Robert Scoble is one of Silicon Valley’s most respected bloggers and tech evangelists, with a role as startup liaison officer at Rackspace Hosting, and a famous enthusiasm for seeking out new and interesting startups and technologies.
He took the stage this morning at Midem for a presentation on ‘Music in the Age of Context’, in which he outlined some of the new technology that’s exciting him, how it’s all weaving together, and what it may mean for musicians and the music industry.
“Last year I started seeing a new pattern happening,” he said. “Context.”
Five trends: wearable computing, including smart watches and the Google Glass augmented-reality glasses project; Big data and data computation; new kinds of sensors in devices; social network uptake. “I’m continuing to see social network behaviour double every month or so,” he said. And finally, location data also increasing exponentially “in density and sharpness”.
“We’re seeing a new highly personalised world,” said Scoble, showing a new 3D sensor from the company that makes the sensor in Microsoft’s Kinect controller. “This sensor can see you, and see who you are. When I stand in front of my Kinect, it knows it’s me standing there, not my kids.”
Scoble also said that context is about a “highly anticipatory world”, as people put more data into Google, Facebook, email and other services. “These things are gonna get ahead of us,” he said, pointing to the Google Now service, which tries to serve up information users need before they actively seek it.
“This world is gonna let us see our customers in very sharp detail, and let us know who our customers are,” he said. “Imagine if a performer was able to see you in real-time, and be able to see who else you like, and adjust my performance for you in real-time.” Scoble said Midemlab startup Audience.fm is already starting to do this: providing deep knowledge of people based on their social behaviour.
Context is also “a personalised experience based on where you are,” said Scoble. “Yesterday I saw someone on the hackathon building an experience that would change the music as you walked around, putting a song on every metre of land basically,” he said. “Imagine if you were a ski resort and could put different music on different trails for people to listen to. You could have the Skrillex trail…”
“Context is going to affect every product and service that I can imagine,” said Scoble. “My watch is already studying my emotional state, with my heart rate!” Talking of which, Scoble talked about developments in health technology, and then moved on to marketing.
A company called Vintank is studying 1.1m tweets a day just of people talking about wine, selling the data to wineries around the world.
So what to do to prepare? “Is your social media usage advanced?” he asked. “Are you thinking about how you can get better knowledge of who your customers are using some of these experiences that are coming onto the market?”
What if you’re scared about the tracking implications of all this? “I say get over it and lead, because it will happen anyways, and your competitor is going to use this stuff.”