By Andrew Liszewski
As a technology writer walking the floor of the auto show, you spend as much time looking at the cars as you do at the booths themselves. And from all the trade shows I’ve ever been to or seen over the years, the NAIAS has some of the most impressive (and largest) booths of any show. Ford was reusing the same booth style it had last year, but there was one new addition that caught my eye. The VJ Hub Experience offered a unique way for visitors to interact with the booth’s giant displays, as well as provide valuable feedback to the company.
A set of 3 connected LCDs and a series of small camera-equipped kiosks allowed visitors to answer a series of questions or take photos of themselves that could later be included on the gigantic displays circling the booth. You could also upload photos or videos to the system with a bluetooth equipped phone. A behind-the-scenes ‘VJ’ was responsible for mixing the photos into the demo reel shown on the floor, as well as removing any NSFT (not safe for tradeshow) images.
You can find some more detailed photos of the setup after the jump, as well as some more descriptions of how the VJ Hub worked.
If you didn’t have a bluetooth equipped cellphone at the show, or didn’t feel like digging it out of your pocket you could simply use one of these small kiosks that were setup all around the 3 LCD displays. Each one had an easy to use touch screen, and would offer you the chance to take a photo of yourself and answer a relatively simple question like “What’s the strongest, quality product you own?” or “What makes something beautiful?” Basically simple questions that really only required simple answers.
Once your photo was taken (and approved by the VJ) it would first appear on one of the 3 LCDs. The newest photos would appear largest on the left hand side of the screen, while older ones would slowly shrink over time as they were pushed off to the right side.
If you were lucky enough, or took a clever enough photo there was the chance it would be cut into the demo reels showing on the large displays all around the Ford booth. Unfortunately neither my timing nor my camera’s exposure worked out. And I guess my artistic photo of a closeup of my own SLR camera lens wasn’t good enough to make the cut.
The responses to the questions asked by the kiosks would also appear on one of the 3 LCD displays, and like the photos they would slowly shrink in size over time as they were replaced by newer responses. Not surprisingly, this feedback was probably the most valuable part of the VJ Hub as far as Ford was concerned, and I’ll admit it was a clever way to get people to submit their thoughts on various topics.
The two guys I spoke to about the VJ Hub actually turned out to be locally hired actors, but they were more than happy to give me a demo of the system. The large LCD displays which only they had access to were also touch sensitive, but used a series of sensors around the perimeter. This allowed the demo guys to drag photos or text boxes around, or bring up a sort of video timeline showing how the user-submitted photos had been worked into the demo reel. They were even kind enough to let me play with it for a while, and I have to admit it was pretty cool.
The Ford VJ Hub Experience was originally developed by a UK company called Imagination for the company’s booth at the Geneva Autoshow in 2007, but became so popular it has since been touring the world at other shows. If you happen to make it out to the auto show in Detroit this year, I recommend checking it out.