Tag Archives: touch screen

Supplier Spotlight: Vislogix

One of the reasons I created my OOH model was to help me get down to what companies truly offer in this space.  Every time I go to one of these tradeshows and ask the exhibitors what they do, most every time, I hear the response, “we do everything, soup to nuts.”  Ugh.  If everyone on the showroom floor does everything, then how do I know who’s offering is better than the next?

So, my model helps me ask pointed questions to really determine what their specialty is, at the very least.  I put it to the test this morning.  First company up – Vislogix.  Response when I asked them what business they’re in?  “We’re the only recognized full-service firm in the country.”  Of course.  After more questions, I got to the nut of what they really provide:  EQUIPMENT.  Specifically, hardware that enables touch and gesture-based interactions on any surface.  They look to focus on storefront windows, but can virtually make any surface interactive.

The solutions they were showing were top notch in the cool category.

Vislogix, touch display glass

You can see, even in this bad photo, that the content is pretty clear on the glass.  These guys aren’t in the projector business.  They’re in the business of the interactive film that the projector projects on.  And the film is awesome.  They have standard sizes that you can choose from and if you need a custom size, they’ll make it for you (technically, they can create any size film, but it’s only as good as the size of the projection.)  Technically, it’s a capacitive touch screen so the user doesn’t need to “touch” it to control it – even still, I found it quite responsive.

They had another solution, much more gesture-based, that picked up movements via a camera placed above the user.  When in the field of the camera’s view, the user can control what happens on the screen just by waving a hand.

Vislogix gesture screen

The interesting thing about this particular solution is that, since it’s controlled by a camera, it can enable any surface – static, window, even LCD – to be interactive.  Where it gets a little muddy for these guys is in the software.  Obviously, software is needed to run these solutions and these guys aren’t really hard-core software makers.  It seems like they have a number of solid software partners so essentially they can also provide any software needed for these installations.

The nut here – if you want to do a touch or gesture-based experience on a store window or other large piece of glass, call these guys first.  If you want to throw a crazy idea at someone (a 1-off-type project) and see how immersive they can make it, these guys would be good to call.  Keep an eye out for them and what they do in the next 6 months.  They’ve got some great work under their belt and judging by some of their partners (they seemed impressive to me?!?!), they’ll probably be around for awhile.  I hope they do well.

Out & About: SI’s Touch Screen at the Detroit Airport

The Detroit airport is littered with digital and interactive (touch) displays, outside of the standard flight boards.  I’ve always wanted to stop and play around with the touch screen displays, but I usually find myself hurrying on both sides of the trip.  Last week, I was with a few of my colleagues in Detroit, so I made us all stop for a minute and capture one of the experiences.  This is one of the touch experiences in the SI store (there are a few Detroit-specific city-search kiosks in the airport, too) and I can tell you, right off the at, this (along with those other touch screen displays that I’ve seen) is not a great experience.

But let’s break it down against the scorecard.

Purpose – I just shake my head at this, but from what I can gather (based on repeated observation), the sole purpose of this experience is extend the SI brand experience.  In theory, this sole purpose is not a bad one, especially inside a store, but to simply display the normal .com website is not extending anything in my book.  If they don’t want to create custom content for this experience, why not simply display their Facebook page or their YouTube channel?  Either of these would drive the normal consumer deeper into their brand and provide a much more compelling experience.  As it is now, these screens are assets that provide little to no value.  I don’t think they deliver on their purpose, much less affect sales.

Drama – In the store, there are two of these screens – one on each side of the store – and they’re consistently hidden by merchandise.  You can tell that the employees of the store don’t even see value in them because they never clear anything out of their way.  (The only reason I ever see them is because I’m looking for things like this).  And to top it off, I’ve never seen both of them working at the same time.  One is constantly black while the other just sits there, displaying the current home page of the day.  No call-to-action.  No animation.  No nothing.

Usability –  Ugh.  You can see for yourself.  It’s virtually unusable.  We interacted with it (if you can call it that) for no more than a minute before it errored out.  And in terms of the actual experience, had the hardware supported the experience, the SI website is so deep, even with a mouse and plenty of time, you’re not assured to have a great experience anyway.

