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8 Interactive Technologies of Future Shopping Malls

When Rebecca Minkoff’s flagship store opened in SoHo in 2015, the retailer was known primarily for selling bags. Since introducing interactive technology for their customers on the floor, clothing sales tripled their expectations within a year.

Interactive technology in retail has been the driving theme behind our previous two blogs on shopping malls. We detailed how the offline retail industry has changed over the last decade and how it can adapt, in or out of lucrative holiday seasons. In addition to the impact of e-commerce and economic downturns, people’s spending habits have been influenced by an increasing desire for multisensory experiences, often in offline spaces.

Investing in interactive public art has a huge ROI both fiscally and culturally for their surrounding communities and businesses. Establishing a returning audience through these experiences is the answer to shopping malls’ survival. What exactly do these experiences look like in today’s malls? In the third and final article in our shopping mall series, we’re going to look at six different technologies you can find in the world’s most cutting-edge and successful shopping malls.


Photo: Marina Nazario/ Business Insider

1. Interactive mirrors

Oh, the drudgery of standing in line for a changing room only to be harassed by a sales associate as you struggle with a top—brands are now using interactivity to make changing room experiences fun and unique. Ralph Lauren’s flagship store in Manhattan implemented touch-screen mirrors that display your items and let you adjust the lighting. You can also request different sizes via touch-screen from your sales associate, who lets you know in real-time when they’re en route.

Touch-screen mirrors are a good example of how retail spaces are mimicking the interactive aspects of e-commerce. Rebecca Minkoff’s store houses interactive mirrors with eBay’s inventory management software. The mirrors act like virtual personal style assistants, making suggestions and telling customers exactly what’s in stock. The interactivity also helps the company track spending habits while increasing sales.


Photo: Business Wire

2. Virtual try-on

Less widespread than interactive mirrors is the virtual try-on mirror released by Samsung in 2015. The idea is to set up mirrors in non-retail spaces that provide customers with a hassle-free, interactive way to engage with products without stepping foot inside a store.

A  similar product was more recently patented by Amazon, and acts like a full-body Snapchat filter that integrates virtual try-on with backdrops in various locations. The company claims to use the world’s most advanced technology in light and projection to bring online shopping models to an offline, participatory audience.


Photo: brandchannel

3. Interactive window displays

Bloomingdale’s in Manhattan installed an interactive window display for Father’s Day in 2015. The goal of the project was to stop foot traffic by offering a captivating participatory experience. It also provided an opportunity to make sales out of convenience; if customers liked the products they experienced, they could make purchases without taking extra time to go inside.

Similarly, French shoe retailer Repetto drew in foot traffic by using motion-tracking technology in an interactive window display. Audience motion created a holographic catalogue that reacted in real-time with customers. 



Photo: Matthew Carasella/Bloomingdale’s

4. Immersive screens

Microsoft deploys immersive screens in their stores that wrap around the entire retail space. A server synchronizes the images as they flow from screen to screen so the experience isn’t localized to one portion of the floor. The immersive display benefits stores in their versatility. They offer product information, educate viewers on tech topics, provide audio visual entertainment, invite participation through activities like gaming, and update customers on localized events and news.







Photo: Patrick Bingham-Hall

5. Combining high-tech architecture and light

Since the beginning, shopping malls have focused on interior space and retail, often neglecting their exterior appeal. Incorporating interactive public art, technology, light and design into mall exteriors is another effective way of place making and drawing in customers.

The Bugis+ shopping mall in Singapore invested as much into its facade as its interior, and the result is a piece of architecture that is hard to pass by. The building features a curved, crystal-mesh facade. Lighting is integrated into the mesh and controlled with custom software to make it sparkle during the day and glow after sundown. It was designed to involve its surrounding community in an interactive experience; artists and the public can project messages and art into the crystalline architecture on a large-scale. This not only drives mall traffic, but establishes the mall as a cultural and artistic place-maker in the region.



