Mad Systems Brings Yahoo’s Universe of Data to Life

Mad Systems wins the 2015 Integration Award in the retail category for its work on the Yahoo Interactive Data Demo.>

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Retail is changing from a transactional model to an experiential one. Gone are the days when consumers expected a simple product display on a shelf to attract them. Now, retailers have to do more. They need to intrigue, captivate and immerse their customers in what’s becoming known as a “brand experience.”

Think about a coffee shop, for example. It’s no longer just a place one buys coffee; it’s an entire experience of sitting at a cozy table with a mug, maybe a laptop, sipping a unique drink made just for you and staying a while.

A similar thing is happening to the world of retail. The industry saw it at Digital Signage Expo, with new kinds of interactive signage designed to attract customers and provide a distinct encounter with a brand. The phenomenon also made a splash at International CES 2015.

The Consumer Electronics Show is one of the more entertaining tradeshows in the industry. Companies from a wide range of markets come to strut their stuff to integrators and installers, end users, competitors and the like. At CES 2015, Yahoo hosted a private demonstration area focused on building brand awareness and understanding through an interactive video projection wall. The goal was to illustrate to attendees the sheer amount of data that Yahoo handles on a day-to-day basis and how that data can be used to drive business decisions.

Integrator Takeaways:
1. Listen closely. The word ‘immersive’ helped Mad Systems realize how large and encompassing the exhibit truly had to be.
2. When installing systems for tradeshows, you’ll have to work on a tight deadline.
3. Sometimes playful technology you may have overlooked, like the Microsoft Kinect, can help bring a bit of “magic” to your solution.

End User Takeaways:
1. Especially for retailers, think about the immersive experience of your store or brand.
2. Video displays and projection screens have endless application potential.
3. If there are tradeshows targeting your industry, this could be a great time to create this type of experience.

Equipment Highlights:
Projection: Panasonic
Interactivity: Microsoft Kinect
Processing: Dell

The exhibit was in essence a live visualization of data mining, providing Yahoo’s customers (overwhelmingly advertisers that benefit from Yahoo’s enormous online presence) with a vivid understanding of the company’s accessibility to web data, a crucial component in targeting advertisers’ messages to the right people.

Touchscreens are seeing ever-increasing popularity in various industries, especially retail, but Yahoo wanted to take it a step further. The search engine giant hoped for a hands-on solution that was responsive to users without requiring touch. It was to be a hint of “magic” to help people remember the event.

Mad Systems, an Orange, Calif., technology systems company specializing in everything from AV engineering and multitouch interactives to 4D, robotics and “augmented reality,” signed on to install what was to become a hands-on (and yet utterly hands-off) 10-plus-foot wide projection display.

Because of the timeframe of the CES show, Yahoo needed a rapid-to-deploy system. Thanks to Mad Systems’ diligence, the entire design and implementation cycle took no longer than eight weeks. During this time there were countless scripting sessions with the designer to create a display that was easy to use, simple and immersive. Mad Systems worked closely with Yahoo to deliver an appropriate hardware solution to support the programming task.

The end result is something Mad Systems calls a “data collection simile.” Users stand about 8 feet from the enormous display so they feel totally engrossed within it. When a user raises a hand, a whirl of data points accumulates around the hand on that exact point on the screen.

The user’s hand then acts somewhat like a baseball glove. It allows the person to “catch” factoids that appear to come out of the screen towards her. Once a factoid is “caught,” it explodes onto the screen to show information that is relevant to the type of data that is mined by Yahoo.

View photos of the interactive demo.

The goal is for users to feel like they are actually handling the incoming data and extracting useful information from it as they manipulate the exhibit. The wide screen and interactivity simulates the feeling of standing in a “snowstorm” of data with billions of flakes all around.

But how does it work? Mad Systems incorporated Microsoft Kinect, a 3D capture device, to create the touchless control of images on the screen. Two Panasonic projectors — an 8,500-lumens DLP projector with dual-lamp technology and an ultra-short-throw lens projector — provided the imagery for the screen, supported by four Dell processors. Not one but two users can interact with the system at a given time.

As a result, CES attendees had the experience of being inside a universe of data, extracting information and interacting with a data stream all at once. Yahoo wanted to give its customers an idea of just how much information is collected by the company every second of every day, and the immersive experience did the trick.

Mad Systems says the system was so successful that it was shipped out to a conference in Barcelona and is now slated for installation as a permanent exhibit at the integrator’s headquarters.

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