Sept. 28, 2011
by Tom Zerega,
CEO and co-founder, Magnetic 3D
Early adopters of digital signage are looking for innovative ways to push the envelope with their deployment as competitors playing catch-up are adopting solutions of their own. Autostereoscopic, "glasses-free" 3-D displays provide a stellar opportunity for companies looking to upgrade and/or refresh their networks, as well as for newcomers that want to stay ahead of the curve and future-proof their digital signage investment with 3-D-ready technology. While glasses-free 3-D displays may have proven successful at providing greater brand awareness for marketers than their 2-D equivalents, they also come with some special considerations in order to achieve their maximum effectiveness. Over the last six years while deploying glasses-free 3-D solutions, I've gathered significant hands-on experience ranging from field-level insight during the install process to producing hundreds of auto-stereo commercials. So today I'd like to share a snapshot of from my "3-D Digital Signage" rulebook so you can get the facts, avoid costly mistakes from the start and embrace 3-D now with real confidence.
1. "Content is King" is quite possibly the most over-used term in the digital signage industry, but when it comes to deploying an autostereoscopic "glasses-free" 3-D installation, nothing is more important to the success of that deployment than having high-quality content. As with any new medium, the tendency is to scrutinize and find the weak point — let's face it, people and industries are predisposed to resist change. The key is not to give anyone a chance to say that, "3-D technology is just not there yet," because it's far from the truth. In a 2-D deployment customers might not notice that you pulled content from low-resolution images or heavily-compressed video on the Web; we've become somewhat desensitized due in part to explosion of highly-compressed home video-quality content on YouTube and mobile devices. But 3-D is brand new, and everyone will be watching, so it's critical to obtain high-quality media assets from the start. What's more, poor content executions will cause eye fatigue and that is simply unacceptable. Make sure that you are working with a certified partner in autostereoscopic content creation and do not cut corners. All 3-D content is not created equal, and this is one of the major reasons that 3-D has been disappointing analysts at the cinema. It is important that content developers specifically understand the dos and the don'ts related to glasses-free 3D before they say "yes" to taking on your next project, and that they use conversion techniques only when and where appropriate.
2. Proven Technology is critical when considering any kind of professional installation. Navigating the market to find the right partners can be difficult when considering 3-D displays since there are many companies claiming to have "the best" technology. To choose the right solution, make sure you're working with a company that has been in the market for at least three years or more. Companies that have survived the financial crisis are less likely to be fly-by-night. Check with your local distributor to see if they have a recommendation for you, because they will have conducted their own due diligence as well. Another steadfast way to make an educated decision is to see what partners and customers are saying about your intended 3-D supplier. Dig for testimonials, check recent press releases, ask the status of live deployments, and if you're still in doubt, find out how you can see the technology with your own eyes — as they say, "Seeing is Believing."
3. Strategic Placement is absolutely key to achieving an optimal 3-D effect and will ensure that your installation is a success. Keep in mind that autostereoscopic 3-D displays typically have a recommended minimum viewing distance and specified viewing area, so it is important to take proper measurements during site inspections to ensure that viewers have a comfortable and quality viewing experience at all times from all angles. One helpful hint is to always place the 3-D monitor perpendicular to traffic flow in order to maximize the 3-D experience. Though some solutions offer wide viewing angle specifications, 3-D content is still best viewed with a direct line of sight to the monitor; therefore, a mount with tilt and pan adjustments will be very helpful as you look to fine tune the overall experience.
4. Remote Networking may not be an initial requirement of your 3-D installation, but when selecting a glasses-free 3-D platform, it is definitely a feature you will want to have available to you at some point in the future. Remote networking allows you to track and update your content at will and with ease. Generally speaking, 3-D content is more bandwidth-heavy than 2-D content. It is important that you choose a 3-D platform that offers a compressed content solution for easy deployment and remote management. Check to make sure that file sizes are approximately 100 to 200 megabytes per minute rather than fully uncompressed, which can be as much as 10 gigabytes per minute. Otherwise, not only will deploying a network be nearly impossible, but the hardware to play such cumbersome files will also be cost prohibitive.
5. Value Proposition is an important factor in any business model but is of particular importance when considering glasses-free 3-D digital signage. This emerging technology is currently reaching customers in a way no other technology can. According to our research, the innovative offering provides an additional venue for exposure, increased brand awareness, exponential brand engagement and heightened brand perception. Glasses-free 3-D is a premium product that requires some technical savvy and is not necessarily the best option for the faint of heart. While some 3-D displays are completely backwards compatible and capable of playing 2-D as well as 3-D content, 3-D signage is by no means a direct replacement for low-cost and now-ubiquitous 2-D digital displays. Nevertheless, it is a perfect fit for those who embrace the new, especially when tailoring it to specific, cutting-edge clients. Any associated higher cost when deploying 3-D can be mitigated by working with a company that offers various purchasing options on both a sale or rental basis. Running a pilot program is also recommended for companies looking to establish ROI before making a major commitment.
For more on this topic, visit our 3-D Digital Signage research center.
(And if you would like to send in a submission for "5 Things," with five pieces of advice or best practices for digital signage deployers and end-users, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.)