Ask the Board – March 9, 2020 | DR. ELIZABETH CORNELL


“Does gesture control really have a place in digital signage, or is it a flash-in-the-pan trend?”

As the technology improves and costs go down for the gesture control display interface, its presence will undoubtedly grow wherever a screen can be found. Case in point, Samsung and other manufacturers are introducing mobile devices that respond to touchless gesture controls, or “air actions.” In the realm of digital signage, advertisers have noted that these types of screens draw attention, enhance product awareness, and improve customer experience. A gesture control screen also projects a high-tech brand image. These benefits, however, may have limited potential in a higher education setting. But let’s consider two possible examples where gesture-controlled screens might be a good fit for a college or university.

The touch-free aspect of a gesture-controlled screen presents some appealing possibilities for anyone who can’t, for whatever reason, physically touch a screen or see the screen and touch it for interaction. For a sighted person who can’t touch the screen, the advantages are obvious if they can control a screen with gestures to see a campus map, directory, events and other information. For someone who is vision impaired, simple audio instructions or a sign in Braille could be supplied for using the screen’s gesture control feature to get information. 

These ideas about using gesture-controlled displays to increase accessibility options are fairly basic ones that would nonetheless require substantial planning and testing before implementation. Moreover, aside from reports about using air actions with mobile devices, I haven’t found much information on using gesture controls to provide accessibility to digital signage. Another roadblock (at least in higher education) is cost. Even if costs go down, the displays and content creation would pose a considerable expense and would occupy personnel and administrative time, which many institutions don’t have or do not have to spare.

But even if the costs of purchasing and designing a permanent gesture-control display are prohibitive, an institution could rent such a screen for back-to-school weekend, homecoming weekend or a donor event. A gesture-control screen could be a fantastic way to elicit interactivity. Imagine the draw of the school mascot on the screen, programmed to interact with bystanders. At a student-centered event, the mascot could dance with students or pose for selfies that are posted on social media with a dedicated hashtag. At a donor event, the mascot could be programmed to encourage donations that can be pledged right from the touch display on a secure web page. The mascot might respond in various positive ways based on the size of the donation (provided the donor does not want to preserve anonymity).

To my knowledge, no school has used gesture-controlled displays in the examples described above. However, as these screens become more common, imaginative people in all sectors will capitalize on their possibilities.


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Director of Internal Communications
Fordham IT

End User Council

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