Exceptional 3D's Eric Angello explains the nuts and bolts of glasses-free 3D signage.

Glasses-Free 3D Digital Signage: Keeping It Simple

Eric Angello | Exceptional 3D

Preface

With a precedent already set by wireless and mobile devices for how quickly we expect relevant and accurate information, meeting that demand has been elevated across nearly every communication medium and digital platform. Through this continuing evolution, ‘signage’ has not only transcended time but also survived by taking on many different forms to act as a mainstay of public communication. Now, an increasing demand for ‘digital signage’ has emerged as a standout solution that is able to meet the high demands as a cost-effective, ‘green’ and extremely poised solution for delivering immediate information in a growing digital world.

Digital Signage is a premium form of communication that can function and deliver generic or targeted information within any vertical market. But the volume of emerging 2D digital signage solutions is almost defeating its purpose to be a form of effective communication: it is teetering on a fine line, which could be nearing over-saturation. While the value of this messaging solution is still at an all-time high, it begs for something that can still deliver an impact, yet standout in the crowd.

Enter glasses-free 3D digital signage.

Glasses-free 3D, or auto-stereoscopic 3D, is an emerging medium where the basic concept is any method of displaying video or images (adding binocular perception of 3D depth and POP) without the use of special headgear or glasses on the part of the viewer. Essentially, the simple idea is that the screen wears the glasses so the audience doesn’t have to. In the form of digital signage, the end result is a very captivating 3D experience where content is displayed with no need for special glasses and appears to literally ‘POP’ off the screen in a form that stops on-lookers in their tracks.

The auto-stereoscopic 3D (or glasses-free 3D) technology has certainly endured its fair share of challenges. But in actuality, these have helped the medium to progress and reach a much more favorable state of being a sustainable digital signage solution within any vertical market. Because it is so unique, it’s hard for anyone to deny that the glasses-free 3D technology will increase dwell time, thus leading to a higher retention rate of advertising when compared to typical 2D digital signage. Some studies have shown that typical 2D digital signage experiences resulted in an average dwell time of less than two seconds. However, some glasses-free 3D digital signage studies have proven dwell times average at approximately 10 seconds per impression. If nothing else, this is something that anyone’s bottom-line can appreciate.

So while this emerging technology boasts an undeniable level of effective impact on audiences, there are still many other considerations that one must address when looking at going with 3D digital signage, over the every-day option of a 2D network.

Glasses-Free 3D Is A Future-Proof Technology

Many speculations and humble opinions indicate that glasses-free 3D is the next generation of digital signage solutions. The reason is that this new medium offers an eye-catching advertising option for content to be seen in 3D without glasses, while taking the idea of digital signage onto an entirely different playing field. The medium is highly respectful of its 2D predecessor as it incorporates the expectations and conveniences of 2D digital signage into its own life-blood. Not all glasses-free 3D screens are created equal, but some solutions like ours, do allow existing 2D content to playback seamlessly alongside the cutting-edge, glasses-free 3D format. This feature, alone, makes the glasses-free 3D solution a truly ‘future-proof’ technology. This poses the question, does it make sense to buy a 2D screen when you can actually get a glasses-free 3D solution that also plays 2D content and is future-proof at a comparable cost?

Although a really enticing opportunity, there are still the minor nuances that should not be overlooked when deploying a 3D digital signage network. Key considerations to maintain ‘future-proofing’ include things such as proper placement in a public space; support for communication bandwidth; ease of accessibility to the hardware; etc. In the end, no stone can be left unturned to ensure that even as a ‘future-proof’ technology, addressing all of these concerns is done well ahead of any installation.

Competing Cost Effectively Against 2D

One of the primary concerns that anyone has who is looking at this emerging technology is cost. It is important to understand that the biggest mistake to avoid is comparing the cost of glasses-free 3D display solutions to displays available in a typical consumer electronics store. These products are not the same thing. Commercial-grade panels are meant for continuous run-time over very extensive periods of time. They are heavy-duty industrial displays, intended to withstand a life in public settings where anything can happen.

