The biggest problem in social media right now isn’t getting people engaged online, it’s getting people engaged in person. Check-in apps like Foursquare and photo apps like Instagram definitely interact with the real world, but they tend to appeal to friends online more than the friends you’re actually, physically hanging out with.
Vim & Vigor Design, who you’d best know for creating the accessories and finish of the Nook, has developed a concept that addresses this problem of (anti)social network behavior. It’s called Jukey, and it’s a new take on the jukebox, networked to accept requests from in-person smartphone users. The idea is that people at a party can pool their music collections, and the device’s intelligence will automatically create smart playlists composed of the favorite songs of everyone who contributed. No more being a slave to one person’s tastes; no more violent lurches in the music as different would-be DJs commandeer the laptop.
"Our team noticed that more and more music listening is becoming a solitary experience. This is part of a larger trend of minimizing social interaction in lieu of digital experiences, especially for younger generations,” Partner Irina Kozlovskaya explains to Co.Design. “We set out to create a device that would combine all the best elements of services like Spotify and Last.fm, but in a real-world environment.” The idea has actually been done before to a limited capacity. Services like Grooveshark have long supported custom APIs for code junkies that would allow party participants to vote on playlists.
What Vim & Vigor does differently is that they’ve taken an idea we all know can be possible and they’ve packaged it in an enticing consumer product. Jukey itself is a very neat little music player. The simple Wi-Fi- and Bluetooth-connected speaker has no buttons. To turn the device on, you simply lay Jukey on its side. To change the volume, you swipe left or right on Jukey’s case. And you can even rewind and fast forward by rotating Jukey like a big jog wheel.
Everything else is digital. An auto mode can play music by filters like genre, or DJs can trade off tracks in a voting-based arena (much like Turntable.fm). And what’s exceptionally neat is that, even those who can’t make the physical party can join in digitally online, sharing their tracks and voting with everyone else.
So rather than losing party-goers to their musings on Facebook, Jukey constantly pulls the cloud back to the real world—in fact, Jukey pulls anyone on a social network into a good old fashioned analog celebration.
As of right now, Jukey is purely a concept. But Vim & Vigor is open to partnering with a company interested in producing it. To me, it seems like, not a necessary replacement for, but a killer extension to an existing social network. Why not have Spotify jukeboxes pumping at every party? It’d sure beat the awkward, fumbling silence of swapping users on an iPod dock.