New Google tool could have a deep impact on digital signage

Oct. 2, 2013 | by John Wang

Just a few days ago, Google released the beta version of its new "Web Designer" tool for authoring online ads in HTML5. Like most tools released by Google, it is available free of charge.

Google Web Designer screenshot

Our staff gave it a quick spin and it didn't take long before we were able to come up with beautiful graphics enriched with 3D animation. This is no doubt one of the easiest HTML5 tools available for serious content creation.

We were quite happy with the playback performance when we tested the content on one of our media player appliances. It played far better than content created with the Adobe Edge Animate tool, which required a fast CPU to run properly. For most uses in digital signage, we feel the performance of Google's tool is close to hand-crafted HTML5 code that purposefully takes advantage of hardware acceleration.

Here is a highlight of features possible with the new tool:

  • Easy layout (snapping supported) of pictures, text, and vector graphics
  • 2D and 3D animation, including scaling, rotation and fades, coordinated by key frames
  • Built-in controls for interactive picture gallery, video and even maps
  • Advanced customization via full CSS tags and event-based JavaScript programming

After content is created, the Web Designer tool conveniently allows you to save all media assets in one encompassing "zip" file, also-known-as the "HTML5 widget" format. The bundle can then be easily wrapped up a short script to play on any SMIL player, loaded from any Web server or transferred by USB stick:

<smil><head/><body><ref src="path_to_zipped_html5" type="application/widget"/></body></smil>

It is not difficult to create great looking digital menu boards, event signs, community bulletin boards and retail ads (Google's initial goal was to make a tool for Web and mobile ad creation). We feel this is the first time a free tool has gained the sophistication and potential to disrupt the digital signage industry.

There was a time when digital signage vendors provided proprietary and highly integrated tools for content creation, network management and media playback. In the past three years we have seen rapid changes induced by HTML5: complicated players replaced by HTML5 appliances, network management by simple cloud storage, and now finally, content authoring done with this free tool.

You should never again argue digital signage is expensive to do.

Topics: Cloud-Based Digital Signage , Content , Content Design and Aesthetics , Software , Trends / Statistics

John Wang / John is CEO of IAdea Corp., and he actively drives open standards for digital signage at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and POPAI, and chairs the Standards Committee at the Digital Signage and Multimedia Association.
www View John Wang's profile on LinkedIn

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