New Technology – Next Q recently held a press event for Canadian technology start-up companies in New York City. The event took place in the LED Lab, a permanent installation from Float 4. There were some interesting aspects affecting the display industry and markets, which are summarized below.
The company is focused on the permanent and event driven display market and provides services such as creative development, software, hardware, installation and training to the event producers. Typically the company’s event definition is high end and covers education, events and exhibits. Float 4 uses a broad range of display technologies, even though the installation in NYC is somewhat LED wall-focused, as the name LED Lab suggests.
The company was showing a wide array of content, most of which did not have a real purpose other than to look attractive, though it excels in creating a ‘user experience’. While this is often used as a buzzword, it is certainly true in Float 4’s case. I watched an interactive installation on the main wall reacting to the user walking by, in the form of floating multi-colored shapes. Other than that ,the wall showed some floating smaller shapes in a dark blue color.
The installations are mostly driven by a computer running a program similar to a game engine with discrete graphic cards. As many installations far exceed UltraHD resolution, the company is used to using multiple graphic cards to drive the display installation. Using this approach it creates real time content, however, the company also work with pre-rendered content, depending on the application.
This company creates the framework for use of mobile devices, mainly iPads, in a retail environment. It creates a so called point of engagement platform, which in principle creates a visual customer guidance system by combining survey type questions with database driven recommendations. You want a new hair color? Just answer a few questions and the tablet will suggest a product for you.
Beehivr can turn around these kind of systems in a very short time. Simple surveys can be created within one day, while more complex guidance systems with creative artwork take up to one week to complete.
Pheromone is a web developer company that started to develop online games for niche sports (though coming from Canada, I wouldn’t think of ice hockey as a niche sport). It is a typical fantasy sport league that will run a complete season within a month and games on a daily basis. Being only in beta right now, the company has around 3,000 players, with monetization through in-game purchases.
The interesting part for the display and CE world is the fact that even though the game was developed as a PC based game, 30% of the current players are playing on a mobile device (smartphone and tablet) even though the game does not work very well on smaller screens. The next game will be designed from the ground up for mobile platforms.
This developer of augmented reality apps is focusing on smartphones and tablets as viewing platforms at the moment. It created an AR app for the Hunger Games “Catching Fire”. When the app is run and the camera sees the Hunger Game image, the official ‘Catching Fire’ trailer is loaded and plays on the device.
While the app was downloaded 75,000 times, the clip was played over 300,000 times. The explanation is of course the newness and wow effect of this new technology. As we know from 3D, wow effects don’t last for ever and can fade relatively quickly.
AR apps similar to those described above are mainly designed to introduce a new product. While this is the main application for the technology today, the company also showed another very interesting application. In this case the AR system provides information as a form of automated user manual. As it was explained, one of the most likely questions to the in-house IT department of a large corporation was “how do I operate the phone system?”. This refers to a Cisco phone system with the ability to create ad-hoc conference calls. The user holds the tablet with the app running towards the phone and the loading video explains the steps to start a conference call. A very clever solution to cut down on those phone calls to the IT department.
This application is very similar to other field service applications, but could also lead the way to automated user manuals for TVs, Blu-ray disk players and such – download versus print or DVD. This may be a very interesting application for this form of AR. – Norbert Hildebrand