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.