Tongues untied (tech to the rescue)

I am not a gifted conversationalist.

I carry on every conversation as if it were bomb disposal.

One false move.  One stray remark.  And it’s all going to end in free fall.

This must be why I’ve always thought that social actors should have a "prompter" the way actor actors do.

You know, for those awful moments when we don’t know what to say.

The prompter would, er, prompt us.

"Say ‘I love your dress.’  No, dress!"

You often see people who have run out of things to say.  Or you see people who have been driven back on the cliches.

Yesterday, thanks to fresh ethnographic wedding data from Tim Sullivan, I was tweeting about "Woo girls."  These people are really running on empty.  They are defined (perhaps unfairly) be the predictability of the things they say and the sounds they make.  Indeed, these women are now the targets of TV satire.  These women really need prompting.

Bar tenders are astoundingly good at creating and managing conversation.  It is an unofficial part of their job description.  I have sat with lots of them as they told me how they can see a twosome or a party of 4 coming undone.  Their job is to intervene and reanimate the conversation.  They supply this service so routinely we might as well call them emergency personnel standing by.

I’ve always felt that brands could and should get in on the act.  After all, they are often keenly interested in the outcome of the event in question.  Carbonated soft drinks are largely about making the effervescence of the product the effervescence of the event.  Successful social events are good for the brand.  The Coke brand is well served when things go better with Coke.  

I have pitched more than one client on the idea that we could use cell phones to drop conversational prompts into social situations.  If people wanted to, they could sign up for text messages and they could then speak the message that appeared on their phone.  It would by funny and fun, and it would remove chuckleheads from harm’s way.  

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to hear about the Conversacube.  This is invented by Lauren McCarthy.  This is how McCarthy describes her invention

The Conversacube is a small box meant to form the centerpiece of any conversation situation. The box sits in the middle of all conversants, with one face facing each person. Each outward face of the box has a small screen and a microphone embedded just inside. As the conversation progresses, each person is personally prompted with directions or lines to keep the conversation running seamlessly with minimal awkward or uncomfortable moments. The microphones monitor audio levels of each participant and the cube responds accordingly, adjusting prompts to enliven, mediate conflict, or balance conversation as necessary.

Brilliant or what?  Marketers, start your engines.  


Anonymous.  n.d. "Woo girl" defined.  Urban Dictionary.

A clip from How I Met Your Mother "Woo girls at the bar"

More details on the Conversacube and Ms. McCarthy here

4 thoughts on “Tongues untied (tech to the rescue)

  1. jb

    I have pitched more than one client on the idea that we could use cell phones to drop conversational prompts into social situations.” – me likey!

    me really likey conversacube as well. could have interesting application in retail settings or even large format ooh.

  2. srp

    I don’t know about the specifics of the cell=phone implementation, but the strategic idea of improving peoples’ conversations is very intriguing. Kind of like “the life of the party” who rescues dead social gatherings.

  3. Pingback: Using Technology To Prevent Awkward Conversations - PSFK

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