Spotify Sync is a new feature that allows listeners to connect their wearable devices and unlock playlists that adapt in real time to match their mood and activities. Sync opens the door to a new way of discovering and curating audio, one that fits the many facets of you.
Listeners have come to trust and rely on Spotify's recommendation algorithm to serve up songs based on their listening history. But there remains a lag between Spotify's data-driven picture of a user and the user's changing preferences. It cannot yet adapt to changes in the moment.
There is also a recency bias in the content that Spotify suggests. This can limit exploration of new music and present options that do not match the listener’s current mood or activity level.
Our team explored ways to integrate new technology to provide better discovery experiences. The end result was Spotify Sync — a new feature that allows users to connect their wearable devices and access playlists that adapt to their activities in the moment.
I led the interaction design for this project, with a focus on the wearable device experience. It was my first experience designing across platforms and I enjoyed the challenge of developing intuitive interaction patterns for multiple devices.
User focus groups and secondary research showed that people are using Spotify for large portions of their day. During that time, they are constantly switching activities and adjusting the music to match the moment. The discovery feature often doesn’t adapt fast enough or present the right options, which leads to excessive scrolling and decision fatigue.
Wearable technology is one of the fastest growing segments in consumer electronics.
Current shifts in the market have repositioned wearable technology as a tool for everyday life and health monitoring, rather a specialized use case for health and exercise aficionados.
It’s becoming easier and easier for people to track their health metrics. The next step is to integrate that data with other sensory inputs to create optimal experiences.
There is a rising demand for audio content and a growing preference of users for listening while multitasking during commutes, work, exercise, or household chores. Biometric data creates a new feedback loop which allows Spotify to understand context: when certain types of music are most appealing to the listener.
Spotify Sync allows users to connect their wearable devices and unlock playlists that adapt to their activities in the moment. This opens the door to discovering and curating new music that fits the many facets of you.
Users can choose their intended activity using the phone or wearable. During a Sync session, the playlist modulates based on how the listener’s biometrics change over the course of the session.
The app will use machine learning to cross-analyze the listener’s biofeedback and their reaction to audio choices based on the audio features tracked by Spotify. (Source) This creates a new feedback loop by which to generate insights about the user experience.
The EKG sensor in the wearable device monitors the listener's biometrics. Spotify can then read that data and adjust the playlist selections based to keep listeners at their desired activity level. In this use case, the primary metric monitored will be heart rate variability.
Heart rate variability (HRV) measures the rate of change of the heart beat over time. Essentially, it indicates stress levels and the balance between an person's parasympathetic (relaxed) and sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous systems. It is a reliable, non-invasive biometric of stress. (Source)
Exposure to vibration has been shown to acutely affect people's heart rate variability. Sync takes advantage of Apple's Taptic Engine to deliver science-based vibration patterns at the start of a listening session. This feature helps Sync create a multi-sensory bridge to the chosen activity state. (Source)
Sync offers a way to enhance connection between people on the app. Listener's can now see when a friend is in a Sync session and listen alongside them, deepening the social dimension of music discovery on the platform.
By offering stats from Sync sessions on the profile screen, listeners can track their listening over time. This adds a reflective utility to the rarely-used profile page.
Throughout this project, we recognized that data privacy is an important issue and a concern for many people, especially when it comes to biometric data. We established following guidelines for the use of Sync data to address some of the most pressing concerns.
Sync is not a shipped feature, so I do not have real-world outcomes to discuss. That said, we wanted to explore a few metrics against which Spotify might gauge the impact of this work.
Potential performance metrics
By integrating biometric data into its existing recommendation engine, Spotify can better adapt to listener needs, create a more personalized experience, and promote increased interaction on the platform. This deepens the relationship between the user’s daily life and the soundtrack provided by Spotify, ultimately supporting the business goal of increased customer conversion and retention rates.