Tag Archives: RFID

Friday’s 4-1-1, The What’s and How’s of a Modern Driving Range – Top Golf

Top Golf

What do you get when you combine RFID technology with a driving range? You get Top Golf, a modern version of the tired, old place you go to hit golf balls into a wide open field.

I’ve seen and heard of these places around Dallas for the last few years, but I hadn’t ever experienced it for myself. Until last week. And let me tell you, it’s a night full of fun.

The place is popular and always crowded and a large part of the draw is the technology behind the experience. Of course, no one really cares about the specifics of the technology – they just want it to work – but it’s the technology that creates the draw. Or rather, it’s the technology that enables the experience that creates the draw. Without the technology, the place wouldn’t be nearly as popular or crowded. It would essentially be a swanky, country club version of a driving range. But the technology separates and elevates it from any other driving range experience you can have. So, let me tell you about it.

The game – the place is one of those multi-level driving ranges. There are 3 levels with at least 30 bays on each level. The bays are complete with lounge chairs, tables, sofas, and the like – and enough plasma screens to distract you from what you’re there to do. One of the plasmas is your scorecard, very similar to the what you have and see in today’s bowling allys.

Top Golf scorecard

The range is filled with targets – close, mid, and far-range and you play games trying to hit the targets. There are a number of different games you can play – from Top Chip to Top Drive to just random Top Golf. Each are centered around trying to get as close to the center of each of the targets with your 20 balls. At the end of 20 balls, the person with the highest score wins.

Top Golf targets

The technology – the balls and the targets have RFID sensors in them and the targets have different point totals assigned to them. So, when the ball makes it into any of the targets, it recognizes the points you’re supposed to get and sends the score back to the scorecard. On top of that, when you hit a target (in most cases), the next ball you hit is worth double the points. So, if you hit multiple targets in a row, your score is multiplied. This means the system must keep track of your specific ball and your specific activity throughout each game. To understand and appreciate the sophistication of this system, now multiple 20 balls by 200 people (I think this is on the low-end of the average number of people at a peak time). That means the system has to keep track of 4,000 different and building “instances” for hours on end. That’s pretty remarkable.

What works – the sheer complexity of what the technology has to do and do on a regular and consistent basis goes completely unnoticed (for the most part) to the players. It just works. And that’s what works about the experience. It’s not a headache. You’re able to go and enjoy for hours at a time. Can you picture yourself spending hours – literally, hours – at a driving range? I can almost guarantee a fun time at this one, even if you don’t like golf. The technology is one of the components that makes it fun.

What doesn’t – not much. There were a few times where we experienced bugs in the technology. The most common was hitting a target and the score not registering. But the system is set up where you can manually enter in your scores, based on where you hit on the target. So, there’s a back-up, which is essential in an experience like this. Bugs are to be expected on this scale. The great thing is – they don’t hamper the experience.

“Uh-huh” – this is a great example of enabling technology enabling a different kind of experience than we’ve had in the past. It serves as a technology to better an experience (the game) and make easier a utility (score keeping). And for a business (Top Golf), generate revenue.

“Duh” – if you’re ever close to one, go. There just aren’t that many of them around. The technology, the entire operation, and the scale probably make it quite prohibitive, but this is certainly an experience we can expect to become part of our daily lives (and activities) in the future.

As always, I can’t thank you enough for reading. I hope you all have a great weekend!

The (Interactive) Experience that is Great Wolf Lodge, Pt. 2

Great Wolf Lodge

Yesterday, I wrote my initial post on the technology I experienced at Great Wolf Lodge. Today, after talking with the head of IT, I’m able to give more detailed information and insight on the operation. Thanks to Keith for meeting with me this morning. Here’s what I learned:

1. The technology in the wand is NOT RFID. It behaves a lot like RFID, but it’s a proprietary technology that includes infrared and a chip. The chip is programmed to the user and keeps an ongoing history of the user, not the wand. This is important because if someone loses their wand, they can easily get a replacement and have it re-programmed to their user history. According to my discussion this morning, the primary reason that RFID was not used in the wand was proximity. The game-makers wanted the wand to work within proximity, not through touch. Infrared has a wider range than RFID.

The technology here isn’t important. What is important is what the technology enables – a personalized experience that continually drives you deeper into the brand (in this case, the game). This particular technology is smart enough to keep a running history of personal achievement. That’s cool. And that’s the power of what any sort of interactivity provides in this blank canvas called Out-of-Home.

