Tag Archives: multi-touch

Out & About: Westin Hotel Guest Touch Screen

My team and I stayed at a brand-new Westin hotel in Austin while we were down there for SXSW.  On the first morning, waiting for some team members (entirely too early mind you), I was happy to see a large touch screen in the guest-lobby.  So, I had to play with it.  The experience that I captured by myself was not an enjoyable one to view.  A couple days later, I recruited my colleague, Herb Sawyer, to walk through the experience for me.

So, let’s stack it up against the scorecard.

Purpose – From the looks of it, the primary purpose is utility.  One can search flights, news, weather, goings-on in the surrounding areas, even stocks if you’re so inclined.  I suppose the Westin wanted to provide a centralized, convenient location for travel information, more than anything.  Perhaps it’s designed to serve as an interactive concierge?  If so, it’s located at the other end of the lobby from the actual concierge desk.  So, it doesn’t really cater to guests looking for that information. 

More than that, I guess my question would be, as Herb and I get into at the end of the video, what does this enable the user to do here that they would not be able to do on their mobile phone?  There is no special content, aside from the local attractions & dining, that could not be found in a mobile application.  And even with apps like Yelp, I could find that on my phone.  I’m really trying to find the purpose here, but I’m left scratching my head.

11th Screen Score:  FAIL

Drama – If I weren’t always on the lookout for this sort of thing, I would have easily missed it every time I was in the lobby.  And I was in the lobby at least 10 times.  The actual placement isn’t as bad as the orientation.  It is depressed inside a large wooden casing on a table.  It just looks like a big box sitting on a table.  The screen is tilted so far down that it is almost flat, like a table-top.  If this were oriented a little differently, so the guests could at least see a touch screen that they could interact with, it might elicit more interaction.  As it was, no one was interacting with it.

11th Screen Score:  FAIL

Usability – Navigation was fine.  It was laid out in a similar fashion as a traditional website with tabbed navigation.  I did not like the fact that on the HOME screen, the large modules in the main section of the screen were not clickable.  Other things like non-scrollable flight information and inconsistent map views didn’t exactly enhance the experience.  While it was usable, it didn’t seem to be designed by web experts, certainly not touch screen experts.  It did pass the mom test, though.  I think it would have anyway.

11th Screen Score:  BARELY PASS

Interactivity – This experience is entirely touch-based.  The screen responded well to touch.  Buttons and scroll bars were large.  I could essentially do anything I wanted in 1 touch.  In this sense, it didn’t utilize the technology for what it’s capable of.  Give me multi-touch, at least.

11th Screen Score:  BARELY PASS

Information – Here’s what the experience includes:

Time – I can get this on my watch or on my phone.  If I don’t have either, look no further than here.  It takes up 1/4 of the screen throughout the entire experience.  They could have hidden it so it’s easily accessible while allowing more room on the screen for other, more important information.      

News (and scroll) – the irony here is that the hotel gives away free copies of USA Today on every floor.  Here, I only get the headline and byline.  I’d love some photos, at least.

Weather – as Herb says, it would be great to see weather where I’m going.  Much more important than where I’m staying.

Dining – the only dining/restaurant option this serves up is the restaurant in the hotel.  From here, I can see the menu and make a reservation.  Both of which are handy. 

Attractions & Events – there are a number of sub-sections in each one of these categories that could be useful for out-of-towners.  They each include various views of maps, which can be helpful and confusing at the same time.

Stocks – as Herb says, is this really needed?

Overall, the amount of unused space really reflects negatively on the brand.  No photos, no videos.  Just white space.  Even if I thought that interacting with this touch screen was more convenient than my phone, all of this information, through apps on my phone, looks better and functions better.

11th Screen Score:  FAIL

Personalization – If I went back next week or next month, I’m pretty sure I’d get the same exact experience.  It would be great if this were tied into their rewards program and it had some sort of bar code reader/scanner so every time I scanned my rewards card, I could get tailored content around my history and preferences.  Then, all of a sudden, this is an entirely different experience and one that is hard to duplicate on my phone.

11th Screen Score:  FAIL

I like the concept of these virtual information/concierge experiences in hotels.  To me, it makes a lot of sense.  But it must be planned and executed in a way that makes it useful instead of a novelty.  The novelties are never sustainable.  And we need sustainable solutions in this industry if we want it to grow.

