Hard Rock Café and Digital Memories: The Magic of Rock & Roll Lives Forever in its Memorabilia
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Hard Rock Café and Digital Memories: The Magic of Rock & Roll Lives Forever in its Memorabilia

Using touch screens as a graphic interface, Hard Rock International has collaborated with several design firms to create a digital interactive gateway to its vast collection of music and memorabilia.

By Louis M. Brill

Now through our recently acquired interactive displays we can now show off a greater degree of the life and times of Rock & Roll's history, which is all controlled by the guests who can select what they want to see and hear.

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  • "Although the Hard Rock is a restaurant, we're also a museum with a vast collection of the history and the legacy of rock & roll, said Greg Thomas, General Manger Hard Rock Cafe on the Las Vegas Strip. "All of our Hard Rock locations each present a segment of that history, which is a collection of music, musical instruments, costumes and related stage props, much of which is behind glass. Now through our recently acquired interactive displays we can now show off a greater degree of the life and times of Rock & Roll's history, which is all controlled by the guests who can select what they want to see and hear. As computer literacy is so much a part of our society and our culture, it only makes sense for the Hard Rock to translate that interest into equivalent digital exhibits or games for our guests to enjoy during their visit here."

    Using touch screens as a graphic interface, Hard Rock International has collaborated with several design firms to create a digital interactive gateway to its vast collection of music and memorabilia. Driven by unrestricted curiosity, Hard Rock guests can now explore, experience and be entertained by varied interactive digital display Rock & Roll portals, which are now in several Hard Rock Cafes throughout the United States and overseas.

    "The Hard Rock International is a future-oriented proactive company," said Thomas, "and is charged with keeping its guests entertained through their entire stay at the Hard Rock including while they're waiting for dinner seating, during dinner, and afterwards when they can enjoy our live performance sets. We have our bar, our restaurant, our video displays, our music (both live and recorded), and now, our digital on-site interactive environments."


    On the Strip, the Hard Rock Cafe - you can't miss it as it's a main part of the pounding pulse of the glitter and glow of Las Vegas signage.
    Photo credit: Hard Rock International

    Rock & Roll memorabilia is the cornerstone of the Hard Rock's brand image and distributed throughout all 161 venues around the world. From just a distributed Cafe collection, Hard Rock's memorabilia now exists in two states. The first is a physical state where segments of it are parceled out to all operating Hard Rock locations, each showing a small portion of its overall collection of over 72,000 items of historic interest. The other form is a digital state, where the entire collection is available on the official Hard Rock website. http://memorabilia.hardrock.com/

    "Since Hard Rock already has an extensive Internet representation on its official Hard Rock web site," said Michael Lemme, Creative Director at Duncan/Channon, Hard Rock's agency of record, "our thought was to engage the guests in the history and contemporary culture of Rock & Roll in a fresh way. Why not take that online content and let guests digitally interact with it here at the Hard Rock?

    To do so, three interactive display formats were created, a massive touch screen wall display, a multi-touch tabletop, and a video jukebox with all digital displays that let guests get up close and personal with the memorabilia, each with a unique location within the Cafe, and each with a unique user interface:

    Rock Wall
    This is the anchor digital display which guests see immediately upon entering the Cafe. Designed by Technomedia Solutions (Orlando, FL) and Obscura Digital (San Francisco), it consists of one very large interactive display screen which is four-feet tall by eighteen-feet wide.

    The Rock Wall allows between one and six guests (each having their own "viewing" zone) to acquire a section of display space to view any portion of the photographic or video Hard Rock memorabilia collection for historic examination. The wall not only gives each guest his or her own personal viewing zone, but also incorporates a spatialized audio system, allowing guests the ability to hear sound effects in their own space as well.

    The Rock Wall provides up to six "viewing" zones to allow guests to view any portion of the photographic or video Hard Rock memorabilia collection for historic examination. Each image come with an "i" to allow guests to obtain more information on the image. X marks the spot when they're finished viewing that image.
    Photo credit: Hard Rock International

    The Rock Wall presents itself as "public" social media, different from conventional social media which is a private communication between two people. Here with a gigantic interactive wall screen, it becomes a form of public communication, both for the guests who are using it at the moment, and as well for all the other guests watching it and waiting for their turn at it. Everyone around it can talk about what they see as well plan for their own surfing moments when they use it.

    The implementation of the Rock Wall was based on a series of anthropomorphic studies to determine how best to place the display on a wall. Its wall placement was established in a way to make the interactive screen accessible to both young people and adults, as they touched their way through the Hard Rock's digital memorabilia collections

    The Rock Wall has been effective enough with its guests that the Hard Rock is expanding its deployment with similar big digital displays in Orlando, Seattle and Berlin. A smaller version (52 inch display) called the Rock Solo now appears in an additional 70 Hard Rock Cafes throughout the United States and Europe.

    Several of these display systems are scattered throughout the Cafe's waiting area.

    Microsoft Surface
    The second digital display is a Hard Rock social media table using a Microsoft Surface horizontal screen that appears as a coffee table and looks like a gigantic iPad with similar interactive touch capabilities. Here Hard Rock guests are able to access its memorabilia collection as well as entertain themselves with a digital keyboard that plays a digital puzzle, a merchandising matching game and historic rock & roll film clips.

