The Digital Signage Insider

Screen Skins, Bezels and Unusual Displays: Useful or Novelty?

Published on: 2009-03-13

While visiting the recent ISE convention in Amsterdam, I was attracted to the booth of the Korean company Tovis. In their booth, they were showing something decidedly different from the other screen vendors on the floor (who were apparently engaging in the usual fight for the largest screen ever seen). Tovis took a different approach to catching eyes by showing off a full range of "stretched" displays, presenting form factors different from the common 16:9 we're all so used to. While the screens certainly drew my attention, I first dismissed them as a novelty -- something unusual, but not necessarily useful. As I thought more about it, though, I realized that catching my attention is the ultimate use of most digital signs. So perhaps these stretched screens will have an important role to play in our field.

Not all screens are created equal

Among the unusual screens I saw were "1/2" and "1/3" height monitors, ranging from 6" to 42", which provide a new way to present extended landscape content. These were especially well-suited for digital signage applications in public transportation, entertainment and retail. The screens have been "announced" for a while (I remember LG presenting a couple of stretched monitors last May). However, those models were apparently prototypes intended to test market reaction. I've read about a few deployments with stretched screens, but they are still very uncommon.

Image credit: Roberto Vogliolo
I must confess that I have a particular interest in the subject. This arose when I was looking for some ideas regarding the evolution of our queue management product line, in which we are using LED panels to show the number being served at each line, integrated with standard 16:9 LCDs for information related to the services and other video content. A brilliant and dynamic "stretched" monitor in place of an "old fashioned" LED display could potentially give a boost to the system by providing a means to integrate service information with video communication. At the same time, it could preserve the traditional form factor of the LED display and easily fit within existing venues. I don't think this will be the killer app for such screens, though. It seems that with their unique form factors, stretched displays could help improve digital signage effectiveness inside railway and underground stations, airports, malls and cinemas, or wherever users need to find a place, a point of interest or a direction.

Judging a screen by its cover

Another interesting approach to making screens more noticeable and eye-catching is to integrate them with the branding and color scheme of the venue itself. This usually involves dealing with interior designers and companies specializing in the production of custom-made frames or enclosures. A couple of exhibitors were showing off-the-shelf solutions for "dressing" any standard 40" monitor with plastic or steel "skins" available in different colors and styles. These screen skins are designed to be integrated with a full range of wall and ceiling mounting systems. All of the screen bezels are fully certified and the estimated delivery time for standard colors is very quick. I saw the same concept applied to indoor and outdoor totem shells, designed to fit standard monitors from the major producers. These seemed a bit less "stable" in design and production, but I believe they can deliver the product as claimed.

Image credit: Roberto Vogliolo
Just a few years ago, a customer of ours asked for special custom frames for their monitors. At that point in the industry's development, we had to contract with a specialty craftsman to custom-build them for us. It would have been much easier (and probably much less expensive) to use an out-of-the-box solution. From just a few hours on the ISE show floor, it was obvious that the digital signage market is now big enough and mature enough for vendors to take these unconventional ideas and specialty products, and produce them in quantities big enough that they're affordable. Industrial solutions will start to appear not only for the basic components (e.g. monitor or player) but for these more exotic products as well, giving customers and integrators more options for the make versus buy decision.

Bill's thoughts

In an industry whose primary function is to make sure messages get seen, novelty devices have had a decidedly mixed success ratio. On the one hand, flat screens themselves were once unique enough to get noticed on their own, and we've certainly seen a huge adoption of them in all sorts of out-of-home spaces. Likewise, rear-projection and polarized films like 3M's Vikuiti are turning up all over the place, despite reasonably high upfront prices. On the other hand, though, there have been more failed 3D devices than I can count at this point, and some cool gadgets like those 360 degree LCD screens look great, but are too expensive to ever make it into mass-adoption territory.

Nonetheless, the drive to be seen will continue to foster new developments in display technologies. Like the stretched screens, they'll start out in the realm of business services products. But like Microsoft's Surface (or any of the other multitouch and gestural systems that came out right before and after), they might find their way into the home before too long. When that comes to pass, the novelty value decreases dramatically, which could force networks to look for the Next Cool Thing to attract eyeballs.

Flat screens are standard fare now, and 3D has been "around the corner" forever. What new displays or technologies will be the new "gotta have" novelties in the next 2-3 years? Leave a comment to let us know what you think!


+1 # Eric 2009-03-13 16:32
Enclosures / skins can be interesting...and sometimes necessary depending on where its being installed (e.g. protection). That said, 99% of our installed screens don't use any type of enclosure or skin. The reason for this has mostly been cost, less complications/planning, and ease of installation. Although they're not always cheap, we push the use of thin-bezel commercial monitors--no need to skin and the emphasis is all on the message/content. I'd like it if businesses had the money/time to integrate screens into the architecture--make screens not look like TV's--but they are few and far between in this, still somewhat early, stage of the industry/medium. Marketers shouldn't be afraid to cut-off/round-off corners, make their signage look different...why must the signage always be so square/rectangular? Be creative, because the your audience is going to start getting tired of the same old TV's hanging in stores.
0 # Jeff Rayfield 2009-03-13 16:45
Can anyone name some vendors providing off-the-shelf enclosures like the multi-colored ones above? Thanks.
0 # Roi 2009-03-24 14:40
Hi Jeff, Here you have one: DS Digital Screens Im working some projects with them.
0 # allen 2012-12-27 15:48
hey Roberto, its a very old blog but it is good to see this information... as i am a freak about LED and try to catch as many knowledge as i could of led and the best application of led i found is in marketing with [[|digital led signs]] or decorate homes with its beauty..

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