Gesture-based interfaces are the kind of cool technology that engages the user in specific circumstances, but still leaves us wondering about its general utility. Tom Cruise's in-air swiping maneuvers for navigating screens in Minority Report look neat as all get-out, but how long will most of us be able to keep our arms suspended in air all day just to move to the next screen. Gesture-based interfaces have a tendency to exchange engagement for gross inefficiencies. It is hard to beat the amount of virtual real estate you can cover with an inch of mouse movement.
But engaging these interfaces are. In the little time I have spent with the Xbox Kinect, there is no denying that making a white water raft bounce and shift by jumping and leaning literally connects you to the content with an amazing level of focus. And that is what the video installation company Tronic had in mind with its latest project in the Yahoo offices. The multi-screen video wall is designed to catch the passerby's eye by mimicking their movement with an onscreen image -- in this case the Yahoo logo compiled of tile icons. This "attract mode" maps the logo to your body features so shifting hands or even shoulders will get a response. Once you are engaged, the on screen tiles respond to your movements so you can start interacting with the icons that represent different Yahoo features. Watch a demo here.
The exercise in "brand learning" as Tronic calls it was in answer to agency Goodby Silverstein's requirement that the interactive display have no instructions. It has to capture your attention and communicate its interface without intrusive callouts or ponderous tutorials.
Tronic says that in watching people at Yahoo interact with the technology they witnessed users evolve into the interface. They became more aggressive after a period of gentle interaction. As their movements became more pronounced, the user would trigger a "carousel mode" where they could interact with individual tiles and see information that was being fed into the informational features from the Yahoo portal itself. In other words, the experience moved you from Yahoo logo into the portal's actual feature set and a demo.For larger out-of-home installations, the Tronic project at Yahoo is an interesting exercise. We have to wonder what it might offer marketers who want to leverage more effectively the gesture based interfaces that now populate all three game consoles: Playstation 3, Xbox and Wii. By making the user the controller, animated content gives the user an unprecedented stake in the engagement between them and a content maker.