Blog: Jeff Hastings 
Jeff Hastings (Bio)
Friday, 20 September 2013

Take a quick look around any restaurant, sports bar, food court or any other dining establishment and it’s plain to see that digital menu boards are one of the fastest-growing segments of digital signage. And it’s easy to understand why – the screens are smart and stylish, and they give a polished, high-tech feel to the establishment. Equally important, the menus can be updated with ease to reflect new offers, new pricing and new labelling regulations.

The more savvy restaurants are incorporating video into their menu boards, taking their marketing efforts to a whole new level. Integrating dynamic content alongside the core menu information not only creates visual impact – it increases customer engagement with the menu itself and gives restaurateurs the ability entice hungry diners with more than just static text and imagery.

Compelling moving images – imagine a steaming burger, a drink being poured or ice clinking in a glass – prompt a Pavlovian response in customers, often leading to a sale of the featured product. The use of video-based menu boards is finding its way into virtually every category. Salad bars showing fresh ingredients as they’re chopped up, coffee shops showcasing a frothy top added to a steaming cappuccino, juice bars showing fresh oranges being fed through a juicer, the possibilities are endless. In each case, the proprietors are using visuals to create a desire for their products, with compelling results.

While it’s not unusual to see many of these more innovative video applications in digital menu boards, there exists a great dichotomy within the industry whereby some restaurants are embracing video, and others continue to use digital signage simply as a substitute for a static sign.

Forward-looking restaurateurs understand that their menus are much more than a simple list of what coming out of the kitchen on a given day. A digital menu board is a valuable sales tool. It’s an extension of their brand, and an important point of customer interaction. In most cases, customers engage with the menu board for several minutes, while the actual time spent engaging with the cashier or waiter can be just a fraction of that time. So why not improve the depth and quality of that interaction with rich media that puts customers in the mood to order generously?

Using the best available technology, a “digital menu board” can become a “digital selling board,” attracting attention and making the restaurant’s tastiest offerings look more tempting than ever.  

Posted by: Admin AT 02:49 pm   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  
Thursday, 22 August 2013

In the digital signage industry, we are masters at creating jaw-dropping visuals. Video walls, custom-shaped screens and video columns show how we continue to push the bounds of what is possible with modern digital signage. But something I find particularly interesting is how digital signage is evolving ‘beyond the screen’ to create a more sensory experience that is as entertaining as it is effective.

One such example is Pixels, one of our UK system integrators. Pixels joined forces with award-winning illusionist Sean Alexander and Hollywood special effects artist Rob Ostir to bring illusions to life on HoBs PiT, a £500,000 ride at the Pleasurewood Hills amusement park in Lowestoft, England. The ride, set in an abandoned mine in absolute darkness, uses digital signage to create a series of chilling special effects. Pixels uses twelve BrightSign solid-state digital signage players to rattle doors, open and close hatches and even raise and lower a corpse in sync with HD video playback.

Sean Alexander’s script incorporates a ride element and a walk-through section. Video playback, holographic projection and physical effects need to be totally in synch. Each must happen at exactly the right moment, otherwise the impact is lost. Norman Garland and his team at Pixels did an outstanding job using the players and free BrightAuthor software to achieve this, avoiding the need for expensive control systems. Using BrightAuthor, they programmed the players to replay HD video in response to triggers from sensors in the ride, and to control pneumatic valves and rams, lighting and motors for the special effects. Control was achieved through the GPIO port on the players.

To continue the theme of ‘spooky signage,’ Pale Night Productions is a Missouri-based company that sells special effects to professionally created, commercial haunted houses. Pale Night Productions is recognized globally, and a big part of that recognition stems from its extensive portfolio of video effects. These video effects are complete packages, including the monitor, sound module, control hardware and our digital signage players. In addition, these packages include pneumatic connections and control valves that integrate with the package to spray water at particular times to simulate blood splatter. You can imagine how impactful it would be to observe a chaotic zombie chase scene on the display that culminates with the zombies being shot, while being showered with simulated blood at the exact moment the zombies explode!

It’s a bit gruesome to describe an amusement park ride with levitating corpses and a haunted house complete with zombie shoot-out, but these are graphic, compelling examples of how digital signage is reaching beyond the screen to deliver a very immersive viewer experience. And when you consider how effectively this multi-dimensional digital signage is being used to provoke emotional reactions in those nearby, just imagine what’s possible when these techniques are similarly applied in other settings. My prediction is that we’ll begin to see more of this multi-dimensional, sensory digital signage deployed in retail and other business settings, creating new and creative ways to connect with customers.


Posted by: Admin AT 09:19 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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