A couple of days ago in Shanghai, China, some 1500 lighted drones took off and arranged themselves into a huge QR code that lit the sky. Scanning the code from a mobile device allowed people to directly download a videogame that was celebrating its one-year anniversary. Part of a program of airborne animations, the result not only was a highly effective bit of marketing, but was also a very public twist on information sharing: using nothing as a distribution medium.
There is precedent for this, of course, as the Bat Signal was based on a similar principle. However, imagine communicating more than “Caped Crusader, we need you!” in this way – for instance, to tell people to evacuate their homes because of an approaching tornado or wildfire or some such. Folks may not be tuned into their radios, but they’re certainly going to notice a formation of drones hovering overhead. (See, for example, this.)
The question, as I’ve raised in the past, is this: if important information is shared sans medium, is it a record? In this case, the message is literally built on air and is more akin to skywriting than ink- or pixel-based communication. So when the drones come down, how do we know the message even existed? (See this piece for an airing of a different but related grievance.)
There are many possible answers to these questions that someday will be put to the legal test, at which point a best-practice will emerge. But as somebody once said,* the future isn’t that far away. So whether it’s 3D documents or choreographed drones, the time to start thinking about what’s next is now.
* I think it was me.