Japanese 7-Elevens Testing Floating Virtual Screens For Touchless Transactions
January 31, 2022 by Dave Haynes
On the heels of word that a fast casual restaurant chain in Quebec is testing touchless self-service ordering kiosks comes news of 7-Eleven deploying test units of a touchless payment station in some of its Japanese stores.
The program involves six different technology companies, with a division of Toshiba guiding the program.
From a Japanese online news site:
The floating touch panel registers were developed as a joint project between six different companies:
- Toshiba Tec, which created the POS payment system and is responsible for its installation and assembly in stores;
- 7-Eleven, who will equip its stores with the product and assist customers with its use while also verifying its effectiveness;
- Asukanet Development, which manufactures and sells plates for aerial displays;
- Kanda Kogyo Development, which manufactures and sells aerial display modules;
- Mitsui Chemicals Development, which manufactures and sells the adhesive “Structbond” used for aerial display plates;
- and Mitsui Bussan Plastic, which is involved in aerial display module sales and development.
The set-up is a counter-top display that lays flat but does some sort of reflection thing to create the illusion that the payment interface is floating at a 45 degree or so angle above the surface. Optical sensors detect basic gestures like pointing a finger at an icon on the virtual screen.
Says the publication:
The hologram registers will appear as an introductory trial at six 7-Eleven branches in Tokyo, starting from 1 February. Items that can be purchased are currently limited to in-store products, excluding items like alcohol, cigarettes, stamps, postcards, and services like courier deliveries, utility bill payments, cash vouchers and account recharges.
The intent of the units is to reduce the risk of viral transmission that comes with touching common, oft-used surfaces.
As noted last week in my post about the touchless self-service, the big questions on anything like this is whether they speed up or slow down transactions, and their reliability. If these things are finicky to use, or buggy, they’re dead. If they’d cost more than more conventional technology, that’s probably also a big barrier to large-scale adoption.
I also wonder about practical things, such as visibility in the stores. Typical 7-Elevens are pretty bright and stark. In midday, are shoppers squinting to see the UX?
I have seen the floating screen side of this thing at trade shows here and there, but it has been a few years. I can’t remember where or who, but believe it was a research project out of Japan. I think this is a variation on the century-old Pepper’s Ghost illusion, but would be happily corrected.
Anyone remember seeing this sort of thing at a trade show?
UPDATE: The tech is from a Swedish company, Neonode:
7-Eleven Japan has decided to run a pilot trial with contactless self-checkout kiosks with holographic displays.
The holographic displays are equipped with Neonode’s Touch Sensor Modules that make it possible to interact with the images projected by the holographic displays mid-air, in a similar way as you would do with a normal touch display. The Touch Sensor Modules are provided via NEXTY Electronics and Kanda Kogyo.
Demand for contactless shopping has surged during the coronavirus pandemic and taking up 30% less space than existing cash registers, the terminals also give stores room for more products. The holographic self-checkout kiosks will accept only cashless payment methods, including credit cards, e-money cards and QR codes.
The trial has been running since February 1 at six 7-Eleven stores in Tokyo.
“We are pleased and excited to see this initiative, where our technology is simplifying and enhancing the customer experience and making the interaction with the underlying device or system safer, more hygienic, and more convenient to use, which further emphasizes the importance of Neonode’s contactless touch technology in the retail segment. Thanks to a well-functioning partnership with our distributor NEXTY Electronics and Kanda Kogyo we have paved the way for a successful deployment,” said Urban Forssell, CEO of Neonode.
Operating officer Shinichirou Horita of Kanda Kogyo said: “We value the compact design and easy calibration system of the Neonode Touch Sensor Modules, and quickly concluded it was a perfect fit for this new product.”