It wasn’t too long ago when a digital sign consisted of a TV set and a VHS deck or DVD player. In what seems like a flash, tube TVs are passé, and VHS cassette players are beginning to look a little like antiques.
Driven largely by the overwhelming popularity of HDTV in America (recent research from Leichtman Research Group finds high-def sets are now in two-thirds of U.S. homes), flat panel displays are achieving ubiquity. Along the way, they transformed the look and appeal of digital signage.
As striking as that change has been, digital signs appear to be on track to see an equally dramatic change over the next few years, once again driven by the consumer television set. At the recently concluded 2012 International CES in Las Vegas, several television vendors rolled out their vision of what a “smart” TV should look like.
Among them were Samsung, LG, Sony and Lenovo, each with their own versions of smart TVs. univision/activate Google already has taken a run at this market, and Apple is long rumored to be working on its own smart TV with a consumer interface similar to its Siri personal assistant for the iPhone 4S that would let owners control their TV with their voice. Samsung, too, reportedly is at work on adding voice and motion control to new televisions.
For the interactive digital signage industry, these new smart TVs will open doors to greater possibilities for digital sign-based interactivity and further reshape consumer expectations. How long will it be before we see digital signs that allow a hotel guest not only search a list of available restaurants from a digital sign in the lobby but also make reservations simply by speaking to the screen?
Beyond voice interaction with smart TVs, what other benefits might this new generation of televisions bring to digital signage interactivity? Perhaps, these TVs will lead to easier syncing with personal smart phones and tablets offering the public interactive takeaways from the sign. Or, they might make it possible to migrate the digital signage experience from outside the home into the living room -sort of an offshoot of the TV Everywhere concept being promoted these days by pay TV operators, such as cable TV companies.
To be sure, my crystal ball is no clearer than anyone else’s. However, it seems obvious that this next-generation television technology will open up new and exciting possibilities for those who communicate via interactive mobile devices. I’m not suggesting these opportunities to employ a higher degree of interactivity will be available in the short term. But when they do come, what it means to communicate with a digital sign will undergo a dramatic transformation.
Where we are today and where we might be headed in the not-too-distant future with this new technology might be as stark of a contrast as the difference between Tom Hanks feverishly plugging in numbers to an early microcomputer in his role as astronaut James Lovell in “Apollo 13” and Leonard Nimoy as Spock saying from his science station aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, “Computer, compute to the last digit the value of pi,” and the computer replying: “You’re kidding, right?”
David Little is a charter member of the Digital Screenmedia Association with 20 years of experience helping professionals use technology to effectively communicate. For further digital signage insight from Keywest Technology, visit our website for many helpful tips and examples. For more in-depth research from Keywest Technology, download our free digital signage white papers and case studies.