Monday, July 11, 2011

Scoping the Scene

This could be bigger than "Angry Birds".

From The Huffington Post:
With its reliance on facial detection software and discreet cameras keeping a watchful eye on the front door of various nightlife hotspots, SceneTap is sure to be an app that raises more than a few eyebrows when it launches in some 50 Chicago bars next weekend.

As Forbes reported, the app will provide its users with statistics on how many individuals are at nearby participating nightspots at any given time, in addition to some basic demographics on who is there, including age and gender, picking up where other popular apps like Foursquare left off. The software reportedly scans a person's face, eyes, nose and general facial structure in order to determine sex and age -- and has a success rate of 85 percent in determining gender and 80 percent in determining age within a six-year range, according to
This application's potential for bargoers is astronomical. It's always disappointing to get to the bar and find out that it's dead that night. Or to find out it's a veritable sausagefest. For the bars themselves, though, this could potentially become a problematic Catch-22.

If your bar is experiencing a slow start to the night, the situation normally corrects itself. A few people come in, then a few more, then a few more. There's a snowball-effect to gathering a crowd; seeing other people in an establishment can often lead to others choosing to come in as well. Human beings have a tendency to act like lemmings, and this is something that businesses—and marketing firms—have been feasting off of for centuries (in fact, the very creation of SceneTap is a testament to this principle of human nature). But if potential lemmingscustomers check ahead of time and find out that very few other people are there, then you've likely eliminated the very catalyst that helps a crowd grow.

There's also another way this hurts bars: It makes it convenient for people to go somewhere else. If you've just driven a half hour to pick up your friends, get to the bar, and find a parking spot, and then you walk inside to find a disappointing turnout, the cumulative effort it would take to choose another establishment and then get your group to it is often enough to dissuade you from doing so. Call it the "Fuck it, we're here" effect. You may be turned off by the lack of a crowd, but at the very least you and your friends are likely to have a drink while deciding whether to tough it out or find greener pastures. Sometimes one drink will turn into two, and two into three. And while all of that is going on, the aforementioned hearding mentality is taking place among the other people arriving at the bar. But if your phone tells you that no one's at the bar before you even leave your house, then how much more effort does it take for you to change your plans and go elsewhere? And when everyone else is doing the same, the bar with the low initial turnout is doomed.

With all of that being said, if they start running this service in Pittsburgh (or if I find myself in another city where SceneTap is active), I'll probably use it. As a bar patron, the advantages are just too valuable. But if I was a bar owner, I would definitely be wary of a SceneTap future, and what it will mean to the way I do business.

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