Windows 8 Touch in Retail: An Interview with David Kelley

NRF32013By Cris Derr, Product Director, Planar Systems

This week Planar will be at National Retail Federation Annual Convention and Expo in NY. Planar will be showing several exciting touch products throughout the show, so I thought I would ask David Kelley, Wirestone’s UX Architect and Microsoft MVP, about the impact Windows 8 in retail.

We know Windows 8 as a consumer product, but is there any reason to think Windows 8 will impact digital signage for retailers?

DK: Windows 8 by itself won’t increase the impact of digital signage but it is an enabling factor in allowing the trend towards more interactive retail space and digital signage to continue. One of the big trends right now is the move towards ubiquitous computing meaning that computers will be more and more part of everything we do and part of our environment. This more immersive interactive computing experience will hold true in emerging digital retail experiences as well. Windows 8 is an incremental improvement for emerging experiences over what could be done using prior technology such as Windows7/WPF. A key element of Windows 8 being the complete integration of Touch and Touch API’s which makes it easier to build these kinds of digital experiences. At Wirestone, for example, Windows 8 is seeping into our work which is including more touch retail experiences.

Does Windows 8 make it easier to create interactive digital signage applications?

DK: Yes, to a point, Windows 8 makes it easier to build touch enabled applications with a more uniform API/framework then we had with say flash, Silverlight or WPF. It is not a revolution but an incremental improvement.

Consumers are used to using touch screen in retail, for example to enter debit pin numbers; with Windows 8 focus on multi-touch can we expect more interactive and dynamic applications in retail?

DK: We have done a number of studies of touch and multi-touch in retail and for the most part multi-touch is a very small percentage of what is important in UX design for public, architectural, or retail touch experiences. Where ‘multi-touch’ is really important is for touch experiences large enough for more than one person to interact with the screen, and when viewing image galleries such as a product catalog where users really expect to pinch and zoom. If an experience has anything that vaguely looks like an image gallery you must implement multi-touch or consumers will get frustrated. For the time being these are going to be the two driving forces behind the need for multi-touch in interactive retail experiences. Developers will need to accommodate for the experiences. The good news is that Windows 8 provides all the infrastructure for making this fairly easy where previously this was difficult and could cause lot of UX problems for users or lots of engineering problems for developers.

Are there other unique retail experiences you see coming that will be enabled by Windows 8?

DK: This really gets to the trend towards ubiquitous computing. With technologies like touch being fully baked we have additional emerging technologies such as NFC (Near Field), QR code type technologies, vision based systems like Kinect, voice and other sensor technologies that will all coalescence around further ubiquitous computing. In the short term we will see the ability to go into a store buy something tap a device, pay for it and tap your device to a POS device and get a token allowing some x y or z feature, service or product. We will see systems like xbox glass where I can swipe things off a touch wall onto your local device or slate. This will emerge as more the norm in conferences or public spaces with touch walls, and in specialty shops like the Apple Store or the Microsoft Store where the digital experience is part of the reason for going inside.

Will retailers require any different hardware to take advantage of Windows 8?

DK: Windows 8 more or less runs twice as fast in half the hardware so there is less of a need to upgrade computers but more of a need to upgrade the displays to include touch. Windows 8 w/o touch is like calculator w/o buttons. To take advantage of windows 8 you really need not just touch but multi-touch especially for large retail displays.

Thank you for your time today, David.

If you are interested in implementing multi-touch solution in your retail environment, Planar makes a variety of multi-touch displays from 15" to video walls. Visit our website to learn more about Planar products.