Interactivity –  Website standards are not digital signage standards.  To think that someone, even with small fingers/hands, could navigate a standard website experience on a touchscreen, without any modifications, is a stretch.  Add a non-responsive touch screen monitor to the mix and you have one big headache.

Information – See www.si.com.  Lots of content to interact with.  Ask yourself, if you’re a traveler, coming into or flying out of Detroit, would you want to interact with a website on a touch screen?  Would you have that much time?  I think not.  You wouldn’t even want to interact with the entire website on your mobile phone.  There’s an app for that.

Personalization – Um, no.

These kinds of experiences are exactly the kinds of things that do not help get people excited about digital/interactive signage.  Black screens.  Screens that don’t react to touch.  Screens that simply show websites.  This is not good practice.

Fortunately for them (if “they” even see value in these screens), they already have the screens in place.  They just need a few minds in the room to think of possible content executions.  There are many things they could do, even if they needed to ditch the “touch” (LBS anyone?), that would actually get them closer to achieving their purpose.

Out & About: DFW Airport’s Touch Screen

I recently travelled to/from Detroit and saw various IOOH experiences in both airports (Detroit & DFW).  I’m always trying to catch standby on earlier flights out of Detroit so I have yet to stop and capture those IOOH experiences.  I’ve seen two different ones there and every time I’ve gone by each of them (since last October), no one is interacting with them.  I keep telling myself that next time I’m here, I’m going to capture them.  Next time.

When I got back to Dallas, I passed these touchscreen experiences in the baggage claim area.  I’ve passed these thousands of times and just like Detroit, I haven’t ever seen anyone interact with them.  So I decided this night, I would give them a run and see what they had to offer.

Some good, some bad.  Let’s break it down.

Purpose – clearly, the purpose is to help travelers find “things to do” in the DFW area – Accomodations, Dining, Transportation, Shopping, and City Attractions.  I think this is a good idea, but I wish each category had more content.  From the standpoint of accomplishing its purpose, I’d say it halfway did because it shows me things to do, but it doesn’t show me everything I can do.  It suffers from a lack of deep content.

Drama – well, as you can see by the entire, wall-length unit, there’s no missing the fact that this is the place to find information about the area.  The screens within the unit get lost, but I do like the fact that there is a big, static map.  That, in and of itself, could attract visitors, then they’d see the touchscreen.  Once they see that, even though it’s up in the top corner, there’s a blinking red call-to-action enticing (doesn’t it scream enticing) people to “Select a Category.”

Usability – this is a web-based experience and the paths throughout the experience were linear.  There is only one way to go until you dead-end and even then, you only have a few options (Learn More, Print, etc..).  It’s simple.  This type of experience is good for the everyday visitor/user.  If anyone ever interacted with this thing, I have to believe they could navigate where they wanted to go pretty easily.

Interactivity – this was touch-based only (single-touch) and was very responsive.  Once I got into the experience, I wish everything (like the map) was “clickable” but for the most part, this reacted exactly as I would expect.

Information – this is where I feel the experience really fell down.  If this is to enable visitors to find the things to do in DF, it doesn’t completely deliver.  It certainly doesn’t deliver on the best things to do in DFW (which would be a great category).  As you can see, the first hotel area that I selected didn’t have any listings.  This isn’t right.  I’m not completely familiar with airport/city partnerships, but the DFW metropolitan area has multiple websites from which to pull the information for this experience – any of them would make this experience richer than it is.  The one nice surprise was on one of the “Transportation” printouts.  Using this kiosk, I am able to redeem the printout for $2.00 off on my return trip.  In theory, this is a good way to get repeat service, but they are missing a huge opportunity for business by not advertising this deal in this experience.  I wouldn’t have known that I could get this discount if I didn’t randomly select this particular path.  (It would also be a great way to get people to interact with the entire experience – other companies could offer the same thing.)

Personalization – this discount ticket was the extent of personalization in this experience.  It’s a step in the right direction, but as a user, if I don’t know that this offer is waiting for me, I’m likely not going to ever see it.

As a bonus, I stopped by a kiosk at the end of the “Welcome to DFW” unit to see what it had to offer, and as you can see, it’s different content.  I question whether or not they need to be different or if they could just be lumped into the same experience.  From an experience standpoint, it could easily be integrated and not hamper the current experience.

