On Tuesday we were able to present the Coolbox to a group of our peers and lecturers, and we were very happy with the responses we got and the discussion we provoked.
One of our peers asked us to explain how this device would be commercialised. We explained that commercial success was never part of the scope of the Coolbox project, but through discussion with the room our group quickly stepped on ways in which the Coolbox could be commercialised but still retain its satirical characteristics and functionality.
We proposed the Coolbox as a product not to be bought by consumers, but one that could be “won” or given away as a freebie by alcohol suppliers or brands. To the consumer the Coolbox is a fun thing to own, but to the supplier it has the secret agenda and potential to hook the user on Alcohol, thus causing them physical harm and, more importantly to the supplier, causing the consumer/user to buy much more alcohol than they would have without owning the Coolbox.
Meanwhile, a more interesting point was raised about the data produced by the Coolbox, and what the production and use of such data could mean. We already experimented with the publication of an individual user’s data through social media posts triggered by their drinking habits. But what if this data was stored (anonymously or not) for future use? What could such a use be?
The discussion we had with our peers went down a few possible routes. The first, which alines with the initial concept of the Coolbox as a “bad” device, was one down which the data would be used by the alcohol companies to monitor your drinking habits to better target you with adverts, promotions, and sales. If, it was discussed, the Coolbox was a product of Anheuser-Busch then they might monitor a shift in your drinking habits from regular beer to malt. In such a case they might then be able to get the Coolbox to stop ordering you Budweiser and instead order you King Cobra (one of Anheuser-Busch’s malt liquors) the next time the Coolbox is nearing empty.
Next, looking at the data as a collective, we discussed the possibility that large data sets might be used to look at the drinking habits of entire demographics or regions. This could see “bad” results, whereby more advertising media could benefit from demographic or regional datasets (for example putting up posters for beer brands in parts of a city that predominantly drink beer). Or for “good” whereby charities or health authorities may access the data and see which regions or demographics need the most help with tackling alcohol abuse (though of course this contradicts the current satirical nature of the Coolbox).
Lastly, we discussed with our peers the possibility of reusing the technology and methods that we used to build the Coolbox into a different device that could then be used for a more positive cause. We suggested and discussed with one of our peers the potential for the Coolbox’s functionality to be miniaturised and put into a pill box. Therefore we might be able to help people to remember taking their pills when they walk by, where voice provides a familiar (though albeit potentially confusing) interaction for a user that may find it difficult to interact with conventional technology. In such a case the data produced might then be used by carers, charities, or health authorities to keep track of whether people are keeping to their medicine routines.