A new social media platform called PLUGGY was just released at the Innovathens event in Athens. And no, it is not a vibrator or birth control device. On the contrary, the news from GTP tells of a social media creation brought to life by nine European bodies. Believe it or not, the Pluggable Social Platform for Heritage Awareness (PLUGGY) is aimed at promoting Europe’s cultural heritage. Here’s my initial take on the technology and the premise.
Even if the letters of PLUGGY do not line up correctly (PSPHA?), the new platform is supposed to be created exclusively for the purpose of enabling citizens and professionals in the various fields to actively contribute and promote local cultural heritage. I am not entirely sure why the Institute of Communication and Computer Systems (ICCS), the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation (PIOP) and smartphone app Clio Muse Tours branded their brainchild this way, but if getting attention was the purpose, somebody out there is a marketing genius.
However, reading the narrative on the PLUGGY EU website, I am wondering if any funding was keyholed for proper English grammar. But being the grammar police has never been in my list of credentials even if I do edit. Furthermore, looking at the original press release about PLUGGY from 2016, I am wondering where my rich Facebook-like experience is after €2.3 million euro and so many years of development? The release describes what PLUGGY was to become by now:
“A Facebook-like social platform and a series of smartphone apps are on the way to promote citizens’ active involvement in bringing out their local cultural environment and in safeguarding and enriching the European cultural heritage landscape.”
This week’s news tells of a platform that features 3D audio, augmented reality, geolocation, and collaborative games that will supposedly allow users to pump up the volume on their local cultural gems. PLUGGY even has curation tools that let users share their cultural experiences on a “European level,” whatever that is supposed to mean.
GTP’s news tells of PLUGGY being test-driven by Innovathens exhibition participants. Evidently, PLUGGY testers ran the platform through the paces running PLUGGY 3D, PLUGGY Pin, PlugSonic Suite, and Games Hunter.
To be honest, I am not getting it. Really. After scanning PLUGGY teaser and developmental screens and videos, I know there has to be something standing behind this release other than a couple of “Spank the Chicken” game apps that look as lame as any I’ve seen in two decades of technology reporting. Come on guys, my 11-year old just looked on my screen a minute ago and accused me of writing a review about a sex-toy! I am not kidding.
In fairness, I had to sign up to at least beta test what PLUGGY and its collaborators are up to. So, once inside the system I hunted down a presentation created for the PLUGGY platform by a partner, Clio Muse Tours. The tour of the Industrial Gas Museum seemed logical because most of the others seemed to be in languages other than English.
As it turned out, Clio Muse’s entry was in non-native English, as well. The PLUGGY system looks like it uses Google Maps to map out routes users might take touring a cultural facility. Used in conjunction with some splotchy texts and low-resolution imagery, the effort (for me) was less than spellbinding. The sample text below will give English teachers pause and PLUGGY users stimulus to do better:
“Listen to what the Old Athens Gasworks has to say, come closer to the factory’s odors, listen to the workers’ stories, get in touch with the old machinery that provided the city with lighting and energy. Find out more about the Industrial Gas Museum through a path of 13 stops and 6 buildings.”
And this text is Hemmingway or Shakespeare compared to others “curators” have so far contributed to PLUGGY. To make matters worse, many of the texts inside the user space are copied directly from Wikipedia. That said, I cannot deny liking a great many things about the PLUGGY user interface, but their claim to being stellar cultural content sentries is laughable. A collaboration with Vakalo College seems interesting, as well. There’s also some interesting VR and AR innovation from Unity, another partner in the project.
Look, unless there’s a lot more coming out in the next days, the tech and the usability just don’t seem to be there yet. And then there’s things about PLUGGY that just make the user feel either stupid, frustrated or both. The photo contest game creation aspect being one. Below you will see the point where I said “To hell with it,” and gave up on making something meaningful or fun.
Interestingly, the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation (PIOP) has generously allowed PLUGGY users to use or modify their Leo Fender entry under Creative Commons Licensing, as long as you credit them? No, I am not kidding. Observe the screenshot below.
PLUGGY is an EC Funded project begun back in December of 2016. The development receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 726765. So, here’s the thing.
As I type this I know a Greek doctor who took ten years of his life and millions of euros of his own money to create an innovation that will essentially help eradicate the bad effects of some reading disorders for hundreds of millions of people. And he cannot get money from the EU to fund a trillion euro enterprise.
I also know one of the world’s most renowned archeologists who is beating his head against the wall to get funds to research and preserve priceless Minoan antiquity. My point is, €2.3 million euros could be much better spent. That is unless the EC executives who approved PLUGGY can show me something on November 30th, when the platform is supposed to be live.
I’ll be testing PLUGGY’s other components over the next few days in order to do a more complete review of the platform. I hope that the developers have more than just another social CMS to offer the public. Especially since the citizens of the European Union funded this. 1,000 followers on Facebook, some cheesy teaser videos, and the careless texts I mentioned, they do not speak of “epic” cultural community for me. Not yet.