2. Active RFID is a whole different ballgame than passive RFID. All of the RFID that I experienced at Great Wolf Lodge is passive RFID. In yesterday’s post, you can see how powerful it is. Active RFID enables some cool things in this environment, particularly around tracking and safety. If those wristbands were active RFID, they would essentially become tracking beacons that could show where anyone was on the property at any given time. At a resort like this, can you imagine how easy it would be to find a lost child or a lost parent? It has a lot of advantages and it’s something that GWL continues to explore. Thing is, active RFID requires large antennas to pick up the signals. So, you can imagine what kind of operational challenges this presents.Being a theme-park, they have options. Turn them into large trees? It could happen.

3. They are always looking to innovate. But they don’t want to add something on that doesn’t utilize the existing technology. They want to make sure it works with what’s already going on. I was glad to hear that they are constantly looking for ways to innovate, but this whole thing didn’t surprise me. A large business like this would be foolish to not filter additional technology through what they’ve already got. And for GWL, who purposefully wants to provide an unparalleled level of convenience to their guests, they don’t want to risk complicating the experience by latching on to the latest, greatest.

4. Digital signage is not important to them. There are posters everywhere. They line the hallways. They’re in the usual places like elevators, the lobby, and the waterpark. I think digital signage could help in some places – menu boards or waiting in lines (for rides) – but other than that, I don’t think it makes sense. GWL is obviously a closed-in space, so they don’t advertise anything other than what’s going on in their own house. What they have now – lots of static posters – is just fine for them. I think if they felt confident in a way they could use digital signs with their existing technology, and it added a tremendous difference in value to what they already have – they’d explore it even more.

All of this technology and the entire experience it enabled just inspires me even more about the potential of creating solutions outside of the home. There are many ways to achieve different levels of interactivity, but the interactivity is the thing. It can make experiences easier, or better, or more convenient, or more fun. Thing is – it’s an experience.

And if you’re into this sort of thing, you can find one at Great Wolf Lodge.

How Great Wolf Lodge Uses RFID for Utility AND Experience, Pt. 1

Great Wolf

RFID technology is great for utility. Walmart uses it to track inventory. Companies use it to allow employees access to parking garages and office buildings. Hotels use it for the same, and even enable purchases through it (more on that in a bit). For utility, it’s a smart & efficient technology. But how many times have you actually seen RFID used to create experiences? The only two I can think of are Mini’s customized billboard messages and The Great Piggy Bank Adventure at Epcot Center. For whatever reason, it’s a hard technology to implement at scale. (The technology is relatively cheap now – not a huge barrier – but it requires multiple pieces of hardware to work. And proximity plays a part, too.) But it sure can do some cool things. Right now, on my family vacation, I’m seeing, firsthand, another one of those examples.

My family and I are vacationing at Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine. I’ve heard stories about how they use RFID for everything here, but I’ve never made my way out to check it all out myself. Until now. Those stories are true. They use it for everything. And it fulfills a utility need as well as an experience one.

First, on the utility – they use it for any sort of transaction you need to make. I say that literally. Anything. Here are specific examples of how they’re using it:

1. Room keys – this wristband is our room key. You see that little chip there, behind the “M”? Well, that’s the thing that gives us access into our room.

RFID wristband at Great Wolf Lodge

My wife has said to me a couple of times, “man, I love this key thing.” I start telling her about the technology and her eyes glaze over. She doesn’t care about that. She just cares about the fact that she doesn’t have to carry a key around with her all the time, and even more, worry about what all she’d have to go through if she actually forgot a key at some point during our stay. Our in-laws have joined us on the trip and are staying in the room next door. My wife went next door to get something and our door shut behind her. As I’m getting the kids ready for bed, I look over at the door and realize I didn’t prop it open with the latch. A second later, she walks in thanks to her handy dandy wristband. She said it again, “man, I love this key thing.” She called it, “brilliant.”

2. Locker keys – this place is an indoor waterpark more than it is a hotel. So, anytime you want to reserve a locker, you don’t have to carry around yet another key that comes with all of the same anxiety as the room key. You just use your wristband. Done and done.

3. Payments – want to pay for food? Souvenirs? Arcade games? No problem. Just put some money on your wristband via a kiosk and a credit card and viola, you don’t have to carry around any cash. Everything is tied to this wristband. Literally, everything. If you want to carry cash around with you or for whatever other reason, you don’t want to put cash on the wristband, you don’t have to. You can do it old school. But through this technology, you have the option of ultra convenience.

