Bus stop touchscreen

My first experience interacting with a huge touchscreen at the bus stop. I took video to reflect on the interaction[1].

Joe Anderson
Jun 12, 2013 · 3 min read

I’ve always dreamed of the large display touchscreens of the future. Each time I talk with my friends I tell them “It’s coming you know…why can’t we just interact with larger displays, it doesn’t just have to be on our mobile phones or ipads.” This weekend that dream came true…

When I got to the bus stop, I saw the usual advertisement screen flashing away. Usually it’s some Salesforce ad, or an ad for a new phone, but this time it looked like a tiled interface. It was Microsoft’s metro design, and every few moments, each tile would slide in new information. I thought nothing of it, just another advertisement for their computer I suppose. Then I read the bottom, “Touch to interact”, I was curious.

I walked up to the screen and looked through what I think was plexi glass wondering, will this really work? How is it going to detect what I touched? I touched a tile, and the interface truly came to life.

It swiped just like a normal webapp, super responsive and quick. Then it showed me a huge list of news articles to choose from. I tapped one with 2 fingers because the screen was just so huge. In slid a dial pad. People sitting near got curious, is that a phone? Are you going to make a call? It was somewhat surreal. But the dialpad was designed for you to email the article to yourself.

I hit the home key and that’s when it really sunk in…this isn’t there interface we’ve been dreaming of. The home key was all the way at the bottom where I had to crouch down to touch it, then stand back up to reorientate myself. The interaction overall was very minimal, 3 screens max to find something to email to yourself, there was no intimacy at all.

Located in an OK part of town in San Francisco, it was dark, with sketchy people around. The interface was big and bright, and since it was touch based you had to be really close to it. This prevents your peripherals from being aware of your surroundings. I can’t imagine this to be the best way to interact with very large screens.

When you are interacting with it, you need to be close and you need to have access to controls within arms reach. A large touch screen makes sense when you are watching something, it can act like a TV. Being in public inhibits you even more since you need to worry about the safety of the user. So what can we do to design better experiences for these screens?

3 Ideas come to mind:

  1. Smaller interactive surfaces that are activated based on where we touch.
  2. Full screen expand controls for those moments when a much bigger immersive experience makes sense.
  3. Sensory detection of who/what is interacting with the screen so controls give better context on how to serve up content.

We are just at the beginning of what these experiences can truly become. However, if the touch screen is at the bus stop, the context should start by being related to things around buses, where you are going, and what you can do. I would also make them interactive and fun so that they are memorable and become something to talk about. It’s only a matter of time until the dream truly does come true.

Have you had good experiences with large display touch screens? I would love to hear your thoughts.

[1] Video of my first interaction http://youtu.be/tHsxn-NVAg0

What they forgot to tell me

Write about anything you’ve experienced that people in your field just assumed was common sense

    Joe Anderson

    Written by

    Helping the marketing team with design thinking at Realm. Follow me @Anderson760

    What they forgot to tell me

    Write about anything you’ve experienced that people in your field just assumed was common sense

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