When you’re at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, you know it — art works loom over crowds of people dressed in tie dyes, flower prints and bold patterns; the pulsating beats of electronic music greet you at several of the tents; and there are plenty of people with their phones out ready to take the perfect selfie with their bestie.
Those tell-tale signs are indicative that you’ve arrived at the festival, and in Coachella’s 20th year, it’s at it’s Coachella-iest. But there’s also something different about the festival this year and it may be that now, more than ever, tech plays a role in the experience.
Not only did Coachella unveil Coachella Coin, a new scavenger hunt game that festival guests can use on its app, but there are a bunch of spots throughout the festival where guests could indulge in new technologies, including a new stage at the Sahara tent that lets guests see space-themed augmented reality, Friday night headliner Childish Gambino’s collaboration with Google Pixel and a lounge from HP where people could design their own knapsack.
Brenna Bobnu, 18, of Costa Mesa was one of the people who had been checking out the festival’s tech offerings. She had just been to the HP Lounge where she designed her own knapsack and was in line for “Brighter in the Dark,” the collaborative experience between rapper Childish Gambino, actor Donald Glover’s alter ego, and Google.
“I think it’s really cool that they have this type of experience for people because (Coachella) is so much more than music,” she said. “There are so many different components to it.”
Augmented reality at the Sahara Tent
Visitors to the Sahara tent, the airplane hangar of a stage that features a lot of electronic music and hip-hop, got to see it in an all new way by using their Coachella Camera on their Coachella smartphone app. Between sets guests could point their phones at the stage to see a variety of space themed objects, including space stations, asteroids and an astronaut not unlike the giant astronaut from Poetic Kinetics that’s roaming the grounds nearby.
“Together, augmented reality, virtual reality, and the various other ‘extended realities’ will change the way that people interact with the world and each other,” Coachella Digital Innovation Manager Sam Schoonover wrote in an email. “Music festivals both on and off-site will also be affected. So while we always make an effort to introduce new technological components that the fans will find and interesting, we’re also preparing for the future.”
AR is a technology that will become more widespread because of the accessibility and ease of using a smart phone, Derek Burrill, associate professor of Media and Cultural Studies at UC Riverside.
“We’re going to be surrounded by this World 2.0, meaning you’ll have your glasses on or your phone up and wherever you point it, you’ll see animation,” he said. “A tiger will walk down the street, or a billboard will suddenly appear in the middle of the street, or your favorite characters from movies or TV or video games will all of a sudden be next to you and talking to you.”
A tech-ier experience at the Do Lab
The Do Lab, the stage famous for its pumping electronic beats and water cannons, came back with a brand new look this year, and this time it’s a little more tech-centric.
There are LED strips that are embedded in 38 columns that surround the dance floor area of the Do Lab and those strips function as low resolution video screens, said Josh Flemming, head of design and one of Do Lab’s founders.
“If you were to take all the columns and line them up in a row they would essentially be creating a video screen where you could run content through it but we’re spreading them out,” he said. “They’re all about 25 feet apart around a dance floor so when you’re standing inside of it you’re still going to get this feeling of like one cohesive video experience blowing around you.”
See photos from Coachella
This was the first year that festival guests could order food from about 10 of 50 different concessions at the festival using the popular online delivery service Postmates. The service was set up so people wouldn’t have to wait in line for long periods of time and then wait for their food to be prepared.
Some of the participating food stands included Cheezus, Fat Dragon, Hanjip, Ms. Chi, Pizzanista, Red Ribbon Chicken, Sweetfin Poke, Trejo’s Tacos and a Postmate exclusive, Monty’s Good Burger.
It’s not just food that guests could have delivered to the festival grounds, but also all the essentials they might need for the weekend with the debut of Amazon Lockers. A big block of hundreds of lockers was available in the area adjacent to the festival’s food court and guests were picking up a number of items.
Alyssa Bronikowski, a spokeswoman for Amazon, said some of the most popular items included portable phone chargers, sunscreen and Pedialyte, which helps ward off dehydration.
Guests can go to Amazon.com/coachella where they’ll be able to find a list of festival-approved items. They can purchase those items and then, instead of shipping them to their home address will select, “Ship to an Amazon Pickup location” and put in the zipcode for Indio which is 92201.
The lockers at the Empire Polo Club grounds will appear as an option but festival guests will need to click a box saying they have access to the polo grounds and will be able to pick up the package.
Then, once the package has arrived, guests can arrive with their smartphones and scan a barcode at one of the blocks of lockers and their package will pop out.
Bronikowski said that if people order their needed items before noon, they’ll be able to get them the same day.
The festival moved into the gaming space this year with Coachella Coin, a game that had its guests rove the grounds and complete challenges in order to earn coins, which they could trade for a list of prizes that included a ride on the event’s signature Ferris wheel, blankets, pins and drink koozies.
‘Brighter in the Dark’
People lined up in droves to get their pictures taken both outside and inside of “Brighter in the Dark,” which consisted of two shiny black geometric structures with different light and sound effects.
In one of the structures, Gambino’s voice blasts in from every corner as a laser light effect scatters throughout the space. In the other, a singular beam of purple light filters down from the ceiling and expands and contracts in relation to Gambino’s voice. People are handed Google Pixel phones to take selfies that they can then email those to themselves at the end of the experience.
In the HP Lounge’s “Inspired Ink” station, people could design their own drawstring backpack made of recycled materials and then ship it to themselves for free.
Another component of the lounge, “Lucid Dreaming,” had guests go into a fabric-lined room with a responsive graphic (either water, a colorful effect called “drippings” or lava) and get a 10 second video of themselves taken. The graphic would move and swirl as they moved their hands. After getting their video taken, guests of the lounge could then have it emailed to themselves.
“It was awesome, said Julie Yung, 35, of New York. “I thought it was great, but it could have been longer.”