I remember visiting a group at Xerox PARC when I was working on a project with them in the 80’s. They had a closed-curcuit video link between their lounge and the lounge of another lab in Oregon. The idea, at the time pretty new, was that with the live link, it would foster communication between the two geographically-distant groups. People would ring a bell to call someone over, they’d eat lunch together, and just generally “bump into” each other as they crossed the video-connected spaces.
For groups that know each other, or have a common purpose, this sort of communication can be pretty straightforward and un-facilitated. But when there’s a video link between groups that have little in common, or little reason to interact, the experience needs some framing to give a reason for people to engage.
This recent vending machine from Coke is a nice example of using video to connect people in different locations. Here, they’ve put machine into “areas of conflict” — India and Pakistan — and created an experience that connects people in friendly and fun ways. The interface prompts people to do simple things like wave, touch hands, draw a peace sign and dance. It’s a nice way to move beyond the tensions and resentments of the regions.
From Coke: “We wondered what would happen if people from these two countries came together, and the answer was clear: goodness and happiness.” The video is really sweet – and worth a watch.
It’s hard to tell if this is a one-off installation — a kind of PR stunt that gets more attention on blogs and YouTube watches. But hopefully it’ll be installed in more places, reach a larger audience, and make a real impact.