All told, interactive touchscreens with this sort of information in airports are a great idea.  But the execution here is lacking on a number of fronts.  Pull me to it, attract me, give me an impression of the city by this experience, and make me want to find out this sort of information through this channel vs. something like my mobile phone.  Yes?

Out & About: Target’s Gaming Touch Screen

I heard Chris Borek from Target speak at the Digital Signage Expo earlier this year and walked away from it impressed with their approach to serving customers – “it’s about interacting with the customer on their (the customer’s) terms, on their schedule.  It’s not about being there all the time, it’s about being there when they need it.”  So, I was not surprised when, over the weekend, I saw this touchscreen in the middle of their electronics/gaming section.  Apparently, they’re planning a full chain roll-out with these babies.

Let’s put her to the test and see how she does.

Purpose – They are here to sell games.  They’re providing this solution to make it easier for you to a) search for the game you want b) search for the game you don’t know you want c) find the most convenient store for you to get it at and d) get the information in the form you want.  This experience delivers on all fronts.  If I were looking for a game, I would go straight to this touchscreen vs. a store employee, but that’s just me.  If I was intimidated by this touchscreen and wanted the comfort of a store employee, that employee could walk me straight to this and step through the experience with me (hopefully, that’s what they’re trained to do.)  In that regard, it even levels the playing field for all of those employees – now they don’t need to know about every game in the store.  The technology serves that purpose and allows the employee to focus on the customer.

Drama – As you can see, this touchscreen was built into the display unit and it all looks very nice.  You can tell they spent a lot of time thinking this through and designing the entire unit, not just the touchscreen.  I don’t know how they could have done a better job with placement, although it would have been much more noticeable if it were right on the main aisle.  (As it is, it’s hidden behind the display unit on the main aisle.)  Once I noticed it, the subtle animation and large text with prominent call-to-action made me want to interact with it and set my expectations on exactly what I needed to do.  In my opinion, they made a good decision with the vertical monitor – it creates more of a dramatic impact than the same size horizontal monitor and for this type of information, I think it makes for a better use of space.

Usability – The interface was set up very much like a web interface.  In some respects, it mirrors Target’s online experience, certainly the way in which the content was bucketed.  I didn’t have a problem finding the information I wanted.  In some cases, there were multiple ways to get to the same content, which I think is good.  And regardless of where I was in the experience, I could always “Go Back” Home and “Notify an Employee.”  It’s great (and smart) to have those anchors.  I think it makes the user feel comfortable that they can always get the information that they ultimately want, even if it isn’t through this touchscreen experience.

Interactivity – This experience was touch-based with email & mobile integration.

The screen was responsive to touch and aside from the internet connection (which I suspect is needed to utilize their web content management system), I thought the experience itself was fluid and smooth.  The email & text component was simple and provided only the information I needed in either of those channels.

Information – All games, all systems, all accessories, all the time.  The content here is hooked into Target’s chain-wide inventory, so if the store that you’re in doesn’t have what you’re looking for, you can locate it at the stores closest to you.  In addition to the product information, they worked in a social component via user reviews.  That said, I couldn’t find any user reviews in the games that I searched (which I think can be easily remedied with some seeded content), but it might have just been by chance that those specific games didn’t have reviews.  This application didn’t seem to have any un-needed information and it didn’t seem to lack any either.  Everything in here seemed purposeful.

Personalization – There wasn’t much personalization in this experience, but there was more than in the touchscreens that I’ve previously featured.  The email and mobile component was a nice, personal touch and a step in the right direction to make the experience personal.  I think they have the opportunity to build user’s profiles, recommend content based on previous purchases, incorporate a loyalty-type program – all might not be appropriate for the everyday consumer, but would certainly help Target compete with stores like GameStop with the hardcore gamers.

All in all, this was a very good, efficient application.  One of the best I’ve seen, and certainly the best touchscreen that I’ve featured here.  Why other game stores and movie stores (like Blockbuster) and music stores don’t do this more, I just don’t understand, especially if they’ve already got a good system online.  I think anyone who’s considering building/updating a retail-based interactive application should go to their nearest Target and play around with this for a little while – you’ll learn alot.

