The Perspective 
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
I recently returned from Essen, Germany for the co-located shows Kiosk Europe Expo and Digital Signage Expo (the latter not to be confused with the show of the same name that took place in Las Vegas earlier this year). You can view a slideshow of images taken from the show.
After walking the show floor, I was left with two main impressions: (1) Apple’s iPhone and Microsoft’s Surface have got people thinking about multi-touch, and (2) Europe continues to produce unique kiosk designs.
First, I’ll talk about multi-touch offerings seen at the show:
Franhofer Institute, a research and development firm, had a multi-touch table application in the Self-Service Futures Parlour. Like MS Surface, several people can interact with the table at the same time, “grabbing” photos and increasing or decreasing its size with two fingers. The interesting application here was the use of architectural designs. Once you selected a place on one of the floor plans, another window displayed a 3-D rendering from which you could pan and zoom.
Hamburg University participated in the Self-Service Futures Parlour as well and students demonstrated a multi-touch screen they developed based on infrared frames, which can be mounted onto a standard LCD or plasma screen. They also developed an interesting gesture: using three figures in a vertical or horizontal motion to give you the ability to flip a picture over.
Nexio, based in Korea, develops infrared touch technology and showed a multi-point touch screen using infrared. The demonstration was using Google Earth and by using two fingers over the navigation control, you could change the view from “top down” to the “horizon” view and of course zoom in and out as well as rotate the Earth on its axis.
NextWindow, an SSKA member based in New Zealand, incorporated its digital whiteboard feature along with photos that you can move and resize using multi-touch. An online demonstration is available.
Now to some of the interesting kiosk designs at the show:
DigiQuipment had two interesting kiosk designs that are being used side by side in a bank location. First was an orange pod-shaped kiosk that hangs from the ceiling. The enclosure design provides privacy for the financial transaction. Next to the pod kiosk was a matching orange leather ottoman with a kiosk mounted to it, which is intended to entertain children while the adult conducts business with the pod kiosk.
Friendlyway, a German kiosk company celebrating its 10th year in the business, has developed a mobile kiosk with a locking brake similar to those on airport luggage carts. The idea here is that the customer can roll the kiosk around with them as he or she strolls through an automobile dealership or museum. Compared with a handheld device, it is unlikely the customer would be taking this device home with them.
Innova, from Istanbul, Turkey, has a kiosk made from polyester that only weighs 23 Kg (about 51 lbs.). Its sleek, curvy design comes in an array of colors.
Changing the world, one kiosk at a time
Sometimes kiosks are developed simply to make the world a better place.
DigiQuipment, the Dutch company mentioned above, also makes a kiosk to go into a classroom as a “stand in” for a child with a long-term illness. The kiosk, mounted with a camera on top, allows the student to see what’s going on in the classroom and for the teacher and classmates to interact with the child.
No one has a more daunting challenge of closing the digital divide than those trying to reach rural Africa. Enter Grant Cambridge, an engineering technologist with Meraka Institute of South Africa. Cambridge and his organization have developed a program called Digital Doorway, which endeavors to place a computer kiosk in remote South African villages. In many cases, this is the first time people in these villages have seen or used a computer.
The kiosks must be made to withstand the rigors of its environment, namely dust and vandalism. The students teach themselves how to use the computer and soon are able to learn about the rest of the world beyond their village. In a presentation on the project, Cambridge shared several stories of how the kiosk impacted people’s lives, both young and old, for the better.
By mid June, Digital Doorway plans to have 300 kiosks in the field.
Posted by: David Drain AT 11:28 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Monday, 28 April 2008

Some go to Las Vegas to get married or to gamble. I go to Vegas to renew my kiosk vows at the annual convention and KioskCom Awards event. On my return from Vegas, I rushed backed from New York’s JFK airport in order to avoid the traffic gridlock posed by the visit by the Pope and to see the new Microsoft Surface installation at the AT&T phone store.Alex_Richardson.jpg

The much-anticipated Microsoft Surface touch table landed at five AT&T stores this week in New York, Atlanta, San Antonio and San Francisco.

Much has been written in the trade press about the production delays. It appears that it had to do with Microsoft running a Betty Crocker Bake-off contest between the original partner, T-mobile and AT&T Mobility.

AT&T won and my congrats to Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO, AT&T Mobility for understanding what it takes to win in today’s competitive environment. (You may recall that AT&T also was the first partner with Apple’s iPhone.)

You can see how the MS Surface application works at the AT&T site by clicking here.

How do I like it?

I’ve been excited by multi-touch technology ever since I saw Jeff Han’s video (now used by CNN Political TV coverage). Not a lot has been written about some of the pioneering competitive technology created by GestureTeks MultiTouch Application or Savant’s AV control touch table. Again, Microsoft has borrowed inventions from other industry innovators and sewn together an affordable, commercially available hardware and software product offering. The Apple iPhone interface also raised the bar on consumer interactive applications.

