Archive for June 2007

See-through LCD an alternative to window projection?

June 29, 2007

The New Launches blog has a post up about a Japanese company, called Active Inc.,  with a new type of LCD that has transparent properties.

It uses liquid crystal optical film instead of backlights to drive the image, allowing for something akin to a stained glass effect.

Where this could get interesting is as competition to the film, like 3M’s, that can be applied to glass and then projected onto by LCD and DLP projectors. There appear to be some real limitations to this new idea, but the who projection on glass thing is limited quite a bit by the footprint of projectors and the short lifespan and cost of bulbs.


Data on retail dwell times

June 29, 2007

I came across research this morning from the Mystery Shopping Providers Association, a trade organization for all those companies that send people into stores looking at things like pricing and service quality.

The group has done a survey that breaks down wait times at cash in several categories, across the major cities in the U.S.

There are people out there who really do care that it takes three seconds more to get a Whopper in Boston than it does in Detroit. But I’m not one of them.

What I did find useful in the 2006 Wait Time Survey was the breakdown of average times:

“Not surprisingly, gas station convenience stores were the fastest category, with the typical customer wait averaging 2.17. Convenience stores were followed by fast food restaurants (3.16) and sit-down restaurants (3.28). Retail categories scored the worst, starting with department store average wait times (5.23) followed by outlet stores (5.11) and clothing stores (4.55).

Waits get worse for consumers later in the day. The slowest time for consumers is between 2 and 5 p.m. (average wait is 4.22), followed by 5 to 8 p.m. (4.20) and 8 to 11 p.m. (4.03). 5 to 8 a.m. is best (2.40), followed by 8 to 11 a.m. (3.36) and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (4.02).”

This is relevant stuff if you have a network that is focused on checkout areas at retail or menu boards in fast food. Ideally, the duration of your content loop should match up pretty closely with the average wait time. If you are selling a 15-minute cycle of ads in a c-store, and the average wait time is 2 minutes and 17 seconds, fit your ad sales people for tap dancing shoes.

A screen in a newspaper box? Hmmm…

June 22, 2007

My irrational fear of electrocuting myself, coupled with my limited IQ, has kept me from joining the community of propeller-heads who like to stick computers and screens into weird places.

The gadget blog Gizmodo shows them the odd time, and today there was one on there that saw a guy stick a flat panel and a Mac into a newspaper street vending box.

The net result is a cool looking mod, but perhaps, as well, the nugget of a neat idea.

As one guy commented, maybe a newspaper uses these in reasonably secure — repeat SECURE — places like train stations and airports and has a Bluetooth gadget inside that would allow payment from PDA and a quick download of sections of the paper.

As an old newspaper guy, I have absolutely no interest in reading a paper on anything other than pulp paper. But there may be an audience for this, even if it is just attracting people over to grab a print copy for 50 cents. Newspapers like single copy sales, and in big cities, rely on them.

I could also see it working well for free publications like higher end real estate sheets or auto sellers, though again the locations have to be ones that can see the units bolted down and security within eye-sight.

Click on the link to see a video of the thing in action.

Experiential media at InfoComm

June 22, 2007

I ran into Shaun and Vita from Vancouver’s 2C Visual Communications as my stint at InfoComm was winding down. The couple has been in the digital signage space for several years, making a go of it in a market that still seems fairly sleepy compared to the rest of the continent.

They were demo’ing a new version of their diVA responsive media platform, a clever technology intermediary that can orchestrate various experiential media within a retail environment.

For their booth demo, people straying close enough to a screen triggered a guy on a beach to start yakking at them. From there, booth visitors were at various points smelling sunscreen lotion from scent-air canisters, feeling the wind, and sun, and getting blasted by the Phhht of a soda can opening.

It’s wasn’t so much to suggest that a retailer would do all this at one station as it was to show the sorts of things that could be done. 2C has an installation happening in Australia with a wireless retailer that links the phones on display with a screen.

I like this sort of thing because it moves this media beyond the predictable. You could see how the whole thing could easily get silly, but with some careful consideration the idea of choreographing various elements to enrich the experience is a sound one.

Window-shopping, and buying

June 22, 2007

If you are walking along one of the tonier blocks in London in the next few weeks you will be able to stop in front of the flagship Ralph Lauren store and do some serious window shopping – using a projected 78-inch touch screen applied to shop glass.

USA Today is reporting how the store is doing a special Wimbledon tennis tournament promo that allows passers-by to browse and even order clothing from the window interface. Somehow or other that would mean putting in some personal information, right in full view on the sidewalk, so methinks there will be more browsing than actual buying.

The guy with the goofy retro blazer, by the way, is tennis god Boris Becker. I’m thinking it came off about a millisecond after the photo shoot ended.

A different Surface surfaces at InfoComm

June 21, 2007


There has been lotsa ballyhoo at Microsoft’s cool tabletop touchscreen gadget called Surface, which was released a few weeks ago.

I mentioned at the time that there were other companies doing that sort of thing, and I ran into one of them at an InfoComm booth.

Bruce Webster of Large Screen Displays, an LA-area company, was parked on a sofa and leaning over a coffee table doing all the shuffling and resizing of photos that has been one of Surface’s key whiz-bang features. Lots of people were coming by and asking if he was using a Surface device.

Webster said his company developed the code, which is essentially a touch-screen application that sits on top of the Microsoft Vista OS. While the Surface unit undoubtedly has many, many more features than this, it also costs north of $5K and uses an internal DLP projector system that will not have the lifespan of LCDs.

This one used a 45 inch plasma, typically rated for six years of life, and cost about $4.5K all in.

The table was just a side show for what Large Screen was humping at the show – table mounted screens with touch glass and software that enabled architects and engineers to view drawings digitally and manipulate them with a fingertip. Cool stuff.

The whole interactive screen thing was very prevalent at InfoComm, thought most of it was focused on whiteboards and projection systems.

A 120 inch LED TV

June 21, 2007


With the caveat that you get what you pay for, a Chinese company called AOTO was showing a 120 inch LED TV meant for indoor environments like malls.

It took RGB or DVI in, had a pixel pitch in the 6 range (meaning it looks OK from 20 feet back), and cost $40-$50K, delivery in 30 days or less.

The big guys like Barco have screens that cost quite a bit more, but you also get the engineering expertise, experience and quality that comes with the big boys. I bumped into Barco’s John Youngson, a Canuck now working out of Lost Wages, and he said business has been crazy good. Certainly the scale of the Barco booth, with several big LED boards and some cool floor stuff, suggested serious growth and prospects.