Wayfinding avatar works beyond the novelty factor

May 18, 2011 by Dave Haynes

I’m not a fan of using avatars for customer service applications and marketing tools, but must admit I’m warming to one I stumbled across (via Digital Signage Today)  that’s intended as a wayfinding app for public spaces like hospitals.

The female avatar used for this application actually has some purpose (other than the sheer novelty effect), nudging people along the information flow of figuring out how to get to a particular location in a big medical facility.

Ohio-based software developer LogicJunction is marketing an interactive touch platform that uses an avatar to help patients and visitors navigate the often confusing, usually sprawling layouts of hospitals – providing directories, maps and turn by turn navigation.

It appears to have a proximity sensor that sparks up when someone is in front of the screen, and spits out directions in printed form or via a text message to a cellphone. One of the hang-ups with wayfinding apps I’ve seen is the developers and information providers assume people have amazing memories, when most will forget directions within steps of walking away from the screen.

This kind of application makes a lot of sense in a big facility, even more so if it is multilingual. Logic Junction cites a study of a major tertiary care hospital that calculated the annual cost of “wayfinding” at $220,000 – owing to all the man-hours allocated to pointing people here and there at an information desk. That may be a stretch, but staffing an information desk is not cheap and volunteers are not always available.

For older people who might be intimidated by a touchscreen app, this seems to work well. I would not want to be located near this unit and hear that voice all day long, but …

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