These three things encapsulate everything I’ve had to do throughout the course of our day here, and it has afforded us an extra piece of mind that we didn’t know existed. We haven’t had to carry around and/or keep track of anything all day long. It’s attached to our wrist.

Now, here’s where it gets really interesting. And it’s how they create experiences through the technology:

They have this game called MagiQuest inside the resort and when people aren’t playing at the waterpark, they’re running around the hotel playing this game.

MagiQuest sign at Great Wolf Lodge

It seems to be a cross between an adventure game and a scavenger hunt and all it requires is a wand and a book, like these:

MagiQuest wand and book

The wand is where the technology comes into play. It’s programmed to your “account” and as you make your way through the game, you build up points and achievements. This is not only important because it adds a level of personalization to the game right off the bat, but since this is an ongoing game, this technology enables an ongoing history. As long as the wand stays with you, regardless of how long you play the game, it’s going to build upon what you’ve already done.

I’m sure the kids playing this game (and even most of the adults) could care less about the technology (much like my wife). No one ever hardly does. But the important thing here revolves around expectations. With the proliferation of platforms like Facebook and Pandora that allow you to personalize your experience down to the T, I feel like the millennial generation expects a certain level of personalization in everything they do. Although these kids could care less about the technology, I would argue that many of them would feel like it’s “lame” if it didn’t keep track of everything they did along the way. This level of personalization is table stakes. This technology enables that personalization for them.

This is an ideal 11th screen example – an Interactive Out-of-Home (IOOH) homerun, if you will. RFID is the enabling technology that serves a critical function in the resort and patron operation (utility). It saves everyone time, money and anxiety that you didn’t even know you had. In addition, it enables a deep and rich experience – one that is personalized – through this wand, other objects (static) and screens (digital) throughout the resort.

MagiQuest screens at Great Wolf Lodge

Disclosure – Great Wolf Lodge is actually a client of Fleishman-Hillard’s (my company). However, I do not work on the account and in fact, our office doesn’t service any piece of the account. Our account team and the kind people at Great Wolf Lodge have been gracious enough to set up a meeting for me with the resort’s IT director tomorrow morning where I’m sure I’ll get many more details. Which will be Part 2 of this story…


MINI’s QR Code Masterpiece

Leave it to MINI. Again.

These guys are at the forefront of using emerging technology to connect with consumers.

First, they created real-life LA Story talking billboards through the use of RFID.

Mini RFID Billboard

Then, they created a real-life/virtual world game of chase through the use of Augmented Reality.

Now, they’re taking a simple approach – yet just as unique – with QR codes. Only to drive to a different Augmented Reality experience.

How would you launch the all new, bigger MINI Countryman? How about a big QR code? Like bigger than anything in the ad.

Mini QR Code Magazine Ad

Here’s the thing about MINI – from my perspective, nothing is a mistake. Or an afterthought. It’s all purposeful. Here, they didn’t just oh-by-the-way-stick-a-qr-code-in-the-bottom-corner-of-the-ad. They made it the ad.

And it works.

And for those who don’t know what this is, they give directions. And for those who don’t want to scan the code, they give another way to get to the information. And for anyone else – those who wouldn’t even want to take part in the complete experience – this campaign, this app, and ultimately this brand is probably not for you.

These guys are smart. They’ve gotten some insight that their target audience has a high propensity to engage through various mobile technologies – even more, that their target is not constrained by location, they like to be on the go, and are early adopters. Can you imagine this out of the MINI owner? I can.

And to their credit, MINI goes full tilt.

I think there are many ways to connect with consumers when they’re out and about, not in front of their computers. More and more, this is a mobile world, and I’m not talking about a mobile-phone world (although we are) – mobility is a way of life. So, being able to connect with consumers while they’re on the go, in various ways – especially through enabling technologies like this – will become more and more critical for brands to figure out.

MINI’s making it easy for everyone else.

Take note.

This is interactive out-of-home. Where experience masterpieces happen.


Friday’s 4-1-1, Quality & Cool Style

Happy Friday, everyone.  Hope your week has gone well.  Mine has been crazy and today is no different.  It’s been a good week, (sometimes you have bad weeks, sometimes you have good weeks – it was a good one for me) one of those where I feel like I’m in the zone for most of the week, doing “good” work, thinking of “good” things, producing top quality whoosits and whatsits, making cool “stuff.”  So, today’s theme is all about quality & cool – striking that balance is difficult, but when done, man, it produces good work.