Out & About: Coke’s Interactive Kiosk

I didn’t run into the Happiness Machine, but I ran into the next best thing – Coke’s interactive (via touch screen) vending machine.  A true 11th Screen kiosk.  Say what you will about Coke as a product – as a brand, I think they are doing many things right.  They do a good job across platforms, they’re really good at social, and as most recently evidenced by their Happiness Machine, they’re pushing IOOH, and innovation.  I saw this 3-sided kiosk in a mall – 2 of the sides consisted of branding (from other advertisers) and then, this side, was one big interactive display.

I think this scorecard review is going to be pretty straight-forward.

Purpose – The purpose here is clear – sell drinks.  I don’t know why more and more products like these don’t do what Coke has done here.  You’re going to have vending machines.  People already buy from them.  Why not maximize that effort by creating something that can immerse consumers deeper into the brand and can support other advertisements?  (I assume cost is one of the biggest barriers.)  With this framework, Coke can advertise their own products, other advertiser’s products, or even the mall.

Drama – You can see for yourself – you can’t miss this thing.  I think the one thing working against it, just as any installation like this, is the fact that digital (non-interactive) posters are commonplace throughout malls today.  Someone could see this and just expect for it not to be interactive.  I think they’ve done a good job here of utilizing the space – the primary real estate for the products and the secondary real estate for ads.  Something moves on the screen at all times, so it stands a real good chance of stopping people.

Usability – There were two things I could do besides purchasing.  1) Select one of the drinks and 2) scroll through them.  The experience wasn’t deep at all.  Simple.  But just right.  My mom could operate this without any trouble.

Interactivity – This was a single-touch touch screen and not much different than a “normal” vending machine.  The screen was responsive to touch (even though it might not look like it at the beginning of the video – I sometimes have a hard time operating the camera and touching at the same time) and I thought it was executed very well.  I like how they also included a mobile component for one of their products (Sprite) whereby the user could text in a short code, made aware by this screen, to receive updates and rewards.  Although this particular component doesn’t connect offline with online, they’re smart to include it if they have it, particularly in a dynamic experience like this.

Information – High quality video, animation, stills.  They told the Coke (and products) stories with the ads, not the interactive component.  Every piece of content in here is highly produced which is necessary when displayed on something this big.  I thought they did a good job of incorporating the right content, not only type of content, but length of content.  And they ran all of the ads on a loop.  This was all very purposeful and run by someone who knew the space and what they were doing.

Personalization – No real personalization beyond my single-touch, single-user experience.  The mobile component brought a level of personalization in the fact that it extends the experience onto a consumer’s mobile phone, which is very personal.  As far as the actual kiosk goes, though, there was really no need for my experience to be personalized.  (Now, in the future, when this experience is smart enough to know that I like Coke and not Diet Coke, not only can it serve me the right ads, but it can also present me with the right options instead of everything in the lineup.  Then, it’d be personalized.)

All in all, I was really happy to see this.  Hopefully cost won’t be as big of a barrier in the future as it might be now and we’ll see these more and more.  It sure does make a lot of sense.

Have any of you seen any of these?  Not only for Coke but other brands?  Probably the most notable is Best Buy’s interactive vending machines, but this is the first I’ve seen of a drink maker.  If so, shoot them my way.  I’d love to learn about them.

Out & About: Whirlpool’s Washer/Dryer Touchscreen

I had Daddy’s Day Out this weekend, so the kids and I journeyed to Lowe’s to check out some tile for a back-portch-tiling-project.  I think that home improvement stores like this are ripe with interactive out-of-home opportunities, with all the DIY’ers and supplies and possibilities…there are only so many employees walking around who have expertise in your desired improvement area.  Here, technology could help bridge the gap and influence buying decisions in a sound, effective way.  I’ve played around with the “pick-your-paint” program on the computer in the paint section, but I haven’t seen anything else on the interactive front.  Until now.  Enter Whirlpool’s washer/dryer attempt at interactivity via this touchscreen (Yes, that is one of my sons saying “dad” over and over again – disregard that.):

So, let’s put it up against the scorecard and see how she does.

