Interactive Digital Signage How-To
Written by Joe Janson,
Project lead at Omega Unfold Inc


Why care about interactive displays?

Like most folks, I walk right by most printed advertising, hardly noticing it anymore. Static posters are part of the landscape. Digital signage is coming around... I'll certainly take a look at something that is moving, but it will be a skeptical look. If I know I'm being sold something, they had better make it good if they want to have a few seconds of my time. Entertain me, surprise me, make it quick.
Interactive digital signage using webcam
Arriving in the middle of a video provides a less than ideal viewing experience, wouldn't it be awesome if the video started just as I approached? What if the video called me at that moment? What if this video was itself interactive, would it convert more viewers? Would it deliver a more personal experience?

The Media Zone Trigger software

I started hearing those questions a few years ago when creative people with crazy ideas started contacting me, they wanted to know how to get my motion detection software (WZT) to work with other media viewer software. The goal was to interface (hack) programs together to create interactive signage. We managed to produce a few setups. The back end was clunky. It isn't very elegant to force programs to work together, but it worked. So of course the users asked for more features.

The market had spoken, the path ahead was obvious. I needed to create the industry's first multi-purpose software that dealth with webcam motion detection and media sequencing. And it had to be easy to use. It was a lot of work, and after a few tries Media Zone Trigger was released.

What hardware is required for Interactive Digital Signage?

All the hardware you need is a display, a PC and a webcam.

You can use any computer monitor that looks appropriate for your setup. You can also use many displays if you want complex mind blowing stuff. Most video cards on the market can support at least 2 displays at the time, so you can stack video cards or get a high end 4 head video adapter. USB video adapters is also an option, many of those can be stacked on a single PC - beware however, they may have a limited resolution and but low framerate.

If your digital signage needs require only jpgs, any old PC or netbook will do. Displaying video may require a more powerful machine. Here are examples for 2 projects that have different requirements:

 At a reception desk, A standby screen displaying the logo of a company. As soon as someone approaches, a welcome image is displayed along with an audio message to greet the viewer. Requires low processing power.

In a show booth, two large screens are displaying full-screen video clips of a product. As soon as a viewer approaches, the mode switches from "standby demo" to "narrative for viewer" with annotated video and narration. Requires a powerful computer.

Get a good webcam. A cheap webcam may perform poorly if the light changes because of day/night. You want a constant frame rate. High resolution is usually not a necessity for motion detection.

How can I get media content?

First identify your concept. What kind of experience would you like to give to the viewer? Sketch out the presentation:

  • Is there a standby screen?
  • What happens when someone is moving in front of the screen
  • Does the presentation loop?
  • Is there a randomness to the media that is presented?

Once you know what you want to broadcast, here are some ways to get the media for the presentation:

If you have artistic abilities, produce the media yourself using a camera, camcorder, drawing or 3d modeling software.

Shop for stock media. I like iStockphoto.com and gettyimages.com, but you you can find a bunch more sites just by searching for "stock images" or "stock videos". Prices for stock media range from free to thousands of dollars, depending on originality, quality and compression, exclusivity and even brand.

Outsource: rent the services of artists to bring your concept to life. Sites like vworker.com, elance.com, agentsolo.com or 99designs.com


How to put it all together?

You now need to import all your media files in a presentation software that is capable of interaction via webcam. Microsoft Power Point does not have webcam support - it is not an option for interactive media. Omega Unfold's Media Zone Trigger is probably the only software you'll find that is a key-in solution for general purpose interactive media presentation.

Open Media Zone Trigger, connect a webcam, then drag & drop the media files on the interactive scripts.

Media Zone Trigger supports a bunch of file formats: jpg, bmp, png, mpg, avi, wmv, swf...

Check out the example tutorial and video page


It is easy to estimate the cost of hardware, it is mostly constant. Correcting the media presentation has a variable cost, so you need to take into account the cost of acquiring the media files, modifying it for your presentation, and integrating it in the project. Keep in mind that upgrading hardware may end up costing less that adjusting a presentation's content.





References

http://www.zonetrigger.com - Media Zone Trigger software download site
Download a free copy of the Media Zone Trigger software, an interactive presentation software


If you have questions about the Zone Trigger products or if you require consultation and advice on your computer vision projects, please contact Omega Unfold's technical support: support@zonetrigger.com






More articles...
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Introduction to motion detection and video capture

How to setup a home HTTP server

3 things to check for better motion detection

Interactive Digital Signage How-To

Troubleshooting Webcams


Using Zone Trigger software with the microsoft Kinect


USB bandwidth and connection issues


High-framerate webcams (60-120fps+)



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