Under the avalanche of gadget news at the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show was a legitimate story: Interactive signage is stepping out of sci-fi and into marketing plans. Two California-based companies — TYZX, a 3-D imaging operation out of Menlo Park, and Reactrix, a point-of sale display company hailing from Redwood City — were demonstrating an interactive system running on a Samsung display. The system uses a 3-D camera mounted in a hidden fixture on top of a flat panel. The camera captures and encodes a viewer’s movements, gestures and (eventually) speech. And then transfers that information to processors that can then manipulate the image on the screen. Remember the futuristic ads that Tom Cruise ran by in the creepy thriller Minority Report? It’s a very simple version of that, but without the robotic spiders that hunt you down — so far.
While the technology is very much at the entry level — basically the viewer’s outline and movements can be captured on the screen — it would be easy to imagine, say, a pasta and pizza place creating an interactive ad running on a screen in a high-traffic mall. Called the Reactrix WAVEscape, the system is very much a protoype. But it was obvious, even at this stage, that with even a little bit of tender loving marketing, the technology could easily find a place in a kiosk, in-store shopping network or similar point of sale retail marketing placement.