Purpose – as with any of these installations in retail environments, the purpose is to sell products and a clear way to sell products is to highlight all of the its benefits.  This particular touchscreen solution highlights clear benefits of the washer and dryer and ended up driving me deeper into the brand.  But quite honestly, I left more confused than educated.  It looked cool, but it really didn’t give me the information I wanted.  I believe products like washers and dryers need comparisons (against like products) to really make the most informed buying decision.  Without the help of a sales associate, I have no idea how this product rates against the others.  I only know that this is the best product on the floor, which I assumed of course, given that it was the only one that got special space-age, touchscreen love.

Drama – if I weren’t looking for it, I would have easily missed it.  And by “it,” I mean anything that looks touchable and interactable via touchscreen, because, well, that’s what I do.  If I were to watch 5 random people stop by this washer/dryer, I guarantee at least half would not know they could interact with the screen.  This small, little screen that hung over the washer/dryer.  Physical placement on the floor didn’t help matters either, because two washer/dryers over, there was a non-interactive, digital screen touting how great that one was.  I assumed since I couldn’t touch the other one that I couldn’t touch this one, but low and behold, I was wrong.  After realizing that this one was interactive, I thought the use of video avatars and the spacey animations were catchy, although I can’t find whether or not they’re on brand.  I have a feeling they were just catchy elements that they used to theme the experience.  For me, it seemed out of left field and after interacting with it, I found those elements distracting.

Usability – maybe it was my kids distracting me, but I had no idea where to begin and where to end in this experience.  While the content seemed to be bucketed in a logical manner, the content itself seemed very nebulous.  Once I got into one of the buckets of information, I didn’t know how much I could experience.  When I felt like each piece of content was “finished,” it wasn’t, and when when I wanted it to be finished, it kept going.  The spacey animations worked into the actual functionality of the experience, too, and it just made it more difficult to me than I felt like it needed to be.  I walked away from the experience thinking that they did this just to be cool.  And while I appreciate that, I don’t know how useful it really is to the intended audience.

Interactivity – everything was based on touch in this experience.  The screen itself was fairly responsive, but I think the content in the application slowed everything down, including responsiveness.  The content was probably a processor suck with rich graphics, video, and spacey animations.  As you can see in the demo, I pressed a couple of times without any immediate response.  I also didn’t know what all was “hot” (pressable) and not.

Information – the struggle with any “advertisement” in this open day and age is how in-your-face it is.  Brands are being recognized more and more by providing utility to consumers.  How useful is the information brought to me by brand X?  Does it make my life easier?  Is it helping me out?  Questions like this are dictating purchasing decisions.  Brands are getting credit without stuffing advertisements down your face.  Here, as a consumer, I recognized what Whirlpool is trying to do.  They’re trying to influence my purchasing decision.  But instead of telling me how great this product is, I want to know how it compares to similar products.  A comparison tool would be useful to me.  It would help my decision-making.  I appreciated “consumer reviews” in this experience, but I can’t tell whether they come from real people or from actors.  The production of the piece makes it seem like actors, which in turn, takes credibility away from what they’re saying.  If it were up to me, I would have gone a much simpler route (still maintaining quality production value) with real people and real problems and real comparisons.  I think that in-store experiences like this are going to hinge on reviews, thus making the experience inherently social, so brands will have to know what consumers are saying about them before-hand, good or bad.  This would just help frame how to present the content.  If Whirlpool thinks these are the best products ever and their audiences either disagree or don’t know about them, then those two insights should drive the content in the experience (and they might have – in fairness, I don’t know what drove their decisions to make any part of this experience.)  I checked out their Facebook page and they’re engaging with their fans on a customer-service basis only.  Sentiment seems to be mixed among the fraction of the community of 2,000+ who engages with them.  If I’m sitting in the room with the CMO, I’m telling him to get his social in order before embarking on an interactive out-of-home experience.  At least, set a strategy for social so you know how it plays into the entire brand experience, this included.

Personalization – this is a single-touch, single-user experience so there is a sense of personalization that comes along with this type of experience.  Beyond that, the experience had no other level of personalization.  This is a great opportunity for the brand to offer up some sort of discount to the user who interacts, either from the touchscreen itself or to the user’s mobile phone.  If, after seeing the information here, I wanted to buy one of these products, I should have a little incentive.  My personal golden ticket.

I’ve taken the grades out of this scorecard.  I just don’t think I have enough information to make responsible judgements.  That said, I wished for more in this experience.  I would not have made a decision to buy this product based on this experience, and if you go back to the original purpose that I believe drove this solution, it failed.  I’d love to see metrics on this and if it really impacted the bottom line.

