Kodak Alaris’ Immersive ‘Memory Observatory’ at SXSW Launches Its New Photo-Sharing App

But it's not trying to compete with Instagram

Want to experience your own memory, only augmented? It's possible at South by Southwest. To launch its new visual storytelling app, Kodak Moments, Kodak Alaris created an activation in which passersby can be immersed in their own memories—practically seeing, smelling and even hearing them—in a chamber it's calling the "Memory Observatory." 

Of course, you aren't going to smell or hear exactly what you smelled and heard in your actual memory. But you will see whatever memory-specific image you choose to share projected on a grand scale within the activation, and the colors, smells and sounds will correspond to the emotion you've relayed to what the brand is calling an "experience guide."

The activation, which debuts Saturday, was created for the brand by artist Marcos Lutyens and is meant to be a "platform that enhances and reverberates memories to consumers," according to Lutyens.

Here's how the activation works: A person comes to what Kodak is calling the "reflection room," speaks to an experience guide, and shows an image and shares the memory associated with it. The guide then ascertains what kind of emotions relate to the memory. From there, the consumer walks to another room to find their shared image projected kaleidoscopically along with colors, smells and sounds corresponding to the feelings associated with the memory. 

"We will always stand for memories; we will always stand for helping people to tell the stories of their lives," said Catherine Meihofer, vp of marketing for Kodak Alaris. "Fifty years ago, it was a print, and then we were able to introduce premium photo products. And then we had kiosks in retail locations where you could print easily, and now we're evolving that to an app that serves the needs of consumers who want to be able to share and preserve their memories."

The brand is launching its app at SXSW because it's the "epicenter of technology," according to Meihofer. 

"[SXSW] can be chaotic for attendees," said Robbie Whiting, co-founder of Junior, a Project: WorldWide agency, the shop behind the activation. "We wanted to create a respite from the noise, a place for meaningful moments from the process of remembering a moment to the articulation of what makes that moment special to the communal experience of all our deconstructed memories, our own Kodak Moments."

The app isn't intended to be Kodak's answer to Instagram. Instead, according to Meihofer, the two are meant to exist in concert with one another. "We see them [Kodak Moments and Instagram] totally existing in parallel," she said. "If you look at Instagram, there's advertising there, and you do have a lot of randomness. [Kodak Moments is meant for] the most meaningful moments, for your most precious memories. We feel like there's an opportunity to have an elevated experience and there's a gap in the marketplace for that." 

The Kodak Moments app will also be ad free. "If we included advertising, if we included a lot of additional information, that would detract from making these moments stick out," said Meihofer. 

The app also lets consumers easily transfer images to Kodak's Picture Kiosk and create prints, greeting cards, collages, photo books and more. 

"The app reintroduces a legendary American brand to a whole new generation of consumers," said Whiting. "It is a balm for the frenetic, oversaturated realm of social media where images of latte art and politicians share space with the most meaningful moments in our lives. Simply, the app delivers meaningful pictures, beautiful stories, a more intimate experience—and no advertisements."