At its inception, the first typical auto-stereo 3D displays were priced at about $20,000 per unit. As the technology evolved, so has the auto-stereo 3D industries approach to cost. Over the last few years, price-points have come down to around $8,000 for a typical glasses-free 3D display. Now, with over 30 different companies in the market, variations of the technology have emerged which can cause some fluctuation. As a whole, more cost-effective solutions have become available but price can still be intimidating, especially when unforeseen expenses (e.g. shipping, installation, content, networking, etc.) come into play. But the focus here is on 3D digital signage and competing with typical 2D digital displays. With that said, we can narrow the field to a mere handful of companies who offer a glasses-free 3D display experience which can compete against 2D digital signage as a cost-effective glasses-free 3D option. This field of competing glasses-free 3D technologies can be further narrowed because there are very few 3D display providers who can compete with the expected budget requirements when considering the deployment of a (2D) digital signage network. You will likely find that less than a handful of companies fall into a below industry average and make it financially viable to deploy a 3D digital signage network into the field. Nonetheless, conducting thorough due diligence to find the right fit for your application should be the most important part of any decision-making process.

Advertising Advantages & Applicable Markets

It is important to realize that digital signage, especially auto-stereo 3D, is far more than just static print or billboards. As a highly disposable medium, advertisers have the convenience of nearly instantaneous messaging adjustments. Furthermore, motion (and sound) can offer added value to the overall experience as well as value to the on-screen real estate available to advertising buyers. This means that you are delivering a captivating experience, which also has the ability to appeal directly to the target audience. These are all means to measure the effectiveness of not only the technology, but also engage specific target audiences and truly remain relevant with immediately gratifying content or information to relate to the target audience.

From the perspective of advertisers and agencies, the doors are wide-open to explore a completely untapped creative medium for additional increases to sales, improving brand recognition, and in turn, boost company revenues and increase profits. The enhanced nature of this 3D branding experience offers a more valuable advertising placement option that can exceed recognition even when placed directly next to 2D advertising.

Most initial instincts don’t recognize that glasses-free 3D technology is a great way to enhance their customer’s experience or tap a higher source of ad revenue. So it becomes necessary to think ‘out-of-the-box’. Imagine the customer who enters an airport or transit hub that is foreign to them. They notice a glasses-free 3D digital display because your 3D advertisement message caught their eye for where to get a quick bite or purchase something they forgot to bring with them. At that same time, their transit information is showing in 2D which get’s them on their way more quickly and at the same time converted into a sale for your establishment.

So the truth is that anywhere a 2D display exists can literally be a glasses-free 3D display. Everything from sports arenas, entertainment and retail to casino gaming, hospitality and quick service restaurants can expect to benefit and see an upward-trend at the bottom-line.

Networking, Content Management and Media Player

Going glasses-free 3D with any digital signage network has distinct advantages. Now that cost-effective options do exist, one can consider a wealth of additional conveniences for content management. First and foremost, the opportunity to play both 2D and 3D content in sequence or simultaneously, cannot be matched. With the integration to some of the world’s most respected CMS solutions, glasses-free 3D can now offer the same conveniences to network operator for remote content control, appropriate scheduling for target audiences (without a need to go on-site), displaying unique scrolling or RSS content, showcasing local news or weather and so much more.

Even with this integrated option, which the solution provider should carry out, an opportunity for delivering truly relevant content and messaging is within a very short reach. Still, the network provider must be in tune and on time with when and where the message should strike. This means delivering an advertisement at precisely the right time with the right call to action is still in the hands of the operator. But the thing to keep in mind is that where 2D digital signage may have only afforded you with a viewer’s attention for less than two seconds, glasses-free 3D has at least doubled (if not tripled) that opportunity for a relevant impact.

