It’s slightly weird that the thing I perhaps liked the most on the DSE show floor last week wasn’t digital signage tech in any conventional sense, but what really caught my eye was the flip-disc display shown by the Brooklyn-based tech/agency shop Breakfast.
It is decades-old technology that rapidly flips little plastic discs between black and white, and was used in airports and rail stations to show departure and arrivals information. Breakfast has taken that tech, and juiced it up with software and peripheral technologies to give it a modern take.
The unit they were show was the old black and white version they’ve been using for testing and demos for several years. It flips the little discs at 20 frames per second and is one solid piece. The version they are now starting to ship does 40 frames per second (conventional video is 30 frames per second) and the units are modular – very similar in shape to fine-pitch LED module tiles. The new version also supports a wide range of colors – so the little discs can all be a certain red or blue, and the back plate can also be different colors.
What they were showing married content with a Kinect gesture sensor – which was a magnet for people, and selfies.
It’s fun to look at, but like a lot of people at the show, I had two big questions:
- Ia anyone buying them?
- Are they reliable?
Yes and Yes.
They are getting orders from a variety of companies. Brands like them as fun, interactive pieces in their lobbies and other central places. Restaurants and bars are using them as entertaining visuals that can also double up as order notifications – so that one content app can be playing out and get interrupted to say: Order Ready: Dave.
I was assured the things just work and work and work. They are just light plastic chips flipping over.
I am working from memory, but think the Breakfast guys said the unit showing at DSE last week would, using the new 40-frames-per tiles, costs about $75K, inc. management software and a variety of templated applications from logos to sports scoreboards. (Note: price updated – perils of working from 59-year-old memory).
There was a pile of other great tech around the show floor, but I tend to gravitate to stuff I haven’t seen before – that is more than a gimmick.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.