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"O'Hare Unveils New Technology In American Terminal"
Tuesday, May 2, 2006
O'Hare Unveils New Technology In American Terminal
By Jason Sparapani
Medill News Service
CHICAGO - For the first time outside of a Hollywood-generated future,
travelers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport will be able to access
personalized information such as weather in their destination city and
up-to-the-minute news. All this by touching to direct the show on a
Unveiled Tuesday in O'Hare's American Airlines terminal, the Accenture
Interactive Network, an effort to "revolutionize" billboard advertising,
engages one or two users with a massive ten-by-seven screen, cutting-edge
technology and applications ranging from CNN headlines on families of the
Sago mine victims to the latest on Tiger Woods.
The interface, presented by global consulting and technology services
company Accenture, whose Chicago research lab developed the technology,
"makes O'Hare more than just a travel hub, we're also a hub of innovation,"
said Patrick J. Harney, first deputy commissioner of Chicago's Department of
He noted that such vanguard technology will greet thousands of travelers
each day. Fifty-seven percent of the 190,000 travelers that pass through
O'Hare daily make connecting flights, seeing little of what Chicago has to
offer, he said.
Bearing a resemblance to the interactive technology manipulated by Tom
Cruise in the 2002 futuristic thriller "Minority Report," the Accenture
Interactive Network is situated at one of the airport's main thoroughfares,
and serves both as a purveyor of information and an advertising platform.
The user begins by touching a category displayed on the screen, let's say,
"News." The graphic swells, popping out toward the user and shrinks,
settling next to a video by CNN Pipeline, one of the companies that has
partnered with Accenture.
Another is the Weather Channel, so by choosing "Weather," a traveler can
learn if it's snowing in Boston or pouring in Jacksonville. The airport may
seem like too noisy a place to do any research, but overhead speaker trap
users in a cone of sound, inaudible to those standing outside it.
"We blended all the interaction of a desktop along with the fidelity you see
of a large poster," said Accenture's Kelly Dempski, who designed the
technology behind the interface.
When a user touches the screen two infrared cameras, shooting more than one
hundred frames per second, capture the user's fingerprint and triangulate
the position of the touch with the content.
Dempski said the inspiration for the installation came from Web sites that
involve the user, making them feel part of the action. But here the space is
much larger than an office cubicle, so the design took some innovative
"I can't rearrange shelves for you when you walk in," Dempski said. But what
he and techies like him can do is let you choose the information and
advertising that only you want to view, unlike traditional billboards. "This
is a new type of media," he said.
Accenture would like to see the Chicago debut of the installation grow into
a network of interactive screens. A possible application would be in
business, for instance, allowing two economists to resolve a complex
financial problem by visualizing it. Another target is public spaces like
the airport location.
"As the technology becomes less expensive, you can imagine a time when those
paper posters go away."
"Expensive" may be the operative word. Accenture wouldn't disclose the price
of the installation.
The installation will make an appearance in New York's John F. Kennedy
International Airport soon, though no date has been set by the company.
Though the installation has just a few applications so far, the idea is more
media companies and advertisers will see the technology as the next big
thing and get on board. For now, the limited selection gives the developers
the chance to learn what users want from it.
"Depending on what we see on this launch, we'll build from there," said
Donald Rippert, Accenture's chief technology officer. "If everybody looks at
sports, we'll expand sports. If everybody looks at news, we'll expand news."
Travelers making their way through the airport Tuesday seemed to embrace the
installation without hesitation.
"I think it's relevant and valuable," said David Prawel, a computer
consultant from Fort Collins, Colo., who makes frequent business trips to
Chicago. "I get access to information like weather where I may go, sports
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