Digital Signage

Digital signage future trends: touchless takes charge in 2021

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If there is any technology that made a big splash in the digital signage and self-service industry, it’s touchless. From gesture control to virtual keyboards, these individual solutions have helped retailers, museums and other businesses adapt to the demands of COVID-19 and will continue to dominate this year.

by Bradley Cooper

If there is any technology that made a big splash in the digital signage and self-service industry, it’s touchless. From gesture control to virtual keyboards, these individual solutions have helped retailers, museums and other businesses adapt to the demands of COVID-19.

For example, the Galt Museum and Archives in Alberta, Canada, needed a way for users to activate touchscreens at exhibits without directly touching any screens, and touchless technology came to its rescue.

“Because of COVID we had to act quickly to find a solution that would activate both video and audio. We chose Videotel Digital’s WAVE to Play product and now use it in both our Discovery Hall where visitors can automatically trigger the welcome orientation, as well as for our Kainai Arbor exhibit so visitors can learn more about the exhibit without having to physically touch a screen,” Brad Brown, exhibit designer and fabricator, Galt Museum and Archives, said in an email.

Touchless can expand into many different types of solutions, which can vary from simple proximity sensors to more complex tools.

“There are a unique selection of touchless solutions out there today. These solutions can range from complex scenarios with extreme technology that include facial recognition or you may want to choose a simple and user friendly approach with those that include a variety of proximity sensors, motion sensors or infrared touchless LED buttons,” Lisa Schneider, VP of sales and marketing, Videotel Digital, said in an email. “There are touchless solutions that even allow you to use your own personal mobile phone to safely control an interactive digital display.”

As an example, the Birch Aquarium at UC San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography utilized a gesture control solution to create a digital book that customers could turn without touching any hardware.

“Visitors could interact with a digital book and turn the pages. Visitors liked working with it and it’s a great fit for what we wanted to accomplish,” Robert Raad, media producer and artist, Birch Aquarium, said in an email.

In addition to these solutions, businesses can also transform their interactive displays into touchless solutions via a variety of methods. For example, a user could connect an interactive player to a touchless module with a variety of sensors.

“Another option is to turn a touchscreen into a touchless screen. Simply use a touchscreen’s USB port and connect it to a compatible interactive digital signage player,” Schneider said. “Add in digital software that allows for custom campaigns to be designed with the capability for an end user to use their own safe and personal mobile phone as the control point and navigation tool for the touchscreen.”

Of course, all these solutions bring up a question: is touchless just a fad or will it continue into 2021?

Panelists at an event entitled State of the art touchless options for kiosks and vending during the Self-service Innovation Summit argued that touchless as a trend began in earnest before COVID-19 and will continue even after the pandemic.

When it came to particular pain points in the industry, such as customer unwillingness to download apps to interact with kiosks and displays, the panelists agreed the industry would overcome these issues.

“We will evolve solutions to solve pain points,” Saurabh Gupta, director of product, OOH, Ultraleap, said during the presentation.

Schneider also argues that customers will keep some of their discomfort with touchscreens even after the pandemic and as such touchless will continue to be in demand.

“I absolutely believe that we will see more touchless displays even after the pandemic. Users will be hesitant to interact with something that others have touched excessively. We are already seeing a strong and mandated demand for touchless solutions in almost every vertical,” Schneider said. “I also believe that Touchless solutions will likely become part of a larger ecosystem that offers safer interactive solutions to the digital signage space.”

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