Production backstory

The Heineken Ignite interactive bottle is born from Heineken’s ambition to develop an idea that would create a memorable Heineken experience unlocking the power and possibilities of mobile innovation and technology. To match our ambitions we followed an innovative project methodology developed by Tribal DDB called ‘SPARK’.  It’s an innovation process which blends inspiration, ideation and creation to produce an actual working prototype which can be tested in the  real world. The project is run like a start-up, which means collaborative ideation, rapid prototyping, multiple rounds of user testing and feedback, all under tight timings. The first 3 day workshop was held end of February in Amsterdam where the Global Heineken Digital team and Tribal DDB Amsterdam built a multidisciplinary creative team partnering with Massive Music, Contagious, the Global Heineken Design team and independent experts from a wide range of industries. Over the 3 days the team goes from a TED like inspiration workshop on day 1, to ideation and refinement of ideas during day 2 and 3.  A total of 3 fully fledged briefings were chosen, one of which gets the go-ahead for prototype development. The selected brief was based on the idea that when people ‘cheers’ with their bottles, ‘something magical’ should happen: a Heineken moment.

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After the workshop, the basic idea was quickly transformed into a working prototype. Heineken’s first interactive bottle uses micro sensors and wireless networking technology to sense the moment when a bottle is being used to say “Cheers”.  The bottle can also actively respond to the music and the output of specific audio and data cues. For example, it can detect various motion types such as cheering, drinking and sitting idle on the bar top. The motions trigger certain light effects lighting up the complete bottle, enhanced by the swirls of beer, carbon dioxide and oxygen. Next to that the bottle lights can be remotely activated, so that each bottle becomes an active light source controlled by specially developed VJ software, allowing to synchronize all bottles to the music beat. 

The first prototype below was clunky and still separate from the bottle itself, but it was used to demonstrate that the basic idea works!

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The next challenge was to minimize the hardware.  Everything should fit underneath a bottle of Heineken, and there’s electronics on this board to rival your iPhone: 8 led lights, a processor, an accelerometer, gyroscope and a wireless transmitter with antenna. Fifty individual components all need to seamlessly work together. With a custom designed board the tech team manages to squeeze the whole board to just over the size of a 2 Euro coin.

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The boards need their own custom casing, so the team from product design firm C10 started developing 3D printed designs which will hold the boards. There’s a host of requirements the casing needs to meet, it should be unobtrusive and stylish, made from a material that allows rapid manufacture (timings are incredibly tight), it needs to withstand cooling and house both board and battery.

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The teams figured out a way to split the case design into two parts, one dummy part which is attached to the bottle and is disposable, and another which can be screwed on which holds all the electronics and the battery. This should be done last minute before serving because the cold of the fridge plays havoc with battery life.  Prototype after prototype was produced as we were getting closer to a final version.

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Meanwhile, work on the final designs for the boards continued, as well as the programming of the custom software. This wasn’t a straightforward linear process, more like a meandering road towards improvement, but with many setbacks, baffling failures and unexpected outcomes along the way.

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Packaging and board design were now coming together. Here you see a picture of a 3D printed prototype in Heineken green, with the red star that blocks the battery from powering, as well as the circuit board perfectly fitting in. The battery is hidden underneath the board and the packaging has become much less obtrusive due to the color, the design (which matches the style of the Heineken Lounge club in Milan, where we will first test the prototype) and the slightly tapered shape which makes the whole thing less obvious. You can still see it underneath the bottle, but it feels like a design object now, not a strange bolt-on piece of plastic.

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When software, hardware and casing design come together we have the final prototype ready to launch at the special Lounge of the Future at Milan’s Salone Del Mobile design week on April 9th, 2013.  The bottle is activated by two people ‘cheersing’, sending a bright flash of light up through the green glass. When you drink, the LEDs spin faster and faster and when you put the bottle down on a surface it goes to ‘sleep’ and ‘breathe’. But best of all, at certain moments during the night we can communicate with the bottles and sync the LEDs to the beat, so we can create epic Heineken moments when the DJ, laser show, club lights and bottles all come together to form a club experience that people are part of.  With the Heineken Ignite bottle, we have created the first social bottle, which blends human behavior and communication, club environment and interaction together with the iconic green Heineken bottle for a unique experience.

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