Hands off: A screen you command in 3D

January 8, 2008, 8:21 PM UTC

By Yi-Wyn Yen

Imagine using a touchscreen that you don’t have to touch. Samsung’s 57-inch LCD functions like a touchscreen by recognizing a person’s motion from a short distance.

Interactive media company Reactrix has partnered with Samsung to use its Wavescape technology that allows people to interact with one of these high-tech screens from up to 16 feet away. Reactrix has spent five years working on the system that uses wireless technology and sensors on the screen to interact with people in 3D. It will allow advertisers to use the monitors to promote their brands.

“This new form of digital signage gets the attention of people walking by. They want to react to it, and as they get closer to the display the interface changes,” says Reactrix CEO Michael Ribero, who described the Wavescape system as a cross between a Nintendo Wii, iPhone (AAPL), and Microsoft’s surface-computing table (MSFT).”Our technology is generations ahead of what Microsoft, Apple and Nintendo have deployed in the marketplace.”

The Redwood City, Calif.-based company already has a long list of major clients that use its interactive ad display. Reactrix projects large video images onto the floors of malls and theaters that customers can interact with using their hands and feet. Shoppers can walk over a Coca-Cola (KO) ad and move snowflakes with their feet or wave their arms to push around Acuvue (JNJ) contact lens.

Now Reactrix, which has raised more than $60 million in funding since 2002, is banking that it can broaden its real estate reach from malls to other high-traffic areas like airports, stores, and hotels. “Out of home really represents the final frontier for media,” Ribero says. “We’re bringing a much more compelling display system outside the living room.” The company delivers 90 million impressions, or views, each month in more than 175 malls and theaters nationwide.

Hilton Hotels will be the first to test out the new 3D interactive LCDs this spring. Hilton will display the systems in lobbies and elevator banks at about 20 major locations, including New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington. A Hilton executive says the hotel chain is using Reactrix screens to promote package deals, its resorts and hotel amenities like fitness centers and breakfast specials. Hilton is also planning to use the displays as an interactive concierge to allow hotel guests to access information like weather, local restaurants, and meeting rooms. “There’s a great novelty to this where guests get that instantaneous, immersive experience,” says Jeff Diskin, Hilton’s senior vice president of brand management.