Music Ally on Music AR

Music Ally replied thusly (paywall) to my post yesterday on musical versions of Pokemon Go:

 Pokemon Go’s success is about Pokemon more than AR: it’s hard to think of music brands that would generate a similar buzz, rather than (for example) story-based brands like Harry Potter or Star Wars.

My experience with my kids yesterday confirms that Pokemon is critical to Go.  They loved the game so much I almost couldn’t get them to glaze over in front of the TV instead of hunting Pokemon around the neighborhood. A big part of the appeal was imagining specific Pokemon characters existing in the real world. If they didn’t love the characters, they wouldn’t care.

That said, I think the product challenge for augmented reality music is to find a good reason for that particular sound to be in that particular place, and to be virtual rather than physical.

Annotating the space is a use case that satisfies both requirements.

As a practical, rather than artistic, example, people in a restaurant might review menu items.

The sound needs to be in that particular place because it is about that place; using the location to access the sound makes the app easier to use. The location establishes the context, which frees the user from having to tell the app what the context is.

One reason that posts need to be audio because talking is easier than typing . Another is discoverability: the user doesn’t have to be looking down at a screen to discover that relevant audio exists; the sound can just start as soon as it becomes contextually relevant.

Why does the sound needs to be virtual, as opposed to running over physical speakers? Eliminating the need for distinct speakers in every location creates economies of scale. Some types of audio – such as comments about menu items in a restaurant – are only relevant to one listener at time.  The owner of the speakers would only want flattering comments.


All this said, Music Ally’s thought about buzz suggests a marketing issue. Music is for art. Whether it works is a creative question. So what we need to figure out is the creative and artistic value of location-based music.

Dancing or going to a show is obviously a social activity, and location abets social gathering. So then we want to ask about the benefit of virtuality. Why is virtuality crucial?

Noise is one possibility. To the neighbors a virtual concert is indistinguishable from a silent one.

But I don’t know. This is all speculation. You’d have to do it to find out.