Emerging Technology: Let the ads rain

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What: NTT in Japan calls its version "Information Rain," while U.S. pioneer Reactrix has dubbed its system as "Reactive Media." Toronto-based Gesturetek has "GestPoint" and "GroundFX," and IBM has its "Everywhere Display." All involve digital projected images with which consumers can interact. In NTT's case, its prototype technology can project what looks like raindrops falling onto the floor. Curious consumers who hold out their hands see specific messages like "sale" projected onto their palms. The Reactrix and Gesturetek systems also project images, but onto the floor or wall where consumers can do things like "touch" or "jump" on the image to make it wave, ripple, pop, or disperse. IBM's solution is a projected interactive touch screen.

What it's used for: Mostly entertainment and branded messaging. However, point of purchase and dynamic advertising uses are growing in both importance and demand. Reactrix hopes to create and maintain an in-store network for marketers such as Best Buy, McDonald's, and AMC movie theaters. Within each network, messages could easily be rotated and updated, or turned on and off at different stores.

Pros: The interactive experience has been shown to make customers spend more time with the message or brand, come back more often, and make them three times more likely to recommend it to family and friends. It also causes recall rates to soar as high as 86%, according to Reactrix research.

Cons: Because the images are projected, usage is restricted to indoor or darkened outdoor spaces. Also there is some concern that while the initial "wow" factor is high, consumers may become oblivious or even annoyed with projected messages.

Who's using it: Toys R Us in Times Square was one of the first Reactrix users with its floor display where visitors "kick" virtual blocks on the floor. Other Reactrix clients include: Sony's Metreon in San Francisco, which features both floor and wall versions with video-game play as well as popping and rippling floor images; the MGM Tabu Lounge in Las Vegas, with more grown-up themes including interactive light dance boxes and mutable wall art; McDonald's in Chicago and Los Angeles, which use the system as entertainment, with games projected into an open play area and messages projected onto table tops; and AMC movie theaters, which displays Jelly Belly, Pepsi and Pop Secret popcorn interactive messages on the floors of its lobbies. Gesturetek clients include Samsung at its Samsung Experience store in New York. Ford Motor Co., Coca-Cola Co., Dunkin Donuts, Absolut, and Geico have also used the display technology for a variety of marketing promotions and events.

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