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Media Coverage

Interactive digital displays finding a home in retail

Deena M. Amato-McCoy
STORES magazine
Oct 16 2009

The next generation of electronic billboards — interactive displays fueled by customer movements — could enable chains to promote new category destinations in-store, deliver information that educates shoppers and, ultimately, drive sales.

Digital signage is gaining traction in the retail industry and continues to prove its worth. Approximately 155 million consumers – two-thirds of shoppers 18 and older – had seen a digital video display at various public venues (including retail stores) within the past month, according to a study conducted earlier this year by Columbia, Md.-based research firm Arbitron.

While retailers’ capital budgets remain strained, they are committed to digital signage as long as it meets a few criteria: it must be easy to use; capture consumer attention, especially from afar; and ensure that shoppers recognize and retain the message.

While this might seem like a pretty tall order, it doesn’t have to be, according to Vincent John Vincent, co-founder and president of GestureTek. “Digital signage should have a ‘wow’ factor that includes being engaging, supporting branding and most of all, promoting fun,” he says.

GestureTek, with worldwide headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif., provides video-based gesture-recognition technology to capture user movements and then allow consumers to personally interface with three-dimensional multi-media content, access information and manipulate special effects by using their hands or full bodies.

An integrated projection camera system captures the gestures of consumers as they approach the screen and projects them onto the signage, which can be on a wall, floor or store window. Armed with a wireless network connection, retailers can manage the program in-house or have GestureTek host it and regularly deliver content to the store.

One of GestureTek’s most popular options is “The Cube,” a turnkey, all-in-one unit standing 18 x 24 inches tall. The unit’s integrated camera and projector display dynamic multi-media games, imagery and special effects onto retail floor space. Besides being a great fit in small footprints (it projects a 4 x 5 ft. interactive display), the unit doesn’t require installation support; it can be up and running within minutes.

Driving shoppers, sales
The GestureTek system can help drive shoppers toward new categories or into “less shopped” areas of the store. For example, one specialty retailer complained that 70 percent of store traffic stopped within 20 ft. of the entrance. By adding an interactive floor in its flagship Times Square store, that chain “was able to move shoppers into other departments and drove sales,” Vincent says.

ScreenFX, a component of the company’s GestureFX System line, helps retailers turn store windows into electronic billboards that can advertise exclusive offers or services, including gift registries and loyalty programs. Windows can also be made “multi-touch,” enabling groups of users to interact simultaneously with menu-based content.

“Retailers can also program these screens to be interactive and allow users to manipulate content by touching the screen,” Vincent says.
GestureTek also has commercialized solutions featuring stereo or 3-D cameras that “allow us to track the unique movements of people within a group from longer distances,” Vincent says.

The 3-D technology is being used in several Sprint stores and will also be used in interactive displays at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C.

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GestureTek technologies have international patent protection. U.S. patents include: 5,534,917 (Video Gesture Control Motion Detection);
7,058,204 (Multiple Camera Control System, Point to Control Base Patent); 7,421,093 (Multiple Camera Tracking System for Interfacing With an Application);
7,227,526 (Stereo Camera Control, 3D-Vision Image Control System); 7,379,563 (Two Handed Movement Tracker Tracking Bi-Manual Movements);
7,379,566 (Optical Flow-Based Tilt Sensor For Phone Tilt Control); 7,389,591 (Phone Tilt for Typing & Menus/Orientation-Sensitive Signal Output);
7,430,312 (Five Camera 3D Face Capture).

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