Public Involvement Techniques
4.C.c - Interactive Video Displays
What are interactive video displays and kiosks?
Interactive video displays and kiosks are similar to automatic
teller machines, offering menus for interaction between
a person and a computer. Information is provided through a presentation
that invites viewers to ask questions or direct the flow of information.
Viewers activate programs by using a touch-screen, keys, a mouse,
or a trackball. Software used in interactive video displays and
kiosks is highly specialized, storing information on hardware that
allows retrieval of specific information based on directions from
Interactive displays and kiosks:
- Deliver information to the user;
- Offer a variety of issues to explore, images to view, and topics
- Elicit specific responses, acting as a survey instrument;
- Enable the user to enter a special request to the sponsoring
agency or join a mailing list;
- Are used in a variety of locations and may be either stationary
or mobile; and
- Receive and store user input.
Interactive displays take advantage of evolving video and
communications technologies. The Massachusetts Turnpike
Authority has installed interactive tourist information kiosks at
each of its ten rest areas. The kiosks have a constantly-running
video designed to attract passers-by. During the loop presentation,
viewers touch the screen to activate certain modules of information
such as museums or other attractions by region or for any part of
Why are they useful?
If well-sited, interactive programs reach people who do
not normally attend hearings or meetings. Visual communication
is very powerful, delivering large amounts of information in a relatively
short period of time. Interactive displays help people understand
plans and complex programs. They raise public awareness about projects
or programs and reassure people that their government is listening.
A public involvement technique using interactive video may be very
successful in attracting broader participation.
Strategic siting of interactive programs is imperative.
They should be located where large numbers of people gather—for
instance, in shopping malls, community colleges, and government
buildings. They are placed where people naturally congregate to
talk, shop, or socialize, or—in airline terminals—where
they wait for arriving or departing planes. Displays are also set
up at non-transportation special events. The Colorado Governors
Office initiated a program of touch-screen informational displays
in shopping centers.
Interactive displays can supplement other methods of obtaining
public input. If an interactive display is part of an open
house, participants may be able to provide written comments based
on the interactive display program. Kiosks in a shopping mall or
other similar setting may be equipped with comment cards in a pocket
or tray and a mailbox type container in which to deposit the cards.
Project staff would collect these comment cards periodically. Agencies
use feedback from interactive video displays just as they use public
input obtained by more conventional means.
Interactive displays are useful in explaining a project
and its implications. The New York State Urban Development
Corporation developed an interactive video for public distribution
to help explain the Miller Highway Relocation Project in New York
City. The video offers highly-developed video images and animations
to explain various project alternatives and their environmental
implications. Users see the different alternatives from a variety
of perspectives and enter their reactions. (See Computer
Presentations and Simulations; Visual
Preference Surveys; 3-D Visualization.)
Do they have special uses?
Interactive displays provide the public with access to
areas that are distant or dangerous to visit. The Tennessee
Valley Authority and the Florida Power and Light Company use video
displays to illustrate the workings of nuclear power facilities.
Interactive displays elicit preferences from people who
do not otherwise participate. Displays are used to collect
comments and public input. They are useful for disseminating detailed
information or generating interest in transportation planning. They
are used to expand mailing list databases. (See Mailing
Interactive displays complement staff availability.
As agency resources become more scarce, the City of New York Human
Resources Administration is expanding its use of interactive terminals
to assist social service clients. Interactive terminals are appropriate
as a primary or initial contact and cost-effective for answering
requests for general information. For specific responses or more
detailed information delivery, other public involvement techniques
are probably required. Video displays should not be used to avoid
face-to-face contact with the public.
Interactive displays can provide printed messages.
Supporting machines record the information requested by a user from
the screen and dispense it in printed form. Automatic teller machines
are common examples. Rental car agencies provide driving directions
to local destinations on video terminals with full-color maps of
selected destination areas. The Texas Employment Commission now
has 44 easy-to-use kiosks in public locations around the State with
interactive displays that print out hundreds of job openings. The
kiosks are already tapped an average of 60,000 times a month.
