Innovative Kiosks & The Mirror Stage

This weekend I read an article in the NY Times about new retail kiosks that will be coming to a store near you. I was happy to see that the examples from the article were created by the San Francisco office of Frog Design. When I read the article, I was reminded of an art project I worked on several years ago and the post I wrote a couple weeks ago about how some of the best marketing ideas bubble up from the arts. Here’s an example from my life:


(c) NY Times An artist’s rendering of an automated service island for a retail store from Intel and Frog Design.

From My Art

Back in 2001 I exhibited an installation entitled ROOM for which I created an initial experience designed to take the viewer’s mind off what they were thinking about before they arrived at the gallery. I used to think of it in culinary terms as a “cleansing of the palette”.  As they walked through the gallery entramce, they would see a video camera obviously positioned above the doorway. Once through the doorway they were confronted with a video screen that was obviously getting a video feed from the camera over the doorway. But something was off because the video showed someone walking up to the doorway, but there wasn’t anyone behind the viewer. Most people then noticed something very familiar about the person on the screen, it was them! What was happening, was that the video was delayed by about 15 seconds. The effect of this experience was intended to be jarring enough to distract viewers from anything they might have been thinking about before entering.

Mirror Stage

Mirror Stage is a simple concept that uses a similar video delay to improve the interaction customers have with mirrors in  retail clothing stores. The system uses an inexpensive camera that is embedded in the center of a flat screen television, along with a hacked Tivo box. A customer would walk up to the screen to see how a piece of clothing looked on them. They would use the screen as a mirror. What is unique about the system is that there would be a button on the wall that would allow the customer to delay the video (essentially hitting pause, then play on the Tivo). This would allow them to turn around and then look back at the screen to watch themselves turning around for themselves! No more adjusting mirrors, or twisting your neck to see your own reflection.

I though it was a rather clever idea, but never really got the project off the ground. I think the next generation of  kiosks is a great place to revisit the concept though, especially considering that the experience of watching yourself in delay is highly engaging. The NY Times article also talks about a partnership between I.B.M and EZface that allows kiosks to offer virtual makeovers. Basically, it takes a photograph of the customer’s face and allows them to digitally apply cosmetic treatments.

UPDATE: MarketingVox: a dressing room technology that made me laugh …. and maybe cry.

The Marketing Value

It goes without saying that the marketing value that could emerge from these new kiosks is significant. Simply understanding the kinds of questions that customers are searching for in-store versus online should offer insight into how to improve customer satisfaction. In the article Frog’s chief creative director talks about how sophisticated the online retail experience is (for example, the way it makes recommendations) and how that experience has not been available in store previously. It’s a good point, and one that deserves analysis based on use.

Beyond that, I  see how such as system could drive real-time layout changes in the store based on what customers are trying on most. Of course, it could also allow them to see the store inventory, and divert purchases online when the desired item is not in-store. I also think there are interesting opportunities to bring community into the experience, use analytics to return value to customers through the display, and connect the expereince customers have across touch-points.

My France Photography Book

My passion for art was fostered at a young age by my parents, but it wasn’t until I bought a camera that I began scratching the surface of how art and design were related. I was fortunate to be able to build a darkroom at home in the attic where I could conduct all sorts of photographic experiments. At some point I’ll share those on this blog, but for now I want to share a collection of more traditional photographs that I made while traveling in France in 1994.

The prints fit in an over-sized handmade case containing 60 unique 16″ x 20″ photographic prints derived from 6 cm x 9 cm negative film. The are individually matted and are held in the right side of the open book (as in a portfolio case). On the left, there are over-sized collage pages made from my journals and material that I collected during my travels in France.

Here is a slide show that features many of the photographs in the case. The digital scans do not do justice to the orginals, but at least they are now online to share!

This project represented the impulse to do something in the traditional way (the “right way” according to some) before deconstructing the process. Thus, the results are traditional black and white photographs hand printed on fiber paper. For those who have a technical interest in photography, these were printed using a split filtering process, whereby the exposure of the paper during printing was split into three periods, each with a different contrast filter. The result is the grouping of shades of gray into three tonal ranges. This can be done remarkable easily today using a tool like Photoshop today, but was a rather advanced technique to master when I was in college.

From Art To Marketing Campaign, Sony Misses The Engagement

I’ve always been interested in the relationship between creative and business ventures. In college at The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston I learned how to design things, then at Tufts University I learned how they were sold. What’s always amazed me is how many great marketing ideas have bubbled up from the art world directly into the business world. Unfortunately the business world does not always do them justice. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.

The first video shows footage of a giant zoetrope sculpture made by Peter Hudsons, which he brought to Burning Man back in 2007. The piece animates a monkey that is swinging from branch to branch of a giant tree. The footage is not great quality, but you’ll get the idea and Peter explains how it works over the course of the clip. The link to his site above offers better footage of a more recent project brought to Burning Man in 2008. He’s done at least four such zeotropes to date.

With Peter’s zeotropes, there are several exercise bikes that are placed around the sculpture that actually power it. In order to set the piece in motion audience members must generate enough power to get it spinning and up to speed. Following this, the participants on the bikes cheer each other on, and are cheered on by the crowd. There are also a series of drums that are placed around the piece that trigger the strobes to create the animation effect. There is a brilliant reveal that takes place when the drumming reaches critical mass, the bikers get the piece spinning fast enough, and strobes snap into a coordinated sequence that brings the animation to life. Peter really says it best:


Below is a clip is  the BRAVIA-drome, the world’s largest zoetrope made for a current Sony advertising campaign. As you can see they had a slightly larger budget …. but they lost sight of the most important feature in the slickness of their presentation. The thing that Peter understands so well is the idea that engagement depends on investment.  Sony seems to have made something that is technically remarkable, and beautiful, but significantly less engaging. I think they dropped the ball, so to speak.


Valentine’s Day Love Drug Project

As Valentine’s Day is coming up, I thought I’d share relevant project from my past. You can also see this permanently on this blog by going here.

Back in 2005, I was heartbroken and single when Valentine’s Day came along. I decided to turn lemons into lemonade with a little Valentine’s Day art project called Love Drug. It initially started as a lark but it developed some momentum as it went along and resulted in a website and a novelty product. LoveDrug is a mock pharmaceutical that you can take to fall in love, or make your potential partner fall in love. I also created the UnLove Drug which has the opposite effect. home


The website resulted in a story in the Boston Phoenix which you can read below. This in turn resulted in people contacting me and ordering more than I had to produce. Regrettably, I didn’t meet any lovely female customers to whom I could slip a pill!

Love Drug review

Make Your Own!

And for those of you who are feeling crafty, I have made the artwork available for downloading should you want to make up some Love Drug of your own. The design files are PDFs and include labels for the bottles which you can print on sticker paper, and a template for the boxes that the bottles come in which can be printed on cardstock or heavier paper. For the bottles, I recommend using an old prescription bottle. You can also buy these at most local pharmacies. You can insert any candies you like in the bottles, I used pink and blue heart candies.

Here are PDFs