Multipurpose Public Displays

Multipurposeness is the future of interactive public displays.

Currently the displays in our surroundings typically serve a single purpose, whether it be advertising, map services, shopping guides, or mall directories. This won’t be the case for long. While public displays will certainly be used exclusively for advertising, displays deployed in public spaces will benefit by adapting themselves to their users.

The displays we have created in Oulu offer various services simultaneously, including commercial ones (bottom left quadrant) (click to enlarge).

We have created a network of true multipurpose displays in Oulu, Finland. It is the world’s first and largest multipurpose public display grid dedicated to research. For interactive public displays to proliferate, owners and managers of deployment locations must be made aware of the value they bring.

Counterintuitively, in most situations, users do not necessarily need to enjoy using a display. If a public display helps a sandwich shop owner sell more BLTs, it will continue to have utility regardless of whether its users think that it is rubbish, or if it only shows adverts. It really is that simple.

In public spaces, however, there are various different stakeholders, who often have conflicting interests. It makes only sense to offer several use cases to the users to please many stakeholders at the same time. Such displays can be used to foster civic engagement and civic participation. While single-use displays can be used for this purpose, they are less effective, insofar as that citizens are not encouraged to use them unless they need to. A City is built for its citizens. Furthermore, multipurpose displays can also facilitate commercial activities (which might help cover the upkeep costs) and offer municipal services at the same time (as done in Oulu).

One issue that we have noticed with multipurpose displays is that the existing body of research on display applications is not directly applicable to multipurpose ones. When an application that has been trialed on single-use displays is deployed on multipurpose screens, it faces stiff competition from all the other simultaneously deployed applications, and this leads to lower use. Lower use means lower perceived utility and less “success.”

Commercial partners need to realize that their creations on public displays will have to be entertaining and responsive. Generation Y wants their content fast and funny. Otherwise the users will just choose a more entertaining use case for the display, simply because they can. With single-use displays, this is not the case, and users will most often use anything that the display offers.

The video below clarifies many of the use cases that can be facilitated using a single display (in this case, one of the hotspots we have developed):

This, I believe, is the future of publicly administrated displays that can serve citizens in many ways.

Related publications

Hosio S, Kukka H, Goncalves J, Kostakos V & Ojala T (2016)
Toward Meaningful Engagement on Pervasive Displays.
IEEE Pervasive Computing.

Hosio S, Goncalves J, Kukka H, Chamberlain A & Malizia A (2014)
What’s in it for me: Exploring the Real-World Value Proposition of Pervasive Displays
Proc. The International Symposium on Pervasive Displays (PerDis), Copenhagen, Denmark,2014

Hosio S, Goncalves J, Kostakos V, Cheverst K & Rogers Y (2013)
Human interfaces for civic and urban engagement: HiCUE ’13.
Proc. The international conference on Pervasive and ubiquitous computing (UbiComp) adjunct publication, Zürich, Switzerland, 2013

Hosio S, Goncalves J & Kostakos V (2013)
Application Discoverability on Multipurpose Public Displays: Popularity Comes at a Price
Proc. The International Symposium on Pervasive Displays (PerDis), Mountain View, CA, US, 2013