I can’t say enough about creating toward objectives.  If the objective is to create awareness, go ahead, get crazy, you can do wild things if you want.  If the objective is to convert shoppers into buyers, laser-focus in on the best way to do that in today’s ecosystem-driven world.

Wayfinding + mobile + social = Novomap

I met a couple of guys from a Toronto-based company, Jibestream Media, at a show a few months ago.  At the time, I was playing around with the Las Vegas Convention Center’s wayfinder, and this guy walks up to me and asks me about wayfinding.

Side note – my take on wayfinding (and probably many others’) is that I think it’s such a utilitarian tool that can easily be implemented through touch technology and can also serve as an effective DOOH advertising platform.  The context, primarily where it’s actually placed, drives its effectiveness at doing both.  For instance, I don’t think the in-mall static paradigm is broken and needs interactivity, but it can certainly be enhanced for dynamic advertising purposes.  Wayfinding in a place like hospitals, on the other hand, should have a presence and interactivity might help its utility be more effective, particularly with mobile integration.  Advertising here might be less important, but can nonetheless be incorporated and leveraged.

Anyway….I sat down and talked with the company’s VP of Marketing, Chris Weigand, and watched demos of their solution – NOVOMAP – and in the end walked away pretty impressed with him and it.  Novomap is an interactive out-of-home platform that is built to handle wayfinding, dynamic advertising, mobile interactivity, and even social connections.  What I think is interesting here, aside from how great the solution looks (highly produced, great graphics, animation, and an easy-to-use UI), is all of the hooks that they’ve incorporated.  They’re tapped into what’s needed and what’s wanted.  By and large, mobile & social capability are not selling points to large facilities.  Wayfinding and dynamic advertising are tools that can impact their bottom line, so, I think that’s always the base of any solution like this.  This is what gets their attention.  But once these guys get in the door with the utility and a platform that can drive the prospective company’s business, they’re in a position for incremental value via smart, connecting-type solutions.  The type of solutions that will get people talking and excited – because mobile interactivity and connectiveness is now today’s consumer’s utility.

If you hear the way these guys talk about their solution, you walk away feeling like they have it figured out.  They’re talking about it in all the right ways.  They’re working like crazy to get this into as many places as they can, even in test scenarios.  If you haven’t heard of them, check them out.  I’ve really enjoyed keeping up with them over the past few months and would love to see them succeed.  I think they have a pretty cool product that is effectively powerful.  Keep it up, guys.

Library of Congress Keynote (Day 2)

Speaker:  JoAnn Jenkins (COO, Library of Congress)

These kiosks installed in the Library of Congress are awesome (as shown by initial video):  Location-aware, personalized, builds/gets smarter as you go through the experience (barcode on passport), extend experience online, game (Knowledge Quest)

myLOC.gov – check it all out there (this is the online extension)

“Don’t use technology for the sake of using technology – use it to enhance experience.”

3 keys to LCE Program Success

  1. Visitor Engagement was core objective
  2. Interactive Technology engage and sustain a connection
  3. Internal environment conducive to adoption of new tech solutions

Introduce technologies of tomorrow to bring in a new audience, but maintain integrity of library/collection

Installed 60 kiosks – designed to address all users, from kindergarten to older, more experienced users , specifically of touch screen tech

“Remain on the content, not on the technology.”

Unmatched level of access to the collection items – can literally touch history

Now the curators can’t imagine these kiosks/this technology not being here…

WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) was used!  Silverlight, too.  Sharepoint – this is the largest use to date.  This was what we were working towards at my last agency, when building the IOOH software.  Great to hear. 

Over 105,000 users have registered via myLOC.  Over ½ of myLOC users in the library use the experience online – excellent extension of experience!

Knowledge Quest (incorporation of game) – success unlocks content, provides further level of visitor involvement, extends experience

All this required internal changes – past was driven by vision defined by individual department, silos – building the LCE required much more.  Created the centralized program management office – cross departmental, etc..”Team” approach including everyone.  This evolves every day.  For instance – IT research in looking at Barcode vs. RFID – studies by IT revealed that marble floors would interfere with RFID.