Who participates? And how?
People of all ages participate. Children, adults,
and the elderly are encouraged to use displays, ask questions, and
retrieve available information. Interactive displays in public places
allow an agency to reach people who otherwise would not participate
in transportation processes.
Interactive displays reach people at a variety of education
or computer-literacy levels. Physical and program designs
should encourage broad use, since children and some disabled people
may not be able to reach or use equipment. Designs should facilitate
ease of operation to encourage people without computer experience
to interact with the program. The Arizona Supreme Court has developed
interactive displays, called Quickcourt terminals, to assist people
in understanding how to navigate through the judicial system. On-screen
text is written at a fourth-grade reading level, and a narrator
gives audio direction. Key words and numbers flash in synchronization
with the narration to assist users with poor reading skills. In
the first year of operation, almost 24,000 Quickcourt transactions
were conducted, and only a handful of users had to seek further
Interactive displays are often multi-lingual.
New York City installed 62 bilingual (English and Spanish) kiosks
throughout the city to inform people about city services.
Interactive displays and kiosks provide an opportunity
to search for information of specific interest to an individual
user. Users interact by touching the screen. Software programs
allow computers and video monitors to react to touch and respond
with information or questions relevant to the users request.
These programs can lead a user through a great deal of available
information to find a specific answer. The display and kiosk may
also display a point of contact for further information.
Users find interactive displays in a variety of public
places. The Arizona Quickcourt system has used locations
such as shopping malls, schools, and government offices. Orange
County, California, uses a movable kiosk display to show transit
project information on a touch screen.
How do agencies use the output?
Interactive displays provide information from an agency
to the public. This method of displaying information supplements
other methods of dissemination, thus conserving staff resources.
(See Public Information Materials.) The Smithsonian Institution
added an interactive kiosk about transportation to an exhibit at
the Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. The kiosk allows
visitors to ask questions about public transit, commercial vehicle
operations, traffic management, traveler information, and accident
prevention. It gives information about transportation and, in doing
so, exhibits the use of technology for a larger exhibit, The
Interactive displays collect information from the public
for agency analysis. Output from an interactive display
can be used to record preferences or to recognize and respond to
specific participant concerns. It is also used to expand mailing
list databases. (See Mailing Lists.)
Displays offer agencies flexibility in controlling and
directing where a message goes. As with commercial video
productions, specific audiences can be targeted. A program can be
designed to appeal principally to adults who seldom go to public
meetings or to parents of children who delight in observing different
modes of transportation. When presentation information is developed
to appeal to that audience, the interactive feature of a touch screen
adds a means of collecting reactions from the audience. Targeted
marketing by local governments, according to Indiana Business Magazine,
has the potential to increase an audiences retention of information
by 50 percent.
Software experts design and develop interactive displays.
These sophisticated computer programs are usually produced by special
contractors. Preparation, distribution, and maintenance of interactive
displays, collection of stored data, and reprogramming of machines
require special technical and logistical skills. One company is
developing an electronic panning camera system that allows people
in separate locations to view a scene from an infinite number of
perspectives. These sophisticated techniques require special equipment
and contact with vendors that market these tools.
What are the costs?
Costs associated with kiosks and interactive displays can be
broken down into hardware, software, updates, and maintenance.
Purchasing the hardware (e.g., enclosure, CPU, touch screen, keyboard,
laser printer) and installing a kiosk (e.g., site negotiation, electrical
and telecommunication connections) may cost an agency between $12,000
and $20,000 per unit. In most cases, agencies purchase kiosks, rather
than lease them. They may however reprogram kiosks after a project
is complete to fit a new information need.
The cost of software for kiosks is highly variable. It often
depends on the complexity of the graphics and interaction screens
and on whether or not information and photographs to be used are
readily available. For a relatively simple interface and with pre-existing
information and photos, software development could cost an agency
approximately $40,000. More extensive graphics and sound, graphics
that must be designed by the vendor, and original video footage
would add significantly to the cost.
