An Illustrated History of Questionable Tech at Coachella

By Sophie Kleeman on at

Just when you thought the terrible attire at the Coachella music festival couldn’t get any worse, reports emerged yesterday that everyone’s favourite culturally insensitive feather headdress parade will be providing this year’s attendees with virtual reality headsets.

The Coachella VR headset will be included in every ticket buyer’s welcome kit and will work with Android and iPhone apps. Vantage.tv, the company that Coachella has partnered with to bring this magical experience to life, promises fans can “[see] performances from top artists, experience 360-degree panoramic experiences from around the festival grounds, and watch VR experiences created by other festival-goers.”

But while virtual reality at Coachella may seem like a cool, newfangled concept, the festival actually has a well-established tradition of surfacing all kinds of ridiculous technology. Grab a daisy chain and join us as we meander through the hip graveyard of Coachella’s attempts to turn itself into South by Southwest!


The Tupac Hologram

A friend recently asked me if I remembered the Tupac hologram. Remember it? How could I ever forget?

 

An Illustrated History of Dumb Tech at Coachella

 

OK, so it wasn’t actually a hologram, and it came onstage and yelled “What the fuck is up, Coachella!” which undoubtedly terrified every concertgoer who was tripping balls at the time. On the other hand, it probably delighted that one friend who still thinks Tupac is alive, and it will provide me with conversation fodder any time I can’t come up with anything to talk about on a first date.


Something called “audio augmented reality”

 

An Illustrated History of Dumb Tech at Coachella

Kickstarter

 

Here earbuds are “kind of like high tech hearing aids,” and also “like bionic hearing” but are officially known as an “Active Listening System.” I have no idea what any of this means, but I do know that Here partnered with Coachella this year to provide attendees with their earbuds, which supposedly allow you to “control and personalise a live-audio environment” from your phone. Every hipster’s dream of looking like an octogenarian is about to come true.


This “swimming pool”

 

An Illustrated History of Dumb Tech at Coachella
Pearl Media

 

This is not a swimming pool! It is a dance floor! A “mirage”! A cruel trick played on people who probably just want to throw themselves face-first into a real pool! You trickster, Coachella.


A crane flower

 

An Illustrated History of Dumb Tech at Coachella

 

Coachella is chock full of bizarre art-and-technology installations (more on that below). This one is particularly disconcerting.

From LA Weekly:

The crazy thing was that the flower swooped up and down; half construction crane, half psychedelic creature from another realm. Folks walking by seemed mesmerized, perplexed; the thing had popped up out of nowhere. “It’s terrifying” said someone named Jack. “It looks like something from Mario Brothers,” said a guy named Alex from L.A. “I keep worrying it is going to eat me.”

Alex from L.A. is not wrong to be concerned.


A 360-degree selfie station

H&M set up an “extrasensory playground” last year, which included a section for taking 360 degree selfies, complete with mirrors, professional lighting, and “visual effects”. The playground also featured something called an aura reader, “which offers insight into how a user’s inner person connects to the outside world via sharable, social media-ready photos,” or something.

Note: We couldn’t find any photos of the selfie station. Probably best to just use your imagination. Or better yet, don’t.


A fingerprint scanner to keep your beer cold

 

An Illustrated History of Dumb Tech at Coachella

 

Instead of forcing attendees to chug all of their beer like heathens, Heineken came up with a way for them to keep it cold while taking a 360 degree selfie or hanging with Lindsay Lohan: a fingerprint-activated beer cooler. Yes! This is exactly what I envisioned when I thought about the future.


A giant roving caterpillar

Coachella sure likes to fuck with its probably-not-sober guests.

The giant, moving caterpillar, designed by the art collective Poetic Kinetics, came attached with a beacon, which allows smartphone users who walk by it to receive information about what’s happening around them.

“With the caterpillar, that’s kind of experiential messaging we’re trying to deliver,” Gopi Sangha, the director of digital strategy for Coachella’s parent company Goldenvoice, explained helpfully. “The caterpillar is having a live dialogue with the fans, to kind of bring it to life and share some of its personalities, also engage with some social conversation around it.”

It then somehow turned into a butterfly, but not, unfortunately, a butterfly one could ride away into the sky and away from Coachella.


Honorable mention: “Polo Gigante”

“Polo gigante” is more art installation than gadget. But considering that its sole purpose involves shooting paint-covered tennis balls at a giant Lacoste polo shirt, it deserves its own spot.


This is not to say that everything tech-related at Coachella sucks—the wristbands and ear plugs could be quite useful — but more often than not, it’s a breeding ground for buzzwordy and utterly useless pieces of technology. Why the hell would you need a fingerprint scanner for your beer? Just keep it in a cooler like a normal person!

Then again, at least it’s not Burning Man.

 

An Illustrated History of Dumb Tech at Coachella