April 25, 2013 — -- What we watch is more meaningful when we feel connected through it. This is why we huddled around the water cooler after TV shows aired, why we enjoy watching films in theaters, and why we share our reactions to everything from TV to livestream events on social media.
But unless we're together in the same room, the way we watch together isn't as sensory as what we're watching.
Enter Social Soundtracker, a mobile and web-based app ABC News is launching today that allows you to watch together in an immediate and intuitive way.
Translating Social into Sensory, Sentiment into Sound
Even if you immediately express your feelings about what you're watching on Twitter or Facebook, commenting about a moment pulls you away from the moment. And reading other people's comments may even ruin the experience for you (a la spoiler) if you aren't watching simultaneously.
Social Soundtracker translates our immediate sentiment into sound, allowing us to feel one another's presence as we watch together, even when we're not in the same room.
How It Works
To experience Social Soundtracker while watching a livestream, use your desktop or laptop computer. To use it while watching TV, download the app on your iPhone.
Once you sign in to the app via Facebook – which allows it to display your friends watching with you – tap the emoticon that best expresses how you feel at any point about what you're watching. You can change how you feel as frequently as every few seconds, as well as quickly share it on Facebook and Twitter; you choose when and what you share.
When a significant percentage of people watching with you feels the same way about a moment, you'll immediately hear the sound of that audience reaction. If they're laughing, for instance, you'll hear audience laughter. If a big percentage laughs while another gasps, you'll hear a mix of those sounds.
Crafting Media's Emotional Intelligence Layer
Social Soundtracker also allows shows and livestream programs to hear and see us in the immediate sense that we can hear and watch them. Hosts of a live show can, for instance, sign in to the app to literally hear their audience in real time, from anywhere in the world.
What's more is that by using Social Soundtracker, we'll be collectively creating an emotional layer to media that will give it more meaning not only while we watch it, but long after we do. Imagine being able to search for shows that make your friends laugh – or watch the highlights of an awards show, for instance, as determined by the actual emotional peaks it drew among your friends and others.
In the same vein, if ads integrated into our watch experience are informed with this type of emotive data and become emotionally aware of how we're collectively feeling at any given moment, we'll perhaps begin to see more dynamically intuitive integrations – and opt-out scenarios – that resonate well overall.
If You Like How That Sounds…
You can check out Social Soundtracker with our livestream of this Saturday's White House Correspondents' Dinner. Stay tuned for the TV companion iPhone app in early May.
As you use it, we'll continue to evolve its experience; a future iteration of it may integrate technology like facial detection (while ensuring your privacy, of course), so your media will be able to even more literally watch and hear you as you watch and hear it, alongside everyone watching with you.
Maya Baratz is head of new products for ABC News.