6. Sound and light shows and simulated experiences

The Mall of America offers a free 9-minute interactive light show every night that focuses on engaging and entertaining younger audiences. The show features lighting that is programmed to a variety of music styles. It can be viewed from various levels of the Mall’s concourse, but those dancing to the music on the ground floor experience spotlights and other lighting effects interacting with their movement in real-time. According to this mom, the multisensory show is effective in driving return traffic, especially for families seeking a unique, emotive experience.

Multisensory experiences are heightened even more intensely at MOA’s FlyOver America. At a small price, you can virtually tour the country’s most iconic landscapes and landmarks in an experience not unlike Brave New World’s feelies, with weather and scents incorporated with sound and visuals.


Photos: Active Lab

7. Experiential-only retailers

The Grand Front, a six-storey shopping mall in Osaka, Japan, sets itself apart from most other shopping malls on the planet through interactive technology. You won’t find your typical mall anchor stores at Grand Front—to get a lease there, retail spaces must offer technologically innovative, immersive experiences for consumers. Big brands exhibit concept stores that tackle innovative themes rather than their run-of-the-mill products.

The mall also houses the Innovation Lab, which showcases startup businesses that use mall-goers as guinea pigs to beta-test products like the aforementioned interactive mirrors. Grand Front Osaka also has a Knowledge Capital devoted to edutainment, bridging the gap between retail and multisensory experience. The mall is part of a larger goal not only to resurrect shopping mall longevity but to stimulate a declining tech sector among the city’s largely ageing population.


8. Robots

A 4-foot humanoid robot has started spicing up retail spaces around the world. “Pepper” is touted as the world’s first robot that understands and recognizes facial expressions, voice, body language and emotion, and is capable of carrying out basic conversation. The robot is useful in a variety of settings including the home, but introducing the robot to retail space helps welcome and direct foot traffic in conjunction with human staff.

The robot has the added non-human benefits of interactively entertaining kids while their parents are browsing, and following up with customers after retail exchanges. The impact of Pepper on retail space is so promising that the first 1000 Peppers sold within their first minute on the market for about $1600 USD a piece.

Perhaps the most intriguing interactive component to Pepper in a retail space is its ability to style. The robot is programmed to understand how inventories of clothing items fit different body types, and provide detailed personal style advice to individual customers. Too shy to get an opinion from a stranger? Just ask Pepper.


If you could describe the future of shopping malls in three words, they would be interactive public spaces. The world’s most thriving shopping centres stay ahead by offering technology and experiences that e-commerce can’t.

It’s not realistic for all shopping malls to adopt these expensive interactive technologies like robots and touch-screen mirrors—but making relatively small installation investments provides opportunities to engage with customers in new ways and create offline social platforms. These will have a huge impact on the success of shopping malls, not only economically, but culturally in their communities.

Any way you slice it, years of overbuilding means that not every mall will survive the coming generations. Those that do will undoubtedly make use of technology, art, and interactivity in their public spaces.


To learn more about a Limbic Media product that’s making public spaces interactive, check out Aurora.

Interactive Technology and the Future of Shopping Malls as Public Spaces


 Just blocks from Limbic Media in Victoria, BC stands a $72 million construction site that will become a shiny new Mayfair Shopping Centre next fall. It might be hard to find reasoning behind such an investment when the smell of death seems to be in the air with shopping malls. Are shopping malls just another blip on the capitalist timeline, like newspapers or drive-ins? Or are they a cultural necessity that needs to adapt to a changing consumer landscape? An in-depth look at successful shopping malls in today’s market points to the latter—and they’re adapting through technology, interactivity, and place making. This is the first in a series of Limbic Media articles on how shopping malls are changing as public spaces.

Where does shopping mall culture come from?

