At this year’s South by Southwest, there was a poster that advertised gigs for a number of local bands. While most such posters would have to rely on the talents of a graphic designer to create a visual enticement for the band, this particular poster packed a little something extra: auditory enticement. By pressing on a thumbnail of one of the featured bands, you could actually hear a small sample of the band’s music.
The poster, dubbed the Listening Post, uses conductive ink to make this feat possible. Pressing the thumbnail completes an electrical circuit that activates a circuit board connected to speakers and a small amount of memory.
The ink can actually be applied using a regular printer, and work is underway to shrink the circuit board so that it too can be incorporated in the printing process, further simplifying the technology. The developers also envision future iterations of the technology connecting to such sites as Spotify and MySpace so that the music can be constantly updated.
The poster was a joint effort between the branding company Uniform and the Cambridge firm Novalia, the art group Found, the musician King Creosote, and Dr. Jon Rogers from the University of Dundee.
Despite the great potential of this technology, I can’t help wondering if it’s too little, too late. With the rise of tablets, we are steadily moving towards a paper-free world. Take textbooks as an example. Five years ago, the ability to add audio would have been revolutionary. Today, that pales in comparison to the interactivity possible with digital textbooks. This technology may be relegated to novelty products like this poster.