1.  Mini’s at it again with “reality gaming” and their Getaway Stockholm campaign – this OOH campaign involves people, virtual Minis, geo-location, mobile and gaming.  I consider it OOH because everything happens out of the home.  It’s an experience where you don’t have to be in front of your computer sitting in your house or office.  It leverages the wide open spaces of the outdoor and creates a game around it all.  It’s really awesome.

2.  Now you can “Like” a brand through a QR code – there’s been a roundabout way to use QR codes to get people to “Like” your brand in the past (open up their Facebook page and allow people to “Like” it there – it’s clunky), but now it’s as easy as downloading a QR code reader app on your phone, opening it up, and snapping a picture of it.  If you know what a QR code is (whichI have to say, I’m seeing/reading about them every single week now, so that’s a good thing), Likify has now made an app that can direct you straight to “Liking” your favorite brand.  Nifty.

3. Loyalty cards 2.0 brought to you by Novitaz – this is cool….if you’re a shopper.

RFID card

You get a credit card-style loyalty card with an RFID chip in it.  When you’re in a store that has the sensors in it, it sends a message to your mobile phone, alerting you of the special deals of the day.  And best, when you buy, there are social hooks in the platform so that you can share what you just bought with your social community.  Cool, and definitely the wave of the future.

4. Shoppers Take a Nonlinear Path to Purchase – carrying on the shopping theme, I thought this article was interesting, although not surprising.  Consumer shopping habits are changing, particularly with the introduction of so many new technologies – mobile and social being top of the list.  Mobile is big in helping consumers make purchasing decisions.  Social is big, too.  Although it’s a great takeaway that “social” does not equal “digital” or better yet, “Facebook.”  Social is word-of-mouth.  And the overwhelming majority of word-of-mouth activity happens “offline.”  But can happen over the mobile phone – you know, that thing where people actually talk to each other on the phone.  Yeah, mobile phones are good for that, too.  Interesting that “digital signage” is not mentioned anywhere in here at all.  Hmm.

“Uh-huh” – The Future of Advertising is about “Making Stuff” – Cindy Gallop, founder-CEO of IfWeRanTheWorld, talks about the real value in execution, not ideas. Amen, Cindy. As someone who is responsible for the execution arm of our agency, I can tell you firsthand how important quick, quality execution sets agencies/people apart from each other.

“Duh” – Read above. Not to take the easy way out here, but it’s an important thing to call out and a no-brainer at the same time. I mean, I am looking at it from the standpoint of “making stuff” everyday, but you’d be surprised how many people “talk” about stuff vs. “make” stuff. I’m a maker. Not a talker. Hope it always stays like this. I like makers much more than I like talkers, unless of course, if you’re one of my talker friends!

Anyway, have a good weekend everyone!

My Floor Observations at Kioskcom

Walking the convention floor at these things is just sensory overload.  Or in this case, kiosk overload.  Kiosks everywhere.  Every kind of kiosk you could want, you could find it here.  (It’s funny, I was talking to someone and they said they specifically came to look for a kiosk to replace their old one and they didn’t find one here.  I couldn’t believe it.)  There were also lots of touch screens.  Lots of really slick looking applications.  But when you boil it down, it’s basically the same thing.  Here’s what I observed – most everyone wants to be in the everything business.  They want to be hardware providers.  They want to be software providers.  They want to be content providers.  They want to be advertising providers.  They want to be the data house.  Enough already.  Please.  The best solutions I saw were ones that were focused  and were trying to solve 1 problem.  Three good companies made my short, I-commend-you-for-knowing-your-business-well-enough-to-focus-on-one-thing-list:

Nanonation – these guys are big time.  Software providers.  They developed the software that runs the Greenopolis (Best of Show, Self Service Excellence Awards) kiosk (more on this solution later).  They have software to serve the enterprise level and they just developed software to serve the “lite” level.

DigiKomp – These guys are in the hardware business.  But instead of showing up with kiosks or large digital screens like veryone else, they stole the show (in my mind) with these small (320×240) LCD screens that they call “the last nametag that you’ll ever have to get.”  They’re sweet.  Basically, really small, really sharp looking digital frames.  They play .jps, .avis, .mp3s.  Battery life of 12 hours.  I bought one.  But didn’t take it with me because I didn’t have the cash.  The ATM was far from the convention center and I never made it back.  I’m going to follow through with my purchase.  Just to have it.