The role of shopping malls has shifted from generation to generation. Unless you’re riding a roller coaster at the West Edmonton Mall, we now usually think of shopping malls strictly as consumption centres; places we can’t afford to be lured into for the sake of browsing or hanging out, unless we’re in-and-out for something specific. In 2012, venture capitalist Chris Dixon wrote that the future of “offline commerce will serve only two purposes: immediacy (stuff you need right away), and experiences (showroom, fun venues). All other commerce will happen online.” With this changing tide, it’s easy to forget the history behind shopping malls as social placemakers.


The earliest shopping malls in North America opened in the 1920s to mirror the automobile industry’s rise. Malls provided easy car-accessible centres for family outings. As suburban invasions of the 1950s moved people away from social hubs in city centres, architects like Victor Gruen, famous for pioneering shopping mall design, saw this cultural shift as an opportunity. Malls could drive consumer traffic by getting people out of their cars and into  commercial spaces conducive to public social interaction in a landscape where there was none. If people had an interactive and engaging place to shop in, they would keep coming back.


By the early 1980s, large centres like the West Edmonton Mall usually contained social, non-retail areas like open-air restaurants, skating rinks and even themed amusement parks. Around this time, shopping malls were eating up 50% of retail profits across the United States.


Why are shopping malls “dying?”

Flash forward to the post-recession years. Retail outlets like Sears, Macy’s, and Target, the anchor stores of shopping malls, have been filing bankruptcy and closing their doors en masse. When it comes to the demise of shopping malls, in concurrence with Dixon’s prediction, online retail is blamed as the culprit.


People are spending more of their dollars online for its convenience and the credibility that online reviews provide. Between 2010 and 2016, Amazon’s sales grew from $16 billion to $80 billion, almost four times what Sears made in 2016. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, e-commerce accounted for 11.6% of total retail sales that same year, which seems fairly in-line with the number of mall closures—predicted at 15% over the next decade in the United States.


Accusing e-commerce exclusively for killing malls is probably an oversimplification. Mall visits declined about 50% in the few years after 2008. With the economic crash, people generally had less disposable income—but their attitudes about consumption, especially among millennials, also changed. People increasingly value multisensory experiences over, or alongside of, the attainment of goods.


There’s also the issue of real estate. When anchor stores like Sears and Target close, they leave hundreds of thousands of empty square footage for over-built malls to fill. Finding tenants who are willing to sign expensive leases in a less-than-promising retail market is hard, and malls have to shutter. It might be more accurate to say then that shopping mall deaths are due more directly to the misuse and cost of space rather than a massive move of pedestrian traffic to an online marketplace, at least for the time being.


The increasing death of shopping malls seems concomitant with the death of a certain sense of community that malls originally set out to encourage in the 1950s. Inner cities are becoming more unaffordable and more communities are dispersed in urban sprawls. People have less time to join or establish community groups because they are working ever harder to support themselves and their families, and they now have online social platforms to engage in at their convenience. Ironically, the increase of virtual connection has left us feeling no less socially isolated—some would argue even more isolated—than before the rise of social platforms via the internet.



What are malls doing to reverse the trend?

The new demand for experiential consumption combined with real estate barriers means that shopping malls need to reinvent their spaces if they hope to survive the coming generations. Malls with the same stores and brands on repeat are boring to customers. Centers need to create unique experiences and spaces to attract visitors and keep them returning.


One solution is to embrace digital technologies that are seen as a threat to offline shopping and use them to transform shopping malls into multisensory experiences. Malls are reimagining their public spaces into entertainment centres where audiences can participate. By offering this kind of social currency to consumers who value multisensory experiences over physical products, shopping malls increase return foot traffic. Another approach is to add learning components to multisensory displays. Visitors are given opportunities to learn about products while they’re engaging with them, which is especially effective with younger audiences.


In the last decade, shopping malls have seen a rising demand for “edutainment.” Edutainment centers combine themed entertainment with experiential learning and high-tech games. 53.8% of all indoor entertainment centers in the world, mainly by the companies Legoland Discovery Centers and KidZania, opened between 2010-2015. This growth reflects the positive effect that combining immersive edutainment and technology with retail have on returning visitors and overall demand for multi-use shopping malls. Because of increased vacancies from anchor store failure, edutainers also don’t have to worry about purchasing land or creating infrastructure for their business—it’s a win-win situation.


