SmartTVs started coming on the scene in a meaningful way around 2014, and by 2022, they had transformed how many of us consume “TV” – from intuitive guides and features for presenting SVOD, AVOD, and FAST channels – twinned with a panoply of apps, for any interest or lifestyle. They delight consumers with dazzling 4K displays and window-pane models that effortlessly fit into any home décor style. Interactive apps from Netflix and Disney to specialty cooking and video games all blended into the fabric of what was once a one-way broadcast medium, transformed by digital technologies and an ever-expanding broadband grid covering 100s of millions of HHs. Transformative.
And now, there is a new kid on the block, attracting attention, and always evolving. While relatively limited today, all the stars are aligning to usher in another transformative product leap, well beyond connecting your phone to Apple CarPlay. The new kid on the block is literally “on your block,” or just down the street. The next generation of EV and hybrid connected automobiles are transforming our in car experience, forever.
Your next car will likely feature not just your favorite apps and content integrated into breathtaking visual screens and speakers, but also include thousands of global radio stations, customized music streams & audiobooks, blogs, interactive gaming and sharing, gambling, teleconferencing, cameras, AR/VR, retail partner interconnectivity, and a whole lot more.
And certain embedded “killer apps” will help to drive customer engagement to sample, learn and find value in that new “interactive digital experience center” on wheels.
Recent history provides a powerful example.
When VOD TV was budding, new content that could demonstrate “On Demand” interactive technology was in demand. Back then, karaoke emerged as a quintessential VOD product, uniquely designed to be selected and played back with synchronized lyrics inviting consumers to engage with the new technology. It was a fun and simple way to make VOD easy to understand. The Karaoke Channel was added to most VOD cable TV platforms across the emerging digital TV landscape by 2011.
Skip ahead a few years, and Karaoke is ubiquitous - on TV shows, in Karaoke bars, on home karaoke systems, YouTube, and other dedicated Apps. And once again, karaoke is helping to usher in a new market, but this time in your car. It’s getting a boost from a couple of entrepreneurial firms who have approached it from different perspectives over the years but are now collaborating to create a transformative product for this emerging market.
Imagine you can sing into a sleek professional microphone that mixes perfectly with the karaoke track playing, you can adjust the sound and modes to auto-tune voice, add reverb and effects, (and soon) track how the singer’s isolated voice matches the pitch of the song playing. All of this has been integrated into the sound system of your new vehicle’s infotainment system, available globally with rights-cleared content – and it’s coming to a car near you.
Several Automakers/OEMs have already discovered that karaoke is a killer app for the car, once again supplying the perfect fun and engaging activity that highlights the stunning sound and “experience centers” that next-generation vehicles are quickly becoming.
Today’s electric and hybrid vehicles are equipped with everything from multiple crystal-clear screens and interactive voice capabilities to Dobly ATMOS. For some cars on the road, it may just be the best audio experience space a consumer owns. So why not optimize that amazing audio (and carefully managed video) experience with the fun and joy of singing your favorite songs with a built-in feature-rich microphone? That’s what some smart engineers at Stingray and Singing Machine were pondering in a product ideation session early this year. And with some input from customers, they set out to build exactly that.
Tesla was the first, but the enhanced product is now being installed or tested in several OEMs around the world.
One new eCar owner recently shared that Caraoke (Tesla’s karaoke brand) has become her daughter’s favorite “channel” in her Tesla S, reflexively scrolling through the menu to find her Disney favorites. Equally exciting, the proud mom shared that her daughter was spelling better, and she thinks it has to do with seeing the scrolling words and hearing her voice through the car’s speakers as she “sings her little heart out.” Transformative.
Driving obviously presents unique safety considerations, and many OEMs strive to reduce driver distraction while in drive mode, so they disable interactive content visible by the driver during those times. Scrolling karaoke characters are only enabled during park/charge mode. But OEM partners wanted to extend the karaoke experience to the other non-drivers while in motion. So those same Stingray engineers came up with an HTML-based solution aptly called, the “Passenger App.” While the car is in motion, non-drivers in the vehicle can continue the karaoke fun by enabling a QR code link to replicate the scrolling lyrics experience on their phone, fully integrated into the in-vehicle sound system. They can also skip, FF & RW, queue up a song list, and more.
It’s always challenging to know where the next transformative digital product will come from. But, like the SmartTVs that revolutionized the industry, there’s a reasonable chance that it might just come from inside your next vehicle.