RFIDeas – I got a little bit of an education on RFID from these guys.  My biggest takeaway – there are 3 “levels” of RFID (I really don’t know the right nomenclature): proximity, HF (High Frequency), and UHF (Ultra High Frequency).  The Mini key fob/billboards used UHF.  These guys deal primarily with proximity – think of the security cards that allow you to go in/out of your workplace/parking garages/etc..  My 2nd biggest takeaway – they don’t think of anything for marketing/engagement purposes.  When I told him why I was interested, he looked at me like I had 3 eyes.  All good.  He gave me knowledge, which is all I want.

There were others that I heard were good, but really of no interest to me. 

I think it would be cool to get creative, developers, software providers, hardware providers at one of these things and over the course of 1 or 2 days, get them to actually make something right in front of our eyes so we can see the true capabilities and something worthwhile come to life.  Then, we would really find out the strengths of all of these companies.  And to me, that’s the whole point.

Applying Technology to my OOH Basics

A couple of days ago, I shared my vision of OOH.  It’s pretty simple.  In my view, OOH is broken down into 3 buckets – categories of displays if you will – billboards, posters & kiosks.  They are separated by 3 differentiating factors – amount of information, length of engagement and potential for human interaction.

This view is important to me because of what happens when you start to add technology onto it.  What exactly does that technology do?  And what is the true impact of technology on this medium?  So, first, to show my view on the most overused moniker in the industry – Digital Out of Home (DOOH):

When you add digital to this model, you get the same exact model with just a little different shading.  It doesn’t change much other than the fact that there is now some sort of technology applied to the medium.  In this case, “digital” is just the addition of display technology.  As I’ve said before, display technologies are a finite list of technologies – LCD, LED, projection.  All it does is enable a static display to become dynamic.  For advertisers, this, of course, has a substantial impact, both with advertising-based displays/networks and non-advertising-based displays/networks.  But the true effect on the consumer’s experience isn’t drastically different.  When you apply a display technology to a billboard, you get a different type of billboard, but by and large, it has the same effect.  Ditto for posters and kiosks.  As a consumer, I’m still getting the same amount of information, I’m still engaging with it the same length of time and the potential for my interaction with it hasn’t changed.  The primary difference is that it now moves.  Is it more effective?  Maybe.  If I respond better to moving images rather than static display.  If the content is compelling.  But I don’t think it moves the needle by itself.  The true magic happens when you make OOH & DOOH interactive, which I’m calling Interactive Out of Home (IOOH).   


Now, not only is the model shaded even more differently, it takes on a completely different form.  Interactive billboards become something closer to posters.  Interactive posters become something closer to kiosks.  And kiosks become something they’ve never been.  Interactivity and the technologies that enable it have a profound impact on OOH & DOOH.  I call these technologies enabling technologies – technologies that enable personalized experiences from each of these displays.  Technologies like touch screens, motion sensors, RFID, NFC, Bluetooth, mobile and its enabling technologies like GPS, 2D/3D barcode scanners and Augmented Reality – the list is certainly larger than the display technology list, but still finite (at least right now.  I have no doubt it will grow with time.)  But they all drastically effect the experience in the same fundamental way – they enable a level of personalization that is deeper than any of these displays provide in their raw, even digital, forms.  This personalization is really the key to effective communication, which is the key to creating and sustaining relationships between brands and their audiences.  This is the special effect that I believe OOH, as a medium, can and will have on marketers and consumers in this new day and age, particularly as newer technologies are introduced.  But it’s all about the interactivity.  A traditional OOH installation can be made interactive, just as a DOOH installation can be made interactive.  In some cases, I believe the technology inherent in DOOH makes it easier to incorporate enabling technologies, but this is not always the case.  It does not need to be “digital” to include interactivity.  A perfect example of this is our QR code initiative at SXSW.  A static (non-digital) QR code was added to a static display (car, which in this case, I would consider a “poster” in my model – not that it includes a wealth of information, but a static car like that, in that type of environment, provides a level of human interaction and length of engagement similar to a traditional poster) and with the use of mobile as the enabling technology, attendees were able to experience a deeper, personal engagement with the brand.  This is why I think it’s critical to make a distinction between “digital” and “interactive” in this way.  Interactivity allows the consumer to experience more information, and engage and interact with it in a deeper way.  It is worlds different than just “digital.” 

