6/7/2012 3:09 PM
The second key consideration in our “Ten Key Considerations for Exhibit Multimedia Success” naturally follows #1 (Hardware Planning) and is Hardware Solutions. Although hardware solutions can run the gamut in price and options, I’ll do my best to give some basic considerations.
First let’s tackle budget. Try not to skimp here. I have customers who have tried to save money by using donated or used computer equipment and although our point2explore software runs fine on older computer systems, I have seen that these systems are much less reliable and unless you have a computer expert at the ready, you may experience down time. When possible, budget for the best quality computers, displays, etc. and the possibility of future “headaches” will be much lower. As I mentioned in Key #1, use a professional with experience to get the best quality and proven hardware solutions.
Second, let’s consider computer hardware (as opposed to kiosk housings).
- Kiosk Computers
- Generally PCs (vs Macs) will be less expensive and you will have an easier time getting qualified technicians to help with problems.
- Don’t “over buy” but keep in mind future expansion. Our software products will run on the most basic computer you can buy with no need to upgrade RAM, processor, or hard drives.
- Don’t “under buy” expecting to upgrade later. You may never get the budget to make the upgrade.
- Buy a brand with a good warranty and customer service or from a reseller you trust.
- Touch Screen Displays
- LCD touch screen displays are considered the standard these days. They come in a large variety of sizes, and they will not “burn in.” (one note, LCD touch screen displays vary in aspect ratio so be sure that your software will fill the screen)
- Make sure that the video card in your computer supports the screen resolution of the display you purchase. You always want to set the computer to display at the optimum display size for your monitor.
- For very large display needs, consider a projector instead of a large screen display to save some money.
- Think “outside the box” when it comes to displays. Wide screen displays can be mounted vertically for a unique look. Projected images can be masked to display in an interesting shape. And don’t forget that multiple displays can be used to separate the user interface (touch screen) and the display.
- Input devices
- The most common exhibit interface is a touch screen. Touch screens come in a wide variety of sizes now but the larger touch screen monitors are very expensive.
- Mice and track balls are inexpensive, but they can be damaged. If you need (or can only afford) to use a mouse or track ball, make sure you get an industrial, vandal resistant model. They are worth the extra money. (note: some software applications will work better using a mouse because of very small buttons or scroll bars so be aware of the usability of your software)
- Only use keyboards if they are absolutely necessary. Most of our point2explore games and programs are designed to be used without a keyboard because a keyboard is another component that can be damaged and if not set up properly can give users access to tamper with your computer set up.
- There are a number of other, unique interface options readily available like touch pads, buttons, visual detectors, etc. Experienced exhibit multimedia developers will have many options for you.
- Custom input devices are also an option and may be less expensive than you think. We have a customer who set up a car steering wheel and ignition as the interface. We designed a time clock input device for another customer. Be creative.
Third, let’s consider the touch screen kiosk housing or furniture.
- Standard touch screen kiosks: The most cost effective kiosk housings are the pre-designed kiosks (like our line of kiosks). Although you typically don’t have the ability to change the shape or size, you can change the color and finish. These types of kiosks are usually well made, durable and ADA compliant.
- Custom kiosks: It’s not difficult to build a kiosk box to mount the touch screen and hide the computer, however experience is valuable. One of our customers decided to design and build their own kiosk housing. When we attended the grand opening of the exhibit, we saw the beautiful kiosk but upon closer inspection, the monitor controls were not covered so any user could adjust the monitor settings or even turn off the monitor. The biggest advantage to a custom kiosk is that you have full control of the style, shape, theme, color, etc. If you go custom, make sure you have someone with experience and who knows the ADA requirements.
- No kiosk housing? Maybe you don’t need a kiosk housing. We have many customers who purchase a touch screen panel PC which is an all in one touch screen and computer. Since it can be mounted on a wall or sit on a desktop, there is no need for a housing at all. Another option is to put a hole in the wall just exposing the touch screen. Just be sure to use an open frame display which has no plastic housing and includes mounting hardware.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of hardware solutions, but it is a good solid start. The best recommendation I can give is to draw on someone with experience. It will save you time and money while giving you options that you may not have found on your own. Stay tuned for Key #3 where we begin to discuss software!
If you have any recommendations or additions, please comment by clicking the “Comments” link below.
CD Meyer, Inc./point2explore
point2explore is product line of customizable touch screen kiosk programs including interactive games and informational programs. point2explore products are currently running in over 100 museums and have been used in corporate events across the country. Visit our web site at http://www.point2explore.com.
Copyright ©2012 CD Meyer, Inc.