But shopping malls don’t have to go so far as full-fledged edutainment centers to increase foot traffic. Spaces filled not only with art, but immersive art and displays, are the most likely to attract and keep visitors around. Brands and commercial spaces are catching onto the idea of placemaking by using interactive and immersive art to engage and educate audiences about their products. To create a narrative for the new Ford Fiesta, Ford created a pitch-black maze to create a tactile experience and a 360º mapping projection to virtually immerse viewers in the new model.


North American retail outlets are catching up to new immersive technologies to offer shoppers mall experiences that they can’t achieve at home or through e-commerce. Interactive mirrors, navigation touch-screens platforms, robots, augmented reality displays and smartphone apps are being adopted by shopping malls to create an emotive, participatory experience for consumers. Interactive technologies like apps also help malls keep track of foot traffic and find out what’s working.


What is the future of shopping malls as public spaces?

Ironically, the future of shopping malls relies on a combination of both emerging and traditional values: creating interactive, engaging experiences through technology, and using them to foster a sense of connection and community that malls seem to have lost since their inception.


If malls hope to survive, they need to invest in non-retail spaces that involve people and focus on community-centric marketing and placemaking. Without necessarily investing in massive edutainment ventures or technologies, the return of investing in public art and displays is huge, even if its main purpose is merely to raise the space’s profile and attract foot traffic. Much to the reprieve of shopping malls, the demand for non-retail experiences is still very much alive and well, even if brick-and-mortar retail is on the decline as an exclusive use of space. 

Press Release: Limbic Media forms strategic partnership with Texas based Lumyn





Limbic Media and Lumyn Immersive Media announce a strategic partnership to deliver the world’s first interactive AI-based lighting platform.


“The easiest to use and most sophisticated sound reactive lighting product in the market”

“Aurora’s capabilities for expansion are limitless, from sound reactive to sensors to online data via APIs”

“We are very excited to share this game changing technology with the world. This Strategic partnership with Lumyn will help launch Aurora out into the wild. We have tremendous trust and respect for Lumyn’s CEO, Darren Vader” — Justin Love, President, Limbic Media

Victoria, BC & Dallas, TX— July 14th, 2017- Limbic Media and Lumyn Immersive Media are excited to announce a new strategic partnership that will launch the world’s most advanced sound reactive lighting system, Aurora, for the upcoming holiday season into the United States. Both companies are enthusiastic about the opportunity to impact the public through an immersive, personal experience using patented audio analysis algorithms to unravel sound in ways that no human being or lighting designer can. Audio information is analyzed in real-time to extract features as input into an AI based lighting engine.

Many customers have already benefited from using Aurora to help increase their brand exposure, attract attention to their event and expand their reach via social media. Aurora provides a “wow” factor at events, drives traffic and grabs attention at prime locations, delights children during the holidays, and so much more.

The hardware team was asked to create a platform that would not limit the creativity and vision of our designers and clients. Aurora is a beast of a system with a huge amount of raw processing power and expandability.  While I personally find the specs impressive, they are merely in service to the complex software that makes possible the incredible interactions Aurora has with the public.” — Simon Pearson, Senior Hardware Engineer, Limbic Media

“In my decades of experience in the lighting industry, this is the most exciting product that I have ever seen.  I am impressed with the creativity and knowledge of the team at Limbic Media and I am thrilled to be partnering with them” — Darren Vader, CEO, Lumyn Immersive Media

For more information on Aurora, please visit:


About Limbic Media
Limbic Media creates high-tech, engaging experiences at the intersection of art and technology. Our team of artists, computer scientists, and engineers have a passion for building products that inspire people to re-imagine their connection to each other and to their environments. We are passionate about technologies that invite you to engage, collaborate and play.

