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The new age of Interactive Hotel Marketing – Surface Computing, Siftables, Multi-touch

As technology evolves to offer creative new ways to interact with digital media, the possibilities for marketers become immense. We’ve all seen what multi-touch displays have done to improve the user experience… the Apple iPod is a wonderful example of this. Even large multi-touch panels like those seen in the movie ‘Minority Report’ are now cropping up in news rooms.

Beyond being plain fun, the great thing about these new interactive input devices is our move towards more intuitive, quicker ways to interact with media…and finally a move away from two decades being tied to the mouse and keyboard. The hotel industry is big on guest interaction and personalization…so multi-touch screens offer an excellent way to interact with hotel guests, from information, ordering and billing to creative deployments that allow guests to create memories and offer feedback.

A cool example of multi-touch in hotels / hospitality is Microsoft Surface, which does a wonderful job of boosting guest interaction in a creative and meaningful way. Here’s an old video that shows some of these features (the quality is far from perfect, but the video is watchable):

Another great technology that recently made an appearance is called “Siftables”. As the official site describes the technology, “Siftables are cookie-sized computers with motion sensing, neighbor detection, graphical display, and wireless communication. They act in concert to form a single interface: users physically manipulate them – piling, grouping, sorting – to interact with digital information and media. Siftables provides a new platform on which to implement tangible, visual and mobile applications.”

Created by David Merrill and Jeevan Kalanithi at the MIT Media Lab, Siftables are essentially computer blocks that can sense and interact with each other. Watch the demo here:

Truly inspiring stuff! The potential for adapting uses of these technologies in the hospitality and travel industries is immense. Just imagine:

  • Large multi-touch screens in the lobby which guests can interact with and learn about the hotel, the destination and also offer feedback to the hotel plus share their memories via their digital cameras…
  • Restaurants with multi-touch displays or tables which allow guests to choose, order and pay for their meals!
  • Back of the house multi-touch displays in key departments that show a relevant mash up of live information and allows users to interact with the system. You could show the status of rooms, how busy restaurants are, video feeds of relevant areas and much more. The General Manager could have an interactive screen that at a glance, shows how each area of the hotel is doing in terms of occupancy, comfort, revenue and guest feedback…in real time!
  • Siftable blocks for kids…and for bored adults in meetings rooms and other spaces, that feature interactive information about ongoing promotions or perhaps puzzles that offer you a great discount if solved! Siftables can also be incorporated to be part of a bigger system that uses the blocks as input devices to control elements of that system…or as part of interactive training games.

The above are just a few, half-baked examples…the true range of options is left to the creative hotelier’s imagination.

One thing’s for sure, though – the reign of tied-to-desk computer devices is coming to an end. The change may not come tomorrow, but for all us hopefuls…the move towards better, more intuitive and exciting ways to interact with the digital world is now gaining momentum.

Update – 1st March 2009: 

A great new addition to this post that I picked up today from Chris Brogan’s Blog (who got if from Download Squad) – about a new video from Microsoft Office Labs, a “Future Vision Montage”. The official landing page states:

Future Vision Montage 

How will emerging technology improve our productivity in the years ahead? What opportunities will arise from evolving trends and global change? Microsoft has collaborated with customers, partners, and thought leaders across multiple disciplines to develop scenarios that explore how long-term trends, customer challenges, and emerging technologies might converge to improve our lives, both at work and home.

Watch Video As you watch this video montage from 2009, look for examples of how current prototypes may evolve in the years ahead. When you’re done, tell us what you think and what you’d like to see in the technology of tomorrow.

While it’s hard to predict exactly how technology will unfold, we are constantly researching, looking forward, and gathering insights to imagine how technology investments today can improve people’s way of life in the future.

What a great video! An exciting sneak-peek about just what this post was originally all about…!

1 comment on “The new age of Interactive Hotel Marketing – Surface Computing, Siftables, Multi-touch

  1. The Siftables were fantastic! The touch screens are also valauable in hotels for RFPs from customers and free up the sales office by allowing a level of self-service.

    For the back of house, function space setup and BEOs will be more readily available for staff.


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