There’s A New Version Of That Digital Poster On Wheels, But The Original Question Persists: Why?
February 25, 2022 by Dave Haynes
I wrote a couple of years ago about a Dubai-based company that was marketing a three-sided ad poster on robotic wheels, and asked the simple question: Why?
That company is still around, and RoboAds says it now has a new version – the RA-200 – that it calls the “most sophisticated signage robot that has been designed to maximize the impact of the mobile indoor/outdoor advertising experience.”
The pitch with this unit – equipped with three 55-inch 4K screens – is that it can be programmed to autonomously roam around a venue, using computer vision and AI – effectively going to where people are dwelling. In this version, the wheels are hidden, so it looks less portable and probably addresses a nominal safety hazard.
“The RA-200 has been designed to boost brand awareness, precision targeting and customer engagement, which are the core elements of digital signage advertising,” says Faysal ElChamaa, the company’s CEO and founder. “With a unique ability to attract attention and interact with targeted audiences, the RA-200 empowers brands, shapes customer engagement and leads to action.”
The four-year-old company says it is based in Silicon Valley, but Linkedin suggests it is more a UAE thing. It is fairly common for startups to have a Silicon Valley address for optics reasons.
“These are exciting times for RoboAds. The RA-200 is an important milestone in the fast development of our company. After bringing together the best talent in AI technology and robotics, we have managed to build unprecedented solutions for the digital signage industry, opening new revolutionary opportunities,” adds Faysal.
It is very, very, very gimmicky. Certainly, it is attention-grabbing eye candy for things like trade shows. I am 100% jaded by this sort of thing, and I know there are people out there who would look at this as being all quite amazing. There’s another subset of people who would be irritated as hell to be stalked by a rolling ad poster. I’d mostly just be rolling my eyes like a 14-year-old.
I do like the thoughts around being able to launch on-the-spot video conferencing on one of these screens, to do things like ask a subject matter expert a question even though that person is somewhere else. But overall, I don’t see a lot of commercial applicability.
There are certainly benefits to being able to reposition a set of good-sized ad and marketing screens around a big venue like an exhibition hall or mass merch store, but the benefit is more in being able to move it somewhere periodically and then have it sit. The units are rated for 11 hours of duty before needing a re-charge. I am guessing, safely, that less movement means longer operating time. I wonder if it goes “home” to a docking station, like a Roomba robo-vacuum, when it hits a low battery threshold?
A roaming thing the size of a fridge has an accident-waiting-to-happen feel to it, and in lawsuit-happy countries like the US, or insurance fraud meccas like Russia, these robots and their owners would be easy marks. As was noted, and asked, in a comment when I first wrote about RoboAds: “What could go wrong?”