This sort of engagement opens up an exciting and scary world of possibilities.  Brands will sooner or later understand that they can (and should) use the spaces and things around us, in our everyday lives, as effective communication tools.  It has a drastic impact on them and their ability to touch their audience anywhere they want/need.  We’re a ways off though, as you’ve heard me say before.  But make no mistake, technology – specifically enabling technologies (not display technologies) – transforms the OOH world into something that has only truly been applied in books and movies.  For now, we keep pushing and experimenting.

Guide to Looking at OOH Solutions – 11th Screen Style

I’m a little bit late to the game because this particular solution has been out for quite some time. It’s worth more attention, though, albeit not-so-timely. These boys know how to do it. True 11th screen material. They built the world’s biggest multi-touch, multi-user wall at a race track complex in Germany.

ring°wall from SENSORY-MINDS on Vimeo.

I’ve developed a guide that helps me look at solutions like this – 11th Screen solutions, if you will – in a consistent manner.  It’s not a measurement tool, by any means.  It’s not designed as a magic formula to produce quantitative results.  It’s simply designed to help me look for the same components across all kinds of IOOH (11th Screen) solutions.  It’s my attempt at leveling the playing field in an area where the field is far from level.   For each “criteria,” I simply give a PASS or FAIL.

So here, we’ll use the Ring Wall to inaugurate the official 11th Screen perspective.  Understand that I have not interacted with the wall in person.  I’ve only watched demonstrations.  My comments about the wall are made entirely from observation. 

Purpose – What is the purpose of the solution?  Is it to drive awareness?  Acquisition?  Loyalty?  What is the brand trying to accomplish in this medium?

In my mind, this is the most important question to ask.  It should define the exact solution.  Brands can do one thing through a billboard and something entirely different through a kiosk.  More often than not, I believe that brands utilize the OOH medium as an awareness-only medium.  I think there is always an opportunity to drive consumers deeper into the brand, even from the biggest “awareness-driven” installation – a standard billboard.

Here, the Ring Wall looks like one big awareness machine.  It enables many users to experience information, but it’s the same information for every user.  There is no “deep dive” for data capture, personalization, or even an extended experience. 

11th Screen Score:  If the objective was awareness, I don’t know how they could have done any better.  Taking that assumption into account, they PASS. 

Drama – Does the solution make a big impact on the user?  Does it make them stop and interact?

Since everything we’re talking about is interacted with in the physical spaces around us, it must have some drama to it to entice people to interact.  This can be accomplished a number of ways – the physical installation, its movement, its content and its call-to-action. 

The Ring Wall has an immense amount of drama.  First of all, it’s huge, the largest of its kind.  Second, gesture-based technology allows content to move with the user as they walk by, engaging them without even a touch.  I think where it falls short, if any place, is providing the user a clear call-to-action.  It might seem simple to have a big “Touch Me” call-to-action rolling throughout, but I think intimidation is still a big barrier with acceptance and use of most touch screen installations.  The clearer you can be with the action you want the user to take, the more success you should have at breaking down that barrier.

11th Screen Score:  I don’t know how much more dramatic one can get.  PASS. 

Usability – Can the user navigate through the experience with ease?  Are the paths to information intuitive?  There’s also an element of functions, too, but I think that is much more subjective.  Do the functions enhance the user experience?

The biggest killer to any touch screen installation, once the user starts interacting with it, is not knowing what to do and/or how to get to the desired information.  It’s critically important that foundational elements like content grouping(s) and navigation hierarchy are intuitive.  Herein lies the challenge though.  Old website standards are most often not applicable because interaction in this medium is so open, non-linear, and tactile.  Navigating a website with a mouse on a computer is different from navigating a website with your finger on a touch screen.   It’s vital to understand the audience when concepting and creating an experience like this.  You and I might be able to walk up to this wall and use it effectively, but would our mom or dad?

Here, the Ring Wall’s user interface seems to be intuitive.  The navigation looks to be consistent with a standard website homepage (primary navigation at the top, eye level with 3 callouts below the main content area) and as a result, clear.  Also, the user has multiple ways to navigate in the experience.  They can use the scroll wheel above the gallery to navigate as well as the FORWARD/BACK arrows on the main images.  It doesn’t hurt that every ‘panel’ displays the same UI, too.  And the functions look fluid and cool :) 

11th Screen Score:  It’s hard to give a definitive score in this category without touching it and using it myself.  From the interactions I can observe, it looks to have a good user experience, thus PASS.