Costs to update the content of the video display or kiosk could
range from a few hundred dollars for simple text-based changes to
thousands of dollars for new, motion-based video screens. These
costs could be avoided or reduced by having an agency manage the
updates. If the kiosk design involves a central computer controlling
the display and software created in a common development language
like HTML, agency personnel may be easily able to make updates to
the kiosk information.
Kiosks and interactive video displays also need regular maintenance
including cleaning, refilling paper, and stocking extra parts for
quick repairs. Agencies can reduce the cost of maintenance by
assigning on-site staff to be responsible for maintenance. Alternatively,
the kiosk vendor may charge several hundred dollars per month for
maintenance services. An agency also may have professional staff
accompany interactive displays to assist users. The State of Vermont
has an advanced computer-based survey instrument with full-color
graphics, photographs, and video segments, accompanied by two to
four survey attendants to guide respondents through a questionnaire.
Such additional staffing requirements should be considered in the
How are interactive video displays and kiosks organized?
Interactive displays are usually independent, free-standing
installations. A television monitor is required, operated
by either touching the screen or using a keyboard. Depending on
the anticipated level of use, a touch screen is sturdier than most
peripherals. Interactive displays are best situated in places where
they will attract users. A minimal need is connection to a reliable
power source for the electricity required by the monitor, the driver,
and the computer. Displays are frequently linked to terminals in
a central location that monitor their continued performance and
Interactive displays may be operated as a network of terminals,
like automatic teller machines (ATMs) or the Arizona Quickcourt
system. The Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (RTA),
in Seattle, has developed a fiber-optic based Interpretive
Display formatted around a map of the region. The RTA uses
it, without staff, to reach people in shopping malls and other high-traffic
areas and get them involved.
The decision to use kiosks is highly dependent on the nature
of the project, other public involvement techniques being used,
community norms, and available resources. In the mid-1990s because
of a confluence of computer technologies and public outreach needs,
a number of projects employed kiosks as one of many outreach techniques.
However, since that time, alternative forms of disseminating information
have emerged (e.g., Internet, community-access television, etc.).
In addition, because of the visual sophistication of the public,
given the pervasiveness and societal influence of mass media and
advertising, there may be expectations on the part of the public
for high quality and completeness. The public may dismiss the visual
content because the renderings or presentation are not developed
to a comparable level of detail and quality they are used to viewing
in the print and visual mass media.
Consequently, it is not possible to offer reasonable rules
of thumb on key issues of number of kiosks, location, message
content, etc. Because of the cost individual kiosks, if an agency
is going to seriously consider kiosks or interactive video displays
as part of a public involvement program, a separate study should
be conducted to confirm expected use, types of information perceived
to be valued by the public, candidate locations, message content
How are they used with other techniques?
Interactive displays are stationary components of a larger outreach
program. They cannot be an agencys sole means of public
communication. Instead, they offer a dynamic and potentially absorbing
method for expanding public involvement. Innovative use of this
technology offers a new way to meet an old goal: sharing information
with the public.
What are the drawbacks?
Any new technology involving machines may cause unease.
People resent the use of machines as a perceived replacement for
personal communication. Interactive displays, like ATMs, offer people
added convenience and the appearance of one-on-one interaction.
However, frustration with menu-driven machines and the tedium of
struggling through pre-programmed displays alienate some people.
Software purchase is a high up-front cost. Moreover,
the software package needs to be updated regularly to keep it fresh.
Maintenance costs are incurred. Screens get dirty,
especially touch-screens, and may need daily cleaning if usage is
Potential vandalism is a factor in site selection,
the type of equipment selected, and the location of the power source.
The installation should be designed and sited to help its maintenance
crew cope with defacement and abuse.
Liability issues may be associated with location of displays.
Movable displays, in particular, should be insured to relieve property
owners of responsibilities for incidents that occur where they are
parked. Stationary displays should also be insured.
For further information:
|City of New York, Department of
Information, Technology, and Telecommunications
|New York State Urban Development
|Portland Metro, Public Involvement
Office, Portland, Oregon
|Quickcourt, Arizona Supreme Court,
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