Not all kiosk screens are created equal, and deployers looking for the most state-of-the-art features should consider multi-touch technology, aesthetics and energy efficiency. The consumer's level of comfort with his tablet and iPhone is helping to drive many of these trends. A successful kiosk will make users forget they're using kiosks, and instead will offer similar capabilities as their phones, according to the experts KioskMarketplace interviewed for Part 2 of our tech series. (Read Part 1 about printers here.)
It's important for deployers to future proof with any new proven technology, and multi-touch has definitely proven that it's here to stay, said Sheridan Orr of Meridian Zero Degrees.
"Consumers expect this. If you've ever been to the Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport and seen the new maps they have and then watched for a few minutes, you'll notice passersby walking up to it and expecting it to be multi-touch. When they pinch and zoom and the sign doesn't respond they leave visibly frustrated," she said.
When selecting multi-touch, deployers should use screens with projective capacitive touch because they are more durable, don't require recalibration as frequently and create an experience similar to what consumers expect.
"We also find that it is best for outside deployments as bugs and rain droplets don't register as false touches," Orr said.
A good multi-touch screen with high-quality software drivers is the driving force behind a screen that can detect touch input accurately and correctly, said Michael Ionescu, president of Ionescu Technologies.
"Without a good screen and good drivers, touch input would not be very responsive and having an on-screen keyboard would be more of a headache than it's worth," he said.
A critical aspect of multi-touch monitors is the importance of having software that leverages the multi-touch experience into the user interface.
"Otherwise the cost of multi-touch today won't be justified," said Ron Bowers of Frank Mayer & Associates.
To ensure deployers get what they pay for, he suggested asking the software developer about its level of experience with creating applications for multi-touch and confirming that the multi-touch screen experience justifies the on-the-screen experience into a meaningful benefit.
"Otherwise, traditional touch is all they need. The consumers experience must be heightened and integral to the interaction with the kiosk," Bowers said.
Samsung recently introduced a new type of touchscreen technology — PixelSense — in its Samsung SUR40, an interactive, multi-touch device. The table has a thin, 4-inch profile and a large screen size — and integrates LCD panel capability with touch technology and combines Microsoft's multi-touch and object recognition software, said Somanna Palacanda, director of Microsoft Surface.
"(It) is an intelligent, specialized device that can deliver highly-customized, engaging experiences for retailers and their customers," Palacanda said.
Microsoft's PixelSense technology, which gives LCD panels the power to see without the use of cameras, and the Microsoft Surface 2.0 software combined with Samsung's display, makes it possible for several people to use one display. Not only can it recognize fingers and hands, but it can also detect other objects placed on the screen supporting up to 50 points of contact at one time.
The aesthetic of the screen can impact the overall user experience. Customers expect that zero bezel, edge-to-edge glass look that they are used to on their phones and tablets.
"Plus, they give the units a more modern and sleek look, which is what many of our customers are asking for," Orr said.
Monitors or touchscreens that look like windows when not in use will soon become popular, Ionescu said.
"In this instance, regular store front windows could be repurposed as interactive displays. This type of tech isn't too far from being a reality."
Samsung recently demonstrated its new Transparent Smart Window at CES 2012, a 46-inch LCD that serves as a TV, computer or kiosk. (Watch below for a demo.)
Another key thing to consider when choosing a monitor is energy efficiency. LED screens use 40 percent less than conventional screens, Orr said. This power savings can substantially lower operating costs in large deployments and comply with green IT initiatives.
For example, Samsung's Smart Window uses less energy because it's powered partly from the sun.
"There is a growing global concern for the amount of energy being unnecessarily used, and increasing difficulty in finding more and more viable power sources," said Bill Beaton, senior manager of digital information display marketing, Samsung LCD Business.
"By using solar power during the daytime, if this version of the transparent panel is chosen, users eliminate energy usage, energy that can be redirected for use elsewhere."
The sun not only can act as the backlight for the panel, Beaton said, but also could provide power to the panel.
"When sunlight is not available, the transparent LCD panel would be powered by a normal 110V electrical plug and a backlight would be required. To activate the edge LED backlight unit, the user would simply flick on a switch or push a button on the touch screen if available."
Read more about kiosk design.
Cover photo: Samsung SUR40