    The Microsoft Surface screen that appears as a coffee table and offers Hard Rock guests not only access to its memorabilia collection but as well allows them entertain themselves with a digital keyboard that plays music.
    Photo credit: Hard Rock International

    One of the appealing feature's of the Hard Rock's configuration of Microsoft Surface is it is very much program driven and thus as new Rock & Roll applications are developed for it, it keeps the Hard Rock's Microsoft Surface fresh and up-to-date with new entertainment activities for its guests. Duncan/Channon (San Francisco) and Vertigo (Point Richmond, CA) created the memorabilia application for Surface, and all other applications (keyboard, etc) were developed by Hard Rock's internal design team. The Microsoft Surface displays also appear in Nashville, Seattle and Berlin.

    Booth Interactive
    The third digital screen component follows HRC guests to their dining table where they encounter the 'Booth Interactive' which is essentially a high-tech jukebox designed with a custom touch enabled interface. Within Las Vegas Strip's Cafe's booths 38 of these units have been installed where guests can explore Hard Rock memorabilia, review and purchase the Rock Shop merchandise and vote on what video plays next in the Cafe. This both display system was designed by Duncan /Channon and Vertigo. Booths are in Dallas, Nashville and other HRC's where possible.

    The Hard Rock cafe 'Booth Interactive' is essentially a high-tech jukebox designed with a custom touch interface where guests can explore Hard Rock memorabilia, review and purchase the Rock Shop merchandise and vote on what video plays next in the Cafe.
    Photo credit: Hard Rock International

    The location of each Interactive digital display was a strategic installation decision as Rick Sconyers, Senior Director of Design at Hard Rock International pointed out, and governed equally by audience traffic flow and the intended purpose of the display. "In a typical Hard Rock Cafe on a busy night, our average table waiting time could be anywhere from forty-five minutes to an hour and a half. Now with both the Rock Wall and the Microsoft Surface placed within that waiting area, each is 'loaded' with an enormous volume of rock & roll memorabilia and other related fun activities. Here our guests have an additional entertainment value to help them pass the time which becomes more enjoyable as they're waiting."

    "Don't touch" is out the door
    What's interesting to also notice about our guests reactions," said Sconyers, "is how much the younger people are magnetically drawn to these interactive displays. We also see that our 'older' guests tend to be more reserved (coming from a 'Don't Touch' culture) about engaging and experimenting with them." As other new technologies emerge, Sconyers noted, they will also be incorporated into various Hard Rock's where applicable.

    The Hard Rock Cafe's digital displays create unique emotional connections between their guests and their favorite Rock & Rollers. The brand's use of digital signage as dedicated entertainment displays initiates a form of social media beyond the Internet and cell phone tweets. Between the Rock Wall, the Microsoft Surface and their Booth Interactives, the Hard Rock displays are big, bold and brash user interfaces that converges guest activities at the Cafe in tandem with a virtual museum, and empowers the guests in a fun way to have a greater contact with their favorite music and gives greater meaning to "Long Live Rock & Roll."

    HARD ROCK CAFE MEMORABALIA FACTOIDS

    Hard Rock Cafe was founded in 1971 by Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton, who started the first Cafe in London. The Hard Rock International’s (parent company) first memorabilia piece was an Eric Clapton guitar, a burgundy, Fender Lead II guitar used by Clapton in studio and for live performances and interestingly enough, is not autographed. That guitar spurred on a vast collection of rock & roll memorabilia of over 72,000+ items (and growing) which is now segmented and appears in each of its Cafes all over the world. As a result of all of this "collecting," the Hard Rock Cafe is now the world's leading exhibitor of rock 'n' roll memorabilia.

    What does that mean in terms of the context of the content, and how far and wide is the memorabilia distributed?

    • Total worldwide Hard Rock venues?
      - 161 locations worldwide (includes all Cafes + Live venues, Hotels, Casinos and stand-alone bars)
    • Total worldwide number of restaurants?
      - 130 cafes
    • Number of continents HRC is located on?
      - Hard Rock Cafes can be found on every continent except Antarctica)
    • Oldest Hard Rock memorabilia item?
      - In terms of key pieces (guitars, clothing) a couple of the oldest pieces in the collection include a Gennaro Fabricatore guitar dated 1812, a circa 1860's Martin 2-27 acoustic guitar, and a Rickenbacher (later changed to Rickenbacker) Electro "frying pan" circa 1933. Nicknamed "frying pans" because of their long necks and circular bodies, the instruments were the first solid-bodied electric guitars, though they were a lap-steel type. By the time production ceased in 1939, several thousand "frying pans" had been produced.
    • Historic range of years that the collection represents?
      - Thus the chronological span of the memorabilia ranges from 1812 to present day.
    • The most amazing part of its memorabilia collection?
      - Biggest piece of memorabilia is the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour Bus
    • One of the signature icons of a Hard Rock Cafe is the giant guitar sculpture placed in front of each of its Cafe buildings.
      - Of the entire collection of sculptured guitars, the largest exterior guitar in the world (built in mid-2005), was a 112-foot guitar, and unveiled at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Biloxi, which opened in July 2007.
    • The Hard Rock with the largest single memorabilia collection?
      Hard Rock Cafe Orlando houses the most memorabilia pieces of any Hard Rock Cafe worldwide with more than 1,000 items, while the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Hollywood is the hotel displaying the most Rock ‘n’ Roll artifacts.
    Louis M. Brill is a journalist and consultant for high-tech entertainment and media communications. He can be reached at (415) 664-0694 or louisbrill@sbcglobal.net

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