What is the secret to the AT&T Surface Application?

It’s not about the technology. It’s about the creative application, fused with savvy in-store merchandising skills. The AT&T and Microsoft team (and perhaps a few clever contractors), produced a kiosk application that provides real value to consumers and store associates. The AT&T store salesperson was able to demonstrate dozens of different phone configurations, colors and coverage maps in a matter of seconds—without giving me 5 different paper brochures.

How will this change the kiosk world?

I’ve been involved in this industry for over two decades and love to innovate. And as founder of Netkey and Managing Director of SMP, I’ve worked on over 200 interactive kiosk projects around the world.

The AT&T Surface installation will change the kiosk world.

No longer will your customers want simple kiosk pedestals or wall mounted units. Your customers will request the amazing features of MS Surface: Multi-touch, product tag initiated information, relevant digital merchandising interfaces — in table top or wall mounted configurations.

My advice to my kiosk colleagues? Turn off your computers, get out of the office and take your entire team to visit an AT&T store to play with the MS Surface Application. Follow Microsoft’s example: Don’t copy, but instead enhance and improve on their application for your own specific industry market, and you just might beat them.

Or you might want to leapfrog Microsoft and start thinking about mobile devices. The Apple iPhone, with its rich, multi-touch interface, may be the next battleground for the in-store customer.

Technology will always change every 90 days, but I can safely make predictions about who will win the KioskCom 2009 Best of Show Award, the NRF Best of Show Award, GlobalShop Best of Shop or any other retail merchandising award category. And the winner is, AT&T Mobility.

Posted by: Alex Richardson AT 11:19 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Tuesday, 15 May 2007
*Editor's note: Mark Ozawa is managing director of Accuvia Consulting, a leading boutique consulting firm focusing on technology and systems solutions for the lodging, foodservice and retail industries around the world.
Guest and customer interest in self-service options continues to grow and, as a result, kiosks and other self-service devices are appearing in more and more retail, lodging and foodservice locations. Although existing technological capabilities in the user interfaces limit the ways in which devices can be used, new capabilities in technology will permit operators to find more ways to use them for self-service.
A very significant enhancement is coming in user interfaces. For instance, some systems coming out of the lab allow users to interact and manipulate items on a display with nothing more complicated than their fingers. Very complex tasks can be accomplished without a mouse or a keyboard. Moreover, the displays can recognize multiple points of contact at the same time and very natural finger gestures. They even can be heat sensitive and capable of interacting with multiple users at once.
Imagine you approach what appears to be a nice glass-topped table but it is, in fact, a large, horizontal, touchscreen. You touch an icon of a folder marked “Images.” The folder opens and a group of images spill out just as if you had taken a set of photos and dropped them on the surface of the table. Using your finger, you spread the images apart and move them around the desktop just like you would spread pictures on your table. Selecting one image, you take a picture and, using your fingers, you “pull” the opposite corners of the image. As you do so, the picture gets bigger. Then, you “spin” the image, which turns within the display. It is 3-D, so you can see all sides of the item in the image.
Now imagine you are seated at a table in a local restaurant. Instead of giving you a menu, the greeter touches a menu icon on your table. She “slides” a menu image with her finger and puts it in front of each diner. She clicks each image and each menu grows into full size. Each diner “turns” the pages of the menu by dragging the right edge of the page to the left.
Each menu item is accompanied by an image. Diners can use their fingers to “pull” the images into a larger image. By clicking a question mark icon next to the image, nutrition information appears along with preparation details. Suggestions for other items appear next to the selected ones.
Or, in your local clothing store, you pick out a nice shirt. You go to an interactive table and enter the item number on a keyboard displayed on the surface. An image of your shirt appears along with various icons. You are looking for other clothes in the store that might go well with this shirt, so you touch an icon and options for pants, jackets and accessories appear. You touch on the pants icon and images of various pants appear on the desktop.
You can manipulate each image with your fingers, making them larger and allowing you to see all sides of each garment. You “discard” those that don’t appeal to you. Selecting a pair of pants you want to see, you click the image and a 3-D map of the store appears with the location of the pants marked.
In your hotel room, you have an interactive tabletop instead of the traditional desk. One of the available options is an electronic concierge. Touching an icon brings up a map of the area around your hotel. You can “pull” the map in opposite directions to enlarge a section into an expanded view. Icons appear marking restaurants, bars and other points of interest.
You touch the icon of a restaurant that seems interesting to you and information about the restaurant appears. Because the image is 3-D, you can manipulate the map into a view of the city you can expect to see as you walk to the restaurant.
This new interface has two significant advantages over current technology. Most important, it is very intuitive and easy to use. Second, the interface allows the user to access deeper levels of information easily, which allows the self-service device to provide more and better data than often can be obtained from a staff person. This new interface will launch many new ways for operators to enhance customer service with self-service devices.

Posted by: Mark Ozawa AT 10:17 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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