Interactivity – How does the user interact with it?  Is it gesture-based?  Is it touch-based?  Can the user interact with it through any other enabling technology?

This consideration is really an extension of Usability.  But whereas the Usability consideration focuses more on how the content experience is laid out, the Interactivity consideration focuses on how much effort is required to interact with the physical experience.  If it’s gesture-based, how responsive is it based on the user’s interaction?  If it’s touch-based, how responsive is it based on the user’s touch?  If it requires an enabling technology, how easy, instant and accurate is it based on the user’s actions?  This is the second biggest killer to any touch screen installation.  If it doesn’t respond to the user’s touch, the user will either give up or get upset.  Either way, they’re not going to interact with it anymore.  (And they might tell their friends not to interact with it.  And their friends might tell their friends and….anyway, this is food for another post.)

The Ring Wall is both gesture-based and touch-based.  When the user walks by, the wall seems responsive.  When the user touches the screen, it also seems responsive. 

11th Screen Score:  Again, it’s hard to give a definitive score in this category without touching it and using it myself.  From everything I can see, PASS.

Information – How much and what kind of content is available for the user to interact with? 

A system like this is set up to be an endless well of content.  I think this is good as long as the user isn’t overwhelmed with that content, meaning they don’t have to see everything “behind the curtain.”  Let them know what they’re going to expect and how to get there and leave the rest to them.  Drive them deeper into the experience instead of away from the experience.  A critical element of this is the type of content in the experience.  The Ring Wall includes a good combination of copy and rich multimedia content (images & video).  And the video looks like it plays fluidly.

11th Screen Score:  There looks to be a deep well of information for the user to interact with in one experience.  PASS.

Personalization – What level of personalization does the experience provide?

In my observations over the past few years, this is the one area that I am the most underwhelmed with.  The opportunity that we have in this medium, and really the opportunity that I feel has been the least capitalized on, is the level of personalization to the experience.  On the surface, any multi-user touch screen includes a level of personalization that allows each user to have their own, unique experience.  But on a deeper level, the content is the same for every user.  The opportunity that I see is for all of that content to be customized for each user.  Simply put – everyone sees what they want to see, even if they don’t know what it is they want to see.  And they don’t see the stuff that doesn’t matter to them.  This level of personalization requires some level of data gathering from the user, which is always touchy, but can enhance an experience greatly. 

Perhaps another way to look at this is ‘does it account for various stages in the relationship process?’  Does it accommodate someone that is interacting for the 1st time?  Or the 3rd time?  Or the 30th time? 

Here, the Ring Wall doesn’t seem to have any personalization built into the experience.  It treats everyone the same, whether they are interacting with it for the 1st time or the 30th time.  There is an opportunity to personalize each experience, though – be it through a couple of “preference” questions or a higher level of technology like RFID, each user could have an experience most suitable for them.

11th Screen Score:  FAIL.    

Overall, I just think this is awesome.  Major kudos have to be handed out, not only to the development team, but to the clients themselves.  They get it.  To take the leap on technology like this (both hardware and software) is remarkable, not to mention that the decision was made a year and a half ago, well before the idea of DOOH and/or IOOH was halfway mature, certainly on this scale.  It’s combinations like this, with both forward-thinking marketers and clients, that are going to create a new level of interacting with each other and our physical spaces around us that is the norm instead of a novelty.

What do you think of this thing?  By “thing,” I really mean the wall, but I’d love to know your thoughts on the scorecard, too.  Do you feel like anything needs to be shaped differently on it?  Added to it?  Just like the space we’re in, I expect it to evolve as we look at other solutions.  Comments gladly accepted.

DOOH, Duh, or Huh?

In my opinion, the term “Digital” Out of Home, or “DOOH” is becoming widely overused.  So much so that I think it dilutes the space, minimizes the impact of what can truly be done through technology outside of the home, and ultimately, confuses people – advertisers, marketers and brands alike. 

I look at the term through a simple lense.  Digital Out of Home (DOOH), to me, is nothing more than adding display technology to an otherwise static OOH installation.  So, let’s take a billboard for instance.  The standard OOH installation is a static billboard.  The digital OOH installation is created by simply adding some sort of display technology onto the the static billboard.  This can be through LEDs (as is the case with billboards), LCDs, plasmas, or projection.  It’s a finite list, but apply any of them to any static OOH installation and voila, you now have a digital version of said installation – Digital Out of Home. 

