Social media goes offline

10 January 2011

NEW YORK: Consumer electronics giants like Panasonic, Samsung and Sony are incorporating social media elements into their products, indicating an integration between the online and offline worlds.

Facebook, which boasts over 500m members, has attracted particular attention among manufacturers hoping to engage shoppers in new ways.

The Web 2.0 specialist launched Open Platform in 2007, empowering third parties to share information from its pages.

Bret Taylor, Facebook's chief technology officer, suggested the ultimate intention was to place this system at the "core" of various activities.

"The platform makes the Facebook experience more meaningful," he told the Wall Street Journal.

According to Taylor, many operators had been slow to embrace the potential such a service affords.

"There's a big disparity between the really deep social interactions we have in the physical world and what is going on online and with consumer electronics," he said. "There's a really big opportunity for innovative companies to build a social experience into their products."

At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Panasonic unveiled a "personalisable" TV set enabling viewers to browse Facebook and Twitter while enjoying broadcast content.

This gadget also lets users participate in multiplayer games on the web, and provides access to Skype, YouTube, eBay and Napster.

"Watching TV has become a very different kind of experience," said Merwan Mereby, vp, Panasonic North America.

"Once, TV was only something passive, now it is evolving rapidly to become a much more engaged experience giving more power to the viewer with the remote control."

Elsewhere, Samsung Techwin, a unit of the Korean firm, has built a "next-generation" baby monitor aimed at "tech-savvy" families.

This appliance allows parents to share audio and video footage of their children with friends using Facebook and Twitter via a memory card.

"The Babyview devices showcase Samsung's commitment to putting the most advanced technology in the hands of parents," said Mike Palazzolo, Samsung Techwin America's vp, sales and marketing, consumer products.

Earlier this month, Polaroid leveraged a high-profile tie-up with pop star Lady Gaga to promote its latest camera that lets photographers spread pictures on social sites.

Scott Hardy, the group's president, argued the Polaroid Grey Label "embodies the Polaroid brand" and offers an "injection of future-looking fashion".

"It represents Polaroid innovation for the new generation, one in which there are no limitations to sharing creativity through photography, both physical and digital," he said.

Further products utilising parallel technology include Barnes & Noble's Nook Color handheld e-reader, enabling customers to "loan" books to Facebook contacts.

Hewlett-Packard's ePrintCenter and Microsoft's motion-sensor gaming tool Kinect also employ such models.

Similarly, Sony's Bloggie HD mobile camera is linked to the company's Personal Space internet service, alongside YouTube, Flickr, Facebook and Google's Picasa.

"We wanted to make these devices fun and different while still delivering a high quality product," said Andy Bubala, director of the camcorder business, Sony Electronics.

Some organisations are tapping into their own branded properties, as shown by Nike allying with geo-location pioneer TomTom in developing the Nike+ SportWatch.

This can connect to the Nike Plus web community, which has 4m members and hosts a range of data, possible routes and other information.

"With more than 150m runs logged since its launch in 2006, captures the pulse of the running world every day," said Stefan Olander, vp at Nike Digital Sport.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal, Daily Telegraph; additional content by Warc staff