“We use art and technology to enhance the exploration and experience of the human condition” — Justin Love, President, Limbic Media.

About Lumyn Immersive Media
Lumyn Immersive Media is based in Dallas, Texas and offers design, consulting, rental and sales of immersive lighting experiences, technology based sound and light systems, displays, shows, and art pieces for events throughout the United States.


Limbic Media
#2 740 Discovery Street
Victoria, BC
V8T 1H2

Lumyn Immersive Media
3368 Garden Brook Drive
Dallas, Texas

Creative Marketing in an Attention Economy

Earning Consent: Creative and Ethical Approaches to Marketing in an Attention Economy

Marketing is a necessary tool for getting the word out, but it doesn’t have to be a necessary evil. Earning consent to market to an intended audience, by giving them experiences and content that have real meaning and value in their lives, is not only a more ethical approach than attempting to get attention at any cost, it may prove more effective.

Arguably, time is our most valuable and non-renewable resource. In an economy where advertising is the main source of revenue for information and networking forums – social media, podcasts, magazines and events to name a few – advertisers are vying for ever smaller scraps of our time and attention, and many are willing to use manipulative means to get it (read just about any online marketing blog to learn the latest tips and tricks).

Tristan Harris, the former product philosopher and design ethicist at Google and leader of the non-profit movement Time Well Spent, points out that measuring a site’s value to advertisers by the amount of time user’s spend looking at it does not account for the dissatisfaction and harm caused by countless hours wasted online.

Among the many initiatives Harris is involved with is the development of tools for measuring how well web products align with the goals and aspirations of consumers, and therefore bring real value to people’s lives. While Time Well Spent is aimed at getting designers of big players like Facebook, Twitter and Google to be more ethical, advertisers can also aim to increase their ethical standards, and by doing so they may get ahead of the curve. As a recent Forbes study on the difficulty of marketing to millennials points out, young people are blocking out advertising and going to their networks for recommendations.

They are taking the power back by giving consent to receive advertising from trusted sources, and to earn that consent businesses must consistently provide content and experiences that are both desirable and life-enhancing. For example, Tim Ferriss’ podcast “The Tim Ferriss Show” has generated a huge following by being a reliable source of information and entertainment. Having earned his audience’s consent, he uses his podcast to leverage support and to market his own and other people’s work. This informal advertising is effective because his listeners have chosen to engage and have grown to trust the value of his recommendations.

As the hours spent on smartphones and social media attest, interactivity is effective at getting attention. Interactive technology can exploit this human value in order to benefit advertisers, but, when designed with the intent to enhance people’s lives, it has the potential to be an integral part of an ethical, consent-based, marketing strategy. From language learning sites like Duolingo, to the use of wearable devices to support community building at events, there are numerous examples of how interactive technology can be used to fulfill people’s values and goals. It is through these fulfilling activities that networks and communities of participants become actively engaged and willingly give their consent to learn about the products and services being offered.

Limbic’s Aurora™ lighting system earns attention through interactive experience

A growing arsenal of tools, like ad-blockers and streaming sites, are likely signs we’ve reached peak attention wherein competing for people’s time in an increasingly sparse landscape will not yield more business. Providing experiences, information and products that are not simply desirable, but that satisfy real needs and values can build respectful relationships and earn the consent required to market honestly and effectively to a growing network.


New Developments in Sound Reactive Lighting

Welcome to Fall. As the days get darker, things at Limbic Media are lighting up.

Aurora™, our sound reactive lighting system, is getting major attention across North America with holiday installations planned in cities from coast to coast.

innovationtree1Innovation Tree

Last week we unveiled our latest project the Innovation Tree, a testament to Victoria’s high-tech innovative spirit. The Innovation Tree was made possible through a collaboration between the DVBA, the City of Victoria, and VIATEC.

The Innovation Tree is located at the bottom of Government Street near the Empress Hotel. The Innovation Tree is powered by Limbic Media’s sound reactive Aurora™ lighting system. The Aurora™ system controls 1000 LED lights in the tree and responds to the sounds of the City to create intricate and beautiful patterns of light.