What do you think?  Have you seen any useful experiences like this in hotels that you have stayed in?

Hit the Ground Running

I kept up with the plane’s momentum and hit the ground running as soon as we landed.  I had to rewind my clock to set myself on Pacific time, which kills me, btw.  So, while I landed at 9:18 Texas time, it was really 7:18 Vegas time.  My deadline was 8:30 – 8:45 at the Hard Rock Cafe to catch the tour.  I wanted to drop my bag at the hotel, register at the Convention Center, and make it to the Hard Rock in what was essentially an hour.  Plenty of time, right?

I felt so anxious the entire time, rushing to every destination.  And it didn’t help that I had the slowest cab drivers, despite my direction to “get me there as fast as you can.”  The broken red light right by the hotel didn’t help either.  Once we got to the hotel, I dashed inside, they had my room, I took my bags up, and then viva Convention Center.  That ride seemed to take an hour, but I got registered there and had a speedy cabby take me to the Hard Rock.  There, I walked back and forth between the cafe and the casino and across the street and everywhere in between and still could not find the tour-gatherers.  Of course, it turned out that there is a NEW Hard Rock Cafe on the strip and that’s where everyone was to meet.

So, I rode over to the new cafe – it was 8:50 by now – with two really nice guys, Phillip (from Arinc) and Seth (from Daktronics).  They both work for digital signage & network providers, were interested in new technologies, and asked me what “11th Screen” meant.  Good conversation.

Most importantly though, we all made the tour!!  The Hard Rock crew and the tour-gatherers welcomed us in, gave us some behind-the-scenes access, good talk with the GM, and then let us play with all of the technology.  And let me stress ALL of the technology.  It was almost overwhelming, how much interactive technology they have.  First, the centerpiece is the Rock Wall, a huge, 18×4 interactive, multi-user, multi-touch wall that holds 70,000 pieces of Rock & Roll memorabilia.

Then, they had quite a few Microsoft Surface displays, each with a well of content, too.

And if that weren’t enough, each booth had a small touchscreen that users could interact with and, among other things, search Hard Rock’s retail inventory.  The video is the least compelling, thanks to my direction.

As much as I love all of this sort of technology and all of these solutions, I think that they are missing an opportunity, primarily to drive additional sales.  There are no ties to ordering or purchasing anything in the cafe (including the retail store) from any of these devices.  I know that it is complicated to tie into larger systems like POS systems, but I feel like they could get much more (true) value out of these than they are currently getting. 

To their credit, their whole objective is to drive deeper engagement between the brand and the consumers, so as long as people are interacting with this technology, thus the brand, they are achieving their objective.  Aside from all this, two nuggets of information that I found interesting:

1. The average age of people visiting Vegas is 49 years old.  And Hard Rock believes that this technology is for this demo.  I actually think that the Hard Rock demo is younger than this and this could be the reason they are getting so much interaction.  And who wouldn’t want to play with these things.  Even if they are overwhelming.

2. Apparently, it only took 1 year from ideation to “turned on.”  I just can’t believe that.  Wow.

More of my adventure later….

What is the 11th Screen?

So, what is the 11th screen, you ask?  Here’s my simple answer:

In technology terms, we consume and engage with media through different “screens.” 

1st screen = big screen (cinema)

2nd screen = TV

3rd screen = computer

4th screen = mobile phone

5th screen = digital signage

And I would add a 6th screen = everything else. 

This “everything else” bucket is so big and contains so many different types and ways of consuming and engaging with media, I don’t think it’s fair to just call it the 6th Screen.  It could be the 6th, 7th or 8th Screen, really.  In this bucket, everything seems to be changing every day, in large part due to technology and in larger part, due to great, progressive thinking.  Mini turns a standard billboard into a real-life LA Story experience through the use of RFID.  Spore turns a poster into a mobile coupon with QR Codes.  And Microsoft turns tables into deep, social shopping experiences with their multi-touch surface tables.  These are all examples of the types of engagement that have been and continue be created in this bucket.  (We will explore many more.) 

So, I bring you a different, much larger bucket and in the interest of staying ahead of the curve, I will call it the 11th Screen.