Video walls are in demand around the world—it’s widely understood they’re an ideal way to engage with an audience in today’s digital and screen driven world. As demand for video walls has soared, professionals in the AV industry have realized that standard, grid video walls showcasing static images, or even video content, will no longer suffice. People are looking for more—interactivity, dynamic content manipulation, immersive experiences, artistic layouts and more.
More ways to interact with video walls
Traditionally when people think of interactive displays, or video walls, they think of touch-screen capabilities, but there are many ways beyond touch to deploy interactive video walls and every AV pro or every customer considering a video wall deployment should know about and understand these options.
Touch screen is definitely a great way to interact with a display, because it gives the user a large canvas to play with, but unfortunately there are many limitations associated with a touch screen overlay, and what it can do on a video wall. First of all, as they are external devices, it introduces a new variable to the video wall equation (i.e. another vendor, specialized support, added mounting challenges, etc.), and so it is another thing prone to failure. Also, they usually are expensive and not very pleasing aesthetically. Oh… and let’s not forget that all the fingerprints and smudges need to be cleaned!
Alright people, step away from the video wall, you are blocking the view
Another issue associated with touch screen interaction in video walls is the fact that the displays might not always be within reach. Video walls are often deployed at higher locations, for increased visibility (customers don’t want people overcrowding the video walls, as it reduces visibility). This means with many video wall deployments, people have a very small window for interaction (if any at all) with a touch screen.
Don’t worry. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider interactivity for your video wall. You should. What you have to know is, there are many different ways to employ interactivity in video walls--and a lot of them are actually more exciting that plain old touch screen interaction
API (Programmatic) interaction using external devices
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) provide an interface to a software application (For example, when you see a google map on a display showing where people are tweeting from, all that it is possible thanks to APIs). They basically link together services, applications and systems. In the case of video wall controllers and video wall processors, there are many today that offer an API, and thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) we can integrate the physical world with the digital world.
It doesn’t happen just in the movies anymore
Through a solution’s API you can interface your video wall with external sensors—motion or presence detection sensors, temperature sensors, etc— and change the content or layout of the video wall in response to when people were detected in front of certain objects. For example, imagine walking through a mall, and when you pass by a store, you see a large advertisement display showing you a person (similar age, gender, etc. as you) wearing cool clothing. Then another person pass by, and the advertisement changes, to show a person (similar age, gender, etc. as that other person) wearing certain clothing. What just happened is that, through a network of devices (camera, software, displays, etc.), and APIs, the store just subliminally recommended some clothing you might have been interested in (using the IoT and an entire database of user data).
With a surge in software-based video wall and digital signage solutions, APIs are becoming an important aspect when deciding on a digital display platform. APIs provide an easy-to-use programming interface to quickly and easily access advanced control and interactivity on their video walls, ideal for OEMs, ISVs, AV integrators, consultants and end users.
Userful’s API provides a wide range of programmable commands to interface your Userful video walls with external devices.
Leveraging mobile devices to switch content and layout in video walls
Smartphones and tablets have become second nature to us, and they actually make a great extension for touch screen interaction. Userful for example allows non admin staff to use their tablets or smartphones to switch content, or even a video wall configuration (or layout), in real time. Administrators preset content and lay out options as presets and then non admin staff can use a smart phone or tablet to invoke those presets. Some example use cases, where this functionality is used to great effect:
- In retail, as a sales tools. A video wall shows some video content by default (i.e. advertisement, brand-related videos, etc.) and as a salesperson engages with a customer, he/she takes control of what’s shown on the video wall based on said customer’s interest. The salesperson can give a video demonstration of a product that’s boxed and show off the product without opening the box.
- In a corporate environment, at a company’s lobby, where a receptionist changes the content of the video wall based on which guests are visiting the office.
- A tour guide at a museum or a someone giving campus tours can change the content on a video wall when needed to enhance the tour.
These functionalities have different levels of control, as staff (i.e the salesperson, or the receptionist, or the museum guide in the examples above) can only use content and video wall configurations that were pre approved by the system’s administrator.
Userful’s source switcher and preset switcher gives administrators the power to predetermine content and video wall configurations and save them as presets, to allow non-admin staff to dynamically switch these presets with just a single button.
No more mouse and keyboard to control interactive video walls
A video wall controller is a vital tool for command centers and control rooms, where a group of displays shows a variety of input source streams simultaneously at any given time. In this environment, most of the content consist of web applications, desktop environments, etc. and staff need to be able to interact with these applications. As with any computing scenario, this is done using a traditional keyboard and mouse, or sometimes a touch screen video wall. But new functionalities in video wall solutions provide a platform for staff to control the video walls mouse and keyboard inputs from a smartphone, tablet, or from another computer.
Userful makes this easy with an interactive viewer feature that allows customers to use any web-enabled device (a tablet, smart phone or computer) to act as the keyboard and mouse for any interactive session on a video wall. One tablet can switch back and forth controlling the mouse and keyboard of every interactive session on a video wall just as a KVM would.
A whole new set of possibilities for video wall interaction
Remember, touch interaction is only the start of interactivity with video walls. There are many more interactivity options, many of them more flexible, less expensive, and often a better fit for the customer’s requirements.
What is great about Userful’s interconnectivity with mobile devices (such as tablets, smartphones, etc.) is that you don’t have to come in close contact with the video wall to actually control it and interact with it and Userful’s API opens up a whole new world of possibilities connecting video walls into the Internet Of Things.