In the not-too-distant future, you could be sitting on a park bench reading on a rather pleasant spring morning. Birds chirp, a nearby fountain rushes and a mix of shadows and sun bounces through the trees. While you thought yourself alone, you hear the nearby voice of a fellow bench sitter, asking if you’ve heard about that new vampire film.
“No,” you respond half-heartedly, trying to read your novel, but noticing the figure on the next bench for the first time. “You should definitely give it a chance, changed my life with some great advice.” Finally curious enough to look up fully, you ask, “What would that be?” He leans fully out of the tree’s shadow, pale skin stark against his clothes, and with a predatory smile upon his lips says, “Sunscreen.”
In a flash, he jumps towards you, but just as you start to cry out, he seems to fade into nothingness. As you catch your breath, you look down to see a new geo-tagged marketing offer arrive on your device, offering a discount to the 8 p.m. showing of “Embrace the Darkness,” and a notice about a free container of a certain brand’s sunscreen for the first 100 guests. Yes, it might be a while before this becomes the reality we all expect, but like many things, it’ll be sooner than we believe possible.
In discussions with fellow attendees at the Digital Signage Expo 2016, the language is now firmly focused on the experience. As signage became displays, and displays became screens as part of an omnichannel strategy, the focus now is on the experience. This experience is far less about four points defining the material edges of a screen, and far more the connection we strive to have with people. Before, our visions were limited to two-dimensional renderings, but now, with potential 3D expansions, we get closer and closer to being truly unbound. These could include projections beamed down from drones, personalized holographic shopping assistants walking us smoothly through a store, and yes, even the nondescript park bench getting in on the action.
So when we ask the question about the future of digital signage content, I think we need to start tossing out the “digital signage” from our lexicon. Yes, it is digital, and yes, some surfaces might be involved, but in the end, we are delivering our content and our story to our customers. Customers, whose expectations fly faster than our hardware and software, will be impressed with our new hologram for only so long. Much like we learned the hard way that print content can’t just be tossed up on a screen, we will learn the equally hard lessons about telling a story that once existed in a physical display, and now might exist in nothing more than a flash of light. In the meantime, enjoy your park reading adventures, and don’t forget your sunscreen.
These thoughts about content are excerpted from DSE advisory board member Frank McGuinness’ response to the weekly Ask the Board question “What role do you see holograms and/or virtual reality playing in the future of digital signage content?” Additional DSE advisory board viewpoints on this question can be found here on the Digital Signage Connection website.