Created experience for first time that could greet visitors at front door, immerse them in many ways while inside, and allowed visitors to take experience home with them.


How long did it take to come up with the vision and draft scope and implement? 

The LOC celebrated 200th bday in 2000 and then, they talked about their audience.  At that time, they went out and did survey – what came back is that people loved the LOC, had no idea they could use it.  Then, they followed up and asked if you could see this, would you?  And overwhelmingly, it was yes. 

Over 60% of their audience is from K-12.  Dramatic shift of audience.  This is amazing. 

The LCE started in 2008.

Was there any 1 key lesson learned?  Anything you would have done differently?  Specifically to the tech?

One of the things that they had to do – tech was changing so rapidly as everything evolved.  Disney worked with them re: how you move crowds around and how tech is involved in that.  Curatorial staff deeply involved, too.  Using Microsoft Sharepoint was big discussion.  They constantly put together levels of review.  Just being mindful that tech is changing so rapidly.  Solutions being developed daily.

Some of the lessons when doing research with other institutions – one of the most important things – scalability was extremely important to success.  Right now, they only have 1,000 items that you can save/share.  The vision is to build your own Library of Congress so you can share/save many more.  The most important way to make it scalable was to make a CMS that would manage online & onsite experiences.  Completely seamless.

Did you have in-house team to do tech?

We had wonderful team at the library, but brought in 8-10 different companies to work with the team.

Then, they went into some tech speak – WPF wrapper.  Some Flash-based.  They used Flash & Silverlight both.  Interesting.

What project mgt methodology?

Brought in Sapient as primary consultant, served as PM.  Above that though, you have to have a person who can make decisions, buck stops there.  They have sole responsibility. (this was her)

More Important: Technology or Audience?

I’m working on an augmented reality solution for a medical client of ours and I’m once again struck by an interesting dichotomy, one that I find recurring in every “emerging” solution I’ve launched:  the balance between pushing technology and utilizing its strengths vs. creating a solution appropriate for the audience.

One school of thought is to push the limits of the technology.  Since it’s new and often times experimental, we should try to use it for what it’s worth.  If it’s touch screens, push for it to be multi-touch, allow the user to “throw” items, work in video hosts and multiple pathways – all make for rich experiences and play to the strengths of that particular technology.  If it’s mobile integration, customize everything, send coupons/messages, utilize the Bluetooth and/or GPS.  If it’s augmented reality, play as much as you can with the real world object and use it to base as many interactions between the two worlds as you can.  In all cases, we’ve got this technology, it has so many possibilities, push them to show how strong they are.

But then you have the other school of thought – how is the audience really going to interact with them?   I understand that we can’t underestimate the audience.  When I was in college, in screenwriting classes, I heard over and over again – “don’t underestimate your audience.  They’re smart.”  Same thing applies here, especially since this sort of marketing is more experiential.  But we can’t overestimate them either.  From my point of view, and most people around me, we know how these technologies work and we’re anxious to play with them.  We’re in the minority.  Most people, particularly over a certain age, don’t feel completely comfortable in front of their computer and don’t fully understand the capability of that device.  Same thing with mobile phones.  Forget about something that they’re required to go up and touch, especially if it doesn’t look touchable.  Or something that they’re required to hold up to a webcam.  I’ve seen over and over again that in most cases, you have to keep it simple, which is counter to really utilizing these emerging technologies to their full extent.

And this is so indicative to where we are in the industry right now.  This sort of marketing and experience – IOOH – is intimidating.  I think people see the hassle or the “weirdness” of it all instead of seeing its potential – a new way of learning and communicating.  We can create experiences through these types of technologies that can make people’s experiences outside of their home much better, much more seamless, much more effective.  By and large, they just don’t know it yet.

So, I’d just say, it’s always important to think about the capabilities of these technologies.  Always know what they can do, but create solutions – regardless of how “much” it utilizes the true power of the technology – that are most appropriate to your audience.  The basic fundamentals of marketing still apply – know who you’re talking to before you come up with a solution.  To be most effective in this new field, keeping it simple will pay more dividends and help out in the long run, more than whiz-banging people right off the bat with this newfangled technology.  We can be just as capable of creating innovative solutions.   

Thoughts?  Let me hear them.

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?