Industry Insights: Non-Touch Interaction

Chanel Turner

For our latest Industry Insights Lab, we spoke with our North American Sales Representative, Partner and interactive technology expert, Kevin Lockwood. How is the new world of interaction shaping up? Kevin runs us through the best non-touch tech to watch.

In a Covid-19 world, interactive experiences and interactive exhibits have shifted from a focus on innovation for engagement and entertainment, to innovation for safety and hygiene. A necessary shift for the sector? Perhaps. But many professionals thriving in this space have spent 2020 pushing the boundaries of what interaction can mean in our ‘new normal’, while ensuring experience, entertainment and memorable journeys still take a front seat.

We're happy to report that on-sphere touch is not dead. But as the world comes back to normal, offering people a range of levels at which they can interact, allows for future-proofing and personal comfort. While at the same time also adding more depth to experiences.

For our latest industry insights lab, we spoke with our North American Sales Representative, Partner and interactive technology expert, Kevin Lockwood. We talked interactive exhibits in 2020/2021, we talked about the key non-touch interaction innovations to watch, and we talked about what the future is for this popular sector. Will interaction be the same? No – but in the best way possible.

“Technology is a sector that thrives on innovation; on constant development, improvement, and something that lives off the possibilities of what’s next. So, throughout 2020, technology (whether it be business to consumer or business to business) has evolved to include new and exciting engagement possibilities.

Here are some of the key non-touch interactive innovations I think are worth watching into the new year. Whether it be for triggering content in exhibits or triggering content on the PufferSphere® or PufferTouch® solutions – they are key technologies that are ensuring even in our ‘new normal’, interaction and enjoyment don’t have to be forgotten.

Motion Sensors:

Now this technology has been around for some time now, but in varying forms. The most common being motion sensors or proximity sensors used at the entrance to a building for security. If you’ve walked into a reception area and heard a bell or buzzer as you entered, that’s a common use of a motion sensor. But in the context of interactive exhibits, what those motion sensors trigger is where the fun happens!

For example, I worked with a client who had curated a river zone for children’s entertainment. They wanted to enhance engagement in the space, and enhance the immersive experience for their visitors; with the river, the critters on the walls, and create an all-encompassing environment. They wanted the kids to really feel the connection with nature in the space. So, they introduced motion sensors that would trigger the sound effects of water flowing from the river, they would trigger the sound of waterfalls, and would even trigger music as visitors walked through the space to stimulate all the senses.

Using motion sensors at a trade show or exhibition would be about triggering sound, lighting, or movement when someone gets close to the booth. Both to attract attention, to stop foot traffic, and to deepen engagement with clients, customers and key stakeholders. Light based motion sensors could be your triggers on site, and these days with LiDAR technology developing the way it is, you can also incorporate LiDAR in proximity sensor design.

Foot Pad Sensors:

Think Dance, Dance Revolution meets 2021, foot pad sensors are becoming increasingly popular in permanent and temporary exhibitions. For wider exhibits, foot pad sensors can be used as a secondary attraction loop to motion sensors, or they can be a stand-alone interactive feature. They are a great way to wake people up, to engage them in a fun, gamified way, and can be used to trigger all sorts of content (audio, videos, image carousels, and more). Plus, they are hygiene friendly, as they are shoe friendly.

A great way I’ve seen them used was as a remote control. So certain sensors allowed a user to hit FWD, BACK, STOP, PAUSE, etc on a video, and it put the content fully in their control. Another example was for a client designing a Solar System exhibit; they added a foot sensor at each planet in the space that triggered audio and video content relating to that planet in real time. Geographic sensors are an easy way to trigger content based on positioning in an exhibit, and without hand touch, cleaning of the sensors can be easily managed.

Touchless Gesture Recognition:

This is a great feature to integrate with any display technology, but in particular the Pufferfish solutions because of the intuitive nature of how Touchless Gesture Recognition works. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but it allows you to control the PufferTouch® without making physical contact with the screen, and again use the screen almost like a remote.

Specific gestures that work well are swiping your hand to the left or right to rotate the globe, or swiping up and down to tilt the globe, dial or circular gestures can be used to speed content up, waving can trigger videos, volume, and the list goes on. It can be really intuitive. It can also be used to activate digital menus, for turning pages on digital literature, etc. Some people might know it as ‘leap motion’, but it’s something that is seeing a resurgence through Covid-19.

Mouse Activation:

Now you can use mouse activation in many ways on the Pufferfish solutions, and when integrating with external displays a handy mouse can be your best friend. But Mouse activation is touchless while still being hands on – It’s simple. It’s a matter of using a mouse via an external track pad or even a mobile device / tablet surface.

For example, you could integrate mouse activation into an application for the PufferTouch® and it would recognise the movement of the mouse as it would on a computer, and allow you to move the screen accordingly. This allows for the avoidance of touching the screen, and allows for better hygiene with the use of your own mouse. Voila!

Voice Control:

Last, but definitely not least, is voice control. Step aside Alexa, step aside Siri, voice control can be a great addition to any technology – but while you might be used to seeing it on your mobile devices – it’s a great addition to experience-based technology too.

For example, it can be used to enhance presentations with intuitive integration on the PufferSphere®, or used to trigger dynamic content on PufferTouch® solutions. Voice control is a new addition to the Pufferfish line up, but one that is a truly exciting addition to see flourish in 2021! See more on this integration here.”

It’s great to see new ways innovators are pushing the boundaries of what interaction looks like, even amongst the uncertainty that 2020 has brought. But we hold out hope that 2021 will look different, events and trade shows will awaken again, and we can all experience these exciting technologies for ourselves.

If you want to discuss these non-touch interactive additions in more detail, and explore how we can integrate them with our solutions – don’t hesitate to get in touch.

A huge thank you to Kevin for sharing his expertise and point of view for this piece!

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