Bus stop wizard: video games and interactive digital signage

| by Christopher Hall
Bus stop wizard: video games and interactive digital signage

Imagine if you could go to the nearest bus shelter and try out the new iPad 2 on a 72-inch touch-screen display?

San Francisco-headquartered Obscura Digital can see it clearly.

Obscura recently wrapped up an interactive campaign with Clear Channel Outdoor, Mediamark Research Inc. and Yahoo! that turned 20 San Francisco bus shelters into interactive, touch-controlled video games for passersby or people waiting for buses to play.

Using Zytronics capacitive touch overlays over 72-inch displays, as well as proprietary software and their own hardware designs, Obscura Digital remade one wall of the three-walled bus shelters into, essentially very large touch-screen computers.

The "Yahoo! Bus Stop Derby" campaign generated about 200,000 game plays on its 20 screens after the program launched in late November, according to Obscura Digital Managing Director James Healy.

The Yahoo! campaign featured the interactive touch screens and high-speed graphics processing. Obscura Digital used readily-available graphics processors usually used in video games to enable the real-time graphics and interactions of the bus shelter games, according to Obscura Digital's Director of Systems, Alex Oropeza. The screens created the images in real time, rather than playing back premade or "baked" footage, Oropeza said.

According to Healy, "one of the coolest features" of the project is the real-time reporting Obscura Digital built into the system, so deployers can see what's happening at every bus stop – what games people are playing, if they're finishing games, etc. – with the idea of using the data to optimize campaigns as they're happening.

All the shelters are networked together over 3G modems, allowing for automatic updates and real-time checks of the system's "heartbeat," using the company's proprietary software, Oropeza said.

Looking forward to future uses of the system, though, the shelters are basically big touch-screen computers, Healy said, so they could theoretically run any application that could be run on any other computer.

"We can do anything from 3-D games, like if Electronic Arts wanted to demo a game on the shelters, we could do that with the system we have in place," Healy said. "We're excited. Hopefully the next execution will take full advantage of that."

Healy couldn't talk about future clients for the bus shelter displays, and until the next project launches the screens will likely be covered by static posters. But the possibilities for new product demonstrations are impressive.

"That's what's so cool about it; if Apple wanted to come in and show the iPad 2 on the shelters, we could make a fully-functioning version of the iPad, with Internet connectivity and everything else on a 70-inch touch screen," Healy said.

"For any interface project or gaming project or new technology launch, cell phones, we could blow up the interface and let people interact with it right there on the street."

This first campaign on 20 screens was a test, and the goal is to increase the total number of screens to about 100 by the end of Q2 2011, he said.

According to a press release from Clear Channel Outdoor, the bus shelter network also delivers free Wi-Fi access to the surrounding areas, creating more opportunities in integrating the outdoor advertising medium with mobile and social media.

The bus shelter is basically a U-shaped design, Oropeza said, and designers hid the media player in one side, then ran signaling cable across the top into the wall panel. The wall panel was a Zytronics capacitive 1.5 touch overlay, with microwires running through the glass to pick up people's natural electrostatic charge to track movement, he said.

All the hardware was put together by Manufacturing Resources International, which is known for its "super-rugged" electrical hardware, Oropeza said. The shelters needed to be tough, both to survive the elements and the nightly high-pressure washings the shelters receive, he said.

"It's physically impossible to scratch that glass," he said. "It's also bulletproof."

Yahoo! Bus Stop Derby from Obscura Digital on Vimeo.

Topics: Cellular Signage, Content, Customer Experience, Display Technology, DOOH Advertising, Hardware, Interactive / Touchscreen, Mobile Interactivity, Networks, Outdoor Signage, Software, Transportation / Travel

Christopher Hall

Christopher is the managing director of the Interactive Customer Experience Association and former editor of DigitalSignageToday.com. A longtime freelance writer and reporter, he's bringing a fresh perspective and critical take on the industry.

wwwView Christopher Hall's profile on LinkedIn

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