Of course, an extremely instrumental piece in this delivery is using the ‘right’ media player to ensure any 3D digital signage networks sustainability. A common misconception is that glasses-free 3D displays can just be plugged into any existing content source and playback the same content or experience in the glasses-free 3D format. This is not true. Beyond this, another common assumption is that anyone can design a media player that is capable to support the level of power that is needed to drive the 3D experience. While this may be possible for some with the correct guidance, it is not recommended. This is because these controllers are specifically designed by the 3D display manufacturer with a distinct and specific purpose. Just drawing on the experience of our organization (Exceptional 3D), an extensive amount of time was invested into designing a very specific and capable media player which has the ability to operate based on the demand for long-run times and supporting the larger functionality needed to deliver the entire glasses-free 3D experience. Considerations had to be made for proper graphics components, available memory & hard-drive space, processing power, cooling system, OS features & functionality, video input / output and the overall media player size, just to name a few of the items that were addressed.

In most cases, multi-stream or multi-view content is being pushed with a greater demand on the graphics and processing power. With the natural need for higher bandwidth and extensive playback durations, it may not have been entirely prevalent until now, but the whole idea of glasses-free 3D digital signage could not exist without the one thing that acts as a nucleus to the entire experience… content.

Content Is King

Let’s face it, without content any 3D digital display experience is merely just another 2D face in the crowd. Therefore, any content intended to be delivered as a glasses-free 3D experience needs to be properly prepared, handled and deployed. This part of the business is most often neglected but in all honesty, should be the principal core of any decision to go 3D over 2D. Many options exist which may, or may not, coincide with the 3D display manufactures technology. In some cases, you can find an end-to-end solutions provider who can not only deliver the hardware and content management solution, but also support the entire aspect of content creation and development to meet your needs. In cases such as with our organization, you may find it to be more convenient to have your existing creative team trained on how to produce the 3D content in-house using the creative suite tools, thus reducing the creative production expense even further.

As someone who has lived the content area of the business, it goes without saying (but I will anyway) that this IS NOT like anything any content producer, designer or 3D specialist has ever encountered. No experience precedes what comes into play when engaging auto-stereo 3D production. For this reason alone, truly taking time to understand the intricacies, tricks of the trade, how content acts on screen and so on, is critical for success. The awareness for all things creative must be digested and comprehended before they are applied. This takes everything you think you know about 3D or creative design and almost completely throws it away. Working within hypothetical dimensions that were not available to creative developers before this medium came into existence is a literal reality. But by no means should this be seen as an intimidating medium.

As designers, multimedia developers and creative producers we all believe our expertise will allow us to succeed in our own regards within any creative setting or production environment. While this is true in some cases, it is more important to be humbled and appreciate this cutting-edge creative medium at any first interaction or engagement. Once acclimated, the limitless space that the glasses-free 3D creative medium offers will become a truly blank canvas. Whether it’s personal expression or delivering brand experiences, one’s imagination is truly free to roam.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Angello is Principal, CMO & Creative Director, Exceptional 3D, Inc. Eric carries nearly a decade of creative marketing and brand development experience. Core focus has consisted of engaging a specialized understanding of new media design with innovative marketing through an extensive engagement with all facets of physical and digital media avenues.

Note from the author

There have been a lot of topics and considerations addressed on a very high level through this written contribution, but certainly not everything. Some of these carry a degree of personal consideration based on expertise, but also with respect to factual evidence and studies. In the event there are any unaddressed (or under-addressed) topics, I encourage you to contact me via email at eric@exceptional3D.com. The concept of glasses-free 3D is an experience that is quite literally an optical illusion and you will be the best judge for the effectiveness of that impact and experience. Seeing is believing and getting to know the 3D company is crucial. Be sure to get a clear understanding for the experience they carry and their background, whether they have the ability to be your end-to-end ‘one-stop shop’ solutions provider and above all else, be sure they treat you with honest respect to make sure you are always satisfied.


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