But what about what we listen too? Spotify is way more than a music app. It’s a company embracing the future with augmented reality.

How Spotify uses augmented reality

AR Bose Frames

Emerging Tech for Artists

In 2018, Spotify interviewed Shaw Walters, Chief Technology Officer of production studio Tin Drum, about how AR and VR will change how people experience music and how musicians can capitalize on emerging technology. “I think that augmented reality is going to be everything.” Said Walters in the blog post.

Walters described the future of live augmented reality performances:

“We all want to do what Blade Runner did where you go into this place and it’s a 100 capacity venue but you can go see Radiohead from five feet away because they were there last month. They recorded their performance and now every Friday they’re just playing.”

Augmented Sound

In 2019, Spotify released a version of its app on Magic Leap (AR headset). The app shows “a location-aware three-dimensional Spotify interface on top of your world with the ability to automatically change playlists as you move between rooms.” Magic Leap created the ability to play music in the background while using other apps. Spotify is one of the first apps to take advantage of that functionality.

Volumetric Video AR Activations

In October 2020, Spotify released an AR-activation of Grammy-Award winning artist Sam Smith. An AR activation is an augmented reality experience triggered by specific image, like a QR code. The experience was made possible to do volumetric video capture from POWSTER (someone filmed in 3D on a greenscreen) and web-AR from The 8th Wall.

“POWSTER used innovative volumetric capture and WebAR technology to bring the vision to life. In addition, the “Diamonds” experience is the first to use 8th Wall’s image target augmented reality technology to trigger and track multiple volumetric video captures, creating a truly holographic experience.”

Sam Smith Diamonds AR-Activation

“We learn about the world through stories. A great story is visceral; it ignites, evokes, and stirs. It sparks a reaction and a response” (67). That’s what In Augmented Human, Helen Papagiannis describes great stories as visceral – sparking a reaction and response. It’s the story told through augmented reality that gives it value.

That sounds like what George Harb, Vice President, Digital Marketing & Innovation said about augmented reality: “To use this augmented reality technology with music allows Sam to extend their artistry onto a unique canvas in the digital universe.”

“The marriage of Sam’s art and imagination, coupled with innovative technology, allowed the creation of this groundbreaking experience that will live on within the metaverse eternally and no doubt inspire others.”

What does this mean for the future of sound?

Papagiannis describes augmented reality as “meaningful, and responsive on-demand experience with the user in an ongoing conversation with his or her environment”. Earlier this year I got a pair of Bose Frames. The sunglasses have headphones built into the frames. In theory, you can turn the sound up or down by turning your head (I haven’t gotten it to work yet). I can’t help but think what companies like Spotify will do with augmented sound on our hearing devices like augmented reality has taken over our phones.


Featured Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash

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