Multi-Touch for Retail
Bringing e-commerce opportunities in-store
By Frieder Hansen, CEO, Pyramid Computer
With more and more people using smart phones and tablets, the retail world has seen a growing trend towards delivering the same engaging level of interactivity through touch-screen kiosks. Frieder Hansen discusses the use of multi-touch technologies in the retail environment.
Traditional interactivity really doesn't cut it anymore. We have become used to the slick user interface of smartphones, and the multi-touch and gesture features of iPods and tablet computers. This generation wants to flick though content, drag to zoom and pinch to minimise, make gestures and even get their friends to join in. It's called real multi-touch.
Not surprisingly, this has led to the installation of growing numbers of kiosks based on iPods and tablet computers. Whilst the user experience is better, there is simply not enough real-estate on the screen to deliver the impact and multi-user potential required for most kiosk applications. Increasingly, the answer is to combine the familiar lightness and precision of capacitive multi-touch technology used on smart phones and tablets, with full-size screens offering full HD clarity and vibrancy.
Projected Capacitive Touch
The key to enabling feather-light, precise and responsive multi-touch lies in the type of touch-screen technology used. Projected Capacitive Touch (PCT) is fast becoming the technology of choice.
Why? Because it's responsive and lag-free, unaffected by ambient light, does not degrade image quality or shift images relative to the touch point, and enables frameless display designs.
This method uses two sensor layers with conductive strips. The isolated strips serve as transmitting and receiving units and when a finger is placed at the intersection of two strips the exact position can be determined by a charge surplus. Solutions based on mutual capacitance can provide capability for up to 20-finger multi-touch input with less than 10ms multi-touch response time for all 20 fingers. This allows multi-user and multi-tasking capabilities and ensures precise, accurate touch for detailed applications that are speed sensitive.
Furthermore, unlike alternative infrared-based systems, capacitive systems are completely insensitive to daylight, making them suitable for use outdoors or in very bright environments.
A key advantage compared with optical touch methods based on back projection is that capacitive screens do not impair the image quality of the underlying display. Since capacitive touch screens can be placed in minimal separation from the display, there is no offset between the image information and the touch point. Furthermore, frameless designs are possible, because no sensors are attached to the edge of the display. Integrating the latest multi-core CPUs and graphics processors ensures a rich user experience.
These are major benefits for in-store applications, especially for point-of-sale and point of information. For example, the ability to detect two or more points of contact simultaneously enables multiple users to operate simultaneously and independently. This is especially useful where a sales consultant is able to sit down with the customer and work directly together to explore options and alternatives. Examples could include explaining financial products or working through the options for a fitted kitchen, bathroom or bedroom design.
New interfaces have been developed with true multi-touch technology to guide POS customers through complex options in mobile phone stores. The user interacts with the touch-screen to explore the features and benefits of alternative handsets, and then compare the available tariffs according to individual requirements. Images can be zoomed, rotated and dragged side-by-side. Dragging and dropping screen elements onto each other provides a direct and highly visual comparison.
Adding intelligent cameras allows the kiosk to recognise the prospective customer's age and gender, enabling specific audience needs to be addressed. In clothing stores, items can be added to an image of the customer themselves, virtually trying on outfits, colour combinations and accessories in-store. Also, touch activity can be used to create product and production statistics. For example, if a consumer touches a certain dress on the screen, the retailer can easily accumulate all this data and react on consumer taste.
Home e-commerce rarely offers such possibilities. The interactivity of in-store e-commerce systems delivers much more focused advertising – for a specific age, a specific gender and maybe for a specific season. Full HD content and appealing visualisation can activate emotions and bring the retailer increased sales success. Today's big multi-touch screens open up a huge range of opportunities for e-commerce in-store.
Monday, May 14, 2012