Of the many projects IdentityMine has designed and developed, some of the most innovative have been created for public spaces. Public experiences require a different perspective than most applications because they require us to think of dimensions of the experience beyond how a single user views or interacts with it.
Let’s move from the simplest to the complex. The simplest form of public experience would be a video on a screen. Two dimensional, pre-conceived and pre-rendered, this is something that requires only that users look at it.
Passive digital experiences don’t generate the same kinds of lasting impressions as interactive engagements. Interaction establishes investment on the part of the user and when that investment pays off, the content and experience becomes “sticky,” leaving a powerful impression.
One type of effective public experience is a kiosk experience. The potential challenge with a kiosk experience is that common interactions like mouse-keyboard and touch screens risk turning a public experience into a private one. To help facilitate a more public experience, IdentityMine uses a set of interaction strategies to help the user interact with the application or demo, but in a way that moves them back from the screen, allowing a larger audience to view the experience.
There are several non-touch technologies that make these kinds of interactions viable. One that we’ve had a great deal of success with is the Kinect for Windows sensor. Kinect allows us to tell who is standing in a space for interaction, what they are doing, if they are looking at the interaction, if they’re smiling, bouncing or facing the screen. This allows us to create full-body experiences in which the user becomes a part of the installation and non-interacting users can view the experience clearly or wait for their opportunity to take charge of the installation, making themselves a part of the draw.
This kind of non-traditional interaction is becoming more and more popular as we’re able to open up the interaction possibilities to wider spaces. We can go so far as to create a full-room public experience using interconnected devices like we did with the project, SafeHome. This combined a touch screen interaction with lights, cameras, motion sensors and speech recognition to construct a fully realized public space capable of reacting to the presence of the user. In this experience, the interaction space isn’t confined to a single surface or screen but spans an entire room, a fully interactive public space. This experience was produced largely with existing commercial products (Kinect sensors, web cams, WiFi-enabled light bulbs) but as the Internet of Things space gains traction, the ability to customize these spaces to any available sensor opens the door for powerful and flexible interactive spaces.
In addition to the exploding modes of interactions, there are progressively more ways to display the results of interactions. There is the usual continuum of glowing rectangles (phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, TVs) but experiences can be increasingly moved to other modes of display. Technologies like the Oculus Rift promise to bring virtual worlds through an immersive heads-on display. HoloLens takes the augmented approach by projecting displays onto real-world surfaces and objects.
Ultimately, the question of whether these interaction and display technologies are appropriate to a public experience is the wrong one to ask. Every experience has a unique goal that is appropriate for the story, product, or company employing it. This explosion of technologies is simply expanding the toolkit for interaction designers and developers to offer more immersive or more accessible experiences.