At the launch the Innovation Tree came alive to the music of the The Jonnie 5 brass band and even Mayor Lisa Helps was moved to dance in the street alongside the other revelers!



Sound Reactive Lighting Algorithm Development

On another note, the amazing engineers and lighting designers at Limbic Media have been developing the audio analysis algorithms that drive the Aurora™ product. Here is a video demonstrating its power using our large globe-style fixtures.

Lights are 100% controlled by the music in real-time, no designer needed.

High Density 3D Volumetric LED Display

Recently we have been experimenting with an amazing new 3D LED display.

For the Integrate Art Festival we built an installation using more than over 1000 individually controllable 360 degree LEDs, mapped them into a 3D geometry, and used Aurora™ to analyze and visualize the incoming audio stream live from a DJ (Arya from EMP Productions).

The result is mind blowing…and this is just the beginning 🙂

Limbic Media profiled in BC Innovation Council video

Limbic Media was recently recently profiled in a BC Innovation Council video where we get to talk about our company and Aurora™ -the audio-reactive lighting system we are launching later this year. Atagamaton – a motion controlled kinetic instrument we developed with Monkey C Interactive is also featured in the video.

After the video shoot in December we were invited to showcase Aurora™ and the Social Wearables at the sold out inaugural #BCTECH Summit in January. Kudos to the BC Innovation Council – the event was a major success! We’ll definitely be back next year.

Special thanks to Tarah Ferguson (BCIC) for a great interview and to Tahira Endean (BCIC) for helping us showcase our work at the Summit.

The World’s Largest Musical Instrument

Over the last year we had the pleasure of starting work on a very interesting and totally ridiculous project. We were tasked with building “The Worlds Largest Musical Instrument”. Sounds cool right?

So basically it is a wirelessly controlled system where a piano keyboard sends its note data to a set of, very loud, distributed air horns. Each air horn is connected to a compressed air scuba tank and is totally standalone, meaning it has its own battery, and wireless receiver and can be placed up 10 km from the location of the keyboard. So far we have built 12 of these horns, tuned specifically to the notes on a piano keyboard such that Oh Canada and God Save The Queen can be played with the system.


The system was installed and performed during the Music By The Sea music festival this summer out on 12 boats in the Bamfield Inlet, near the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. Big thanks to the local community of Bamfield for donating their time and boats to make this crazy experiment happen!

However, this is only phase 1. Over the next 2 years we plan to take this project international.  On Canada Day 2017 (Canada’s 150th celebration) Oh Canada will be performed from Bamfield, Canada. The notes from the performance will be transmitted in real-time over the internet, not only to sets of boat horns all over Canada, but around the world! At which point it will be “The Worlds Largest Instrument”




This insane idea/concept and funding for the project was brought to us by the Music By The Sea music festival and the Director our good friend, genius composer and inventor Chris Donison. Watch The Ted talk at TedX Victoria 2015, to hear about the project in his own words.

If you enjoyed that…

please also check out this short documentary chronicling the project so far and describing the overall vision. Big thanks to Cedarwood Productions for making the film.

WINNERS! Limbic Media at the 2014 VIATeC Awards

Limbic Media is a transdisciplinary team of artist-engineers with a passion for technology and the arts. Limbic Media was awarded “Member of the Year” at the coveted 2014 VIATeC Technology Awards Gala. Chosen as a leading community supporter and collaborator celebrating innovation and excellence in the Greater Victoria’s advanced technology sector.

Limbic represents the nexus of technology, art, and entrepreneurship that we think best represents Tectoria today and our community in the future.” -Thompson, Nevin. Limbic Media: Tectorian of the Week. Web. 11 June 2014

Thank you Constanze Link for compiling this footage to celebrate our VIATeC “Member of the Year” award, and for capturing Chris Gat’s show stealing moves!

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