I think it’s important to make this distinction, especially with the introduction of other technologies that make our surroundings, including these billboards, come to life.  As mentioned in a previous post, I call these sorts of technologies enabling technology.  Right now, I think it, too, is a finite list, but it’s a bigger list than display technology.  RFID, for example, is an enabling technology.  GPS is an enabling technology.  Mobile, albeit more broad, is also an enabling technology.  But within mobile, I think you start to see a subset of enabling technologies like Augmented Reality, QR Codes, MS Tags, and Bluetooth.  Then, you have touch screen technology (single and multi-touch, even gesture-based) that is on the list, too.   The point is – these technologies enable personal interactions with an otherwise digital installation.  At this level, it is not Digital Out of Home to me.

I sense more and more that the industry and many of the players in it call everything Digital Out of Home just because it occurs outside of the home through any sort of technology.  But unless we start talking about it in consistent terms, how can we expect it to catch on and even grow?  Do you agree?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The 11th Screen Puzzle

The 11th screen is a multi-piece puzzle.  But to me, there are two key pieces.  The first key piece is what I previously talked about – bucketing technology into “screens” based on HOW we consume and engage with media.  The second key piece is just as important and that is WHERE we consume and engage with media. 

HOW + WHERE = 11th screen

My WHERE focus is Out of Home (OOH).  The easy way to think of this is the literal translation – outside of your home.  For those that this does not make sense to, let me give you my definition of “Out of Home”:

Any experience that occurs outside of the home that does not require the audience to own the device, medium or platform from which the experience originates.

When I talk about “OOH”, this is what it means to me.  My basis for everything here will be grounded in this, specifically this part:  does not require the audience to own the device, medium or platform from which the experience originates.

If we look at the examples in my previous posts, you’ll see what I mean:

Mini served up messages to people driving on the highway (out of their home) on digital billboards (platform that they didn’t own).

Microsoft created experiences in retail stores (outside of the home) on interactive tables (device that users don’t own).

Now, to me, there’s another key piece to this puzzle and that is the piece of personalization, which really gets to the core of my focus.  The way this personalization happens is through the use of technology, specifically through the use of what I’m going to call enabling technology.  Like RFID.  Like touch screens.  Like mobile phones.  This is where the lines start to blur, which we’ll experience more and more, but the point is – this sort of technology enables an otherwise static experience to be “personalized” on some level.

So, to personalize their billboards, Mini used RFID chips that were “assigned” to individuals and when that individual drove by an otherwise “digital” billboard, they received a personalized message.  Technically, the audience owned the RFID chip.  They had to have that in order to receive the personalized experience.  But they didn’t own the digital billboard from which the experience originated.

Let’s look at the Spore/QR code example, though- here’s where the mobile phone piece of this puzzle comes into play.  There are more and more OOH initiatives that are personalized through the use of mobile phones as the enabling technology.  On this example, the audience didn’t own the poster from which the experience originated.  But because there was a QR code on the poster, they were able to interact with it through the use of a device that they owned, and as a result, received a personalized experience. 

On the other hand, users interacting with the MS Surface don’t own the device, nor do they need to own anything else to experience that level of personalization.  Personalization, to a certain extent, is inherent in multi-user touch screen devices.

I think this one of our first big challenges – to understand the difference between “Traditional” and Digital OOH that is made interactive and true Interactive OOH.  Specifically, the impact that this difference has on us and the brands that we represent as engagement agents.  We know people are spending more and more time outside of their home.  They’re engaging with media (and their surroundings) in a way that they have never engaged before.  So, it’s important to engage with them in meaningful ways while they’re outside of their homes.  But is there a more effective way to do this over another?  Is it more effective to engage people through Traditional or Digital OOH made interactive or Interactive OOH? 

Aside from creating an experience where the audience doesn’t have to own anything to have a personalized experience, I don’t think it does.  What’s the one thing that all of us won’t leave home without?  Our mobile phones.  So, if we’re using mobile as an enabling technology, what’s the difference? 

Perhaps the real question is, is the brand driving individuals as “deep” as they can through their OOH initiatives, whether it be through a “native” Traditional, Digital, or Interactive experience?  Are they creating personalized experiences?  Are they putting all of the pieces of the puzzle together?

What examples have you seen that effectively put all the pieces together and create personalized OOH experiences?