Imagine entering a really crowded venue and looking around for information on the schedule or directions. Then you hear a sweet voice saying “Hello how can I help you?”. You’re glad someone has come to help you. You turn around expecting to meet a person, but it’s a cartoon character in a kiosk. Even better! Or is it really?
Of course, you have your doubts as it’s only an animated character. How can you expect it to be as knowledgeable as a human being, right? But once you start interacting with it, it responds in your language and answers every one of your questions accurately. It interacts with you in a lively manner, as it responds emotionally to your every reaction, and it’s like you two have been friends for many years. At last, after it has finished guiding you, you’re not just happy that someone helped you, but you also suddenly remember that it was an AI you were talking to, leaving you stunned that the digital character can be so advanced, intelligent and helpful. Finally, you say goodbye to your new found friend and leave even though you miss him already as you walk away. Wow!
All this may seem too far-fetched to be possible to implement in today’s world. But on the contrary, we believe that recent advances in technology can enable most of the experiences we’ve just described in the introduction. Let’s go through these technologies one by one and explore their uses.
The first thing that grabs people’s attention is the character’s appearance and its voice as well. Pre- rendered models can be used for first time interactions with users. After that, they can navigate into the settings and pick another avatar from a list of different available options to choose from. After the user has logged in the particular kiosk, he can even customize the character’s appearance like hair colour and clothes, so that the specific character can be used only in this user’s account.
The main purpose of the 3D character is to make it user-friendly and easily approachable by anybody. Moreover, it can be designed to provide visual guidance for users who need help with a particular task. For example, the character could show users how to troubleshoot a problem, use a specific feature or navigate through a complex process.
The 3D avatar is just the face of lines and lines of coded intelligence. Behind the scenes, powering the whole experience are powerful AI and ML algorithms. In 2023 chatbots have gotten so powerful, driven by the latest Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) models, that they can respond in an intelligent and practical way to any user’s queries. With a vast array of past records and databases at its disposal, and by cross-referencing queries with information relevant to the location or context it is currently placed in, it can answer most questions as accurately as a human expert can.
Emotional intelligence is more of an advanced feature for now that can improve the experience immensely. The avatar can respond emotionally, according to it’s own unique character so that it seems more like a human. It can respond to every reaction of the user’s body language and voice modulation, which will be recorded by the camera attached to the kiosk. Using video analytics and machine learning, it can be programmed to respond in a more emotionally intelligent way to offer a truly human-like interactive experience that will create strong feelings of satisfaction for the user as a result. It can even remember what you said last week, and your relationship with it grows stronger as you learn more about each other, just like meeting a real person, since the machine learning algorithm is constantly training itself to adapt the AI’s character as it learns with every interaction.
Since the whole thing runs on the cloud, it can be played like regular media through the CMS app or it can be left to operate on its own as a standalone AI. The service provider/ manufacturer can sell this experience as an online cloud service that’s a brilliant implementation of the SaaS business model. The avatars can be customized for each person and even used across platforms. This allows the user to “take home” their character if they grow too attached to it or if they miss it too much. For a nominal subscription fee, the kiosk manufacturer can allow the character to appear and interact with the user on their phones, computers and smart TVs. Thus, the character is yours forever! (For a small monthly fee)
Using AR (Augmented Reality) technology can add a whole new level of immersion and realism to the picture. With it, the you can strike different poses with the 3D avatar and take selfies or even videos together with it. This is possible as the kiosk’s camera captures the live feed of you and your surroundings to overlay the interactive 3D model on the video feed that is displayed on the kiosk’s screen. If you don’t want to leave your friend, you can even scan a QR code and there she is! Your cartoon friend is now jumping and dancing on your phone as well, as she’s chatting with you on your way home!
One final technology we’d like to discuss will be a visual treat to the viewers as the 3D character actually seems to jump out of the screen, in 3D! Yes, it’s similar to the 3D movies you watch in theatres, except you don’t even need to wear glasses, which is made possible due to a recent technological innovation. As Asus in 2023 has demonstrated through its 3D laptop, the auto-stereoscopic 3D display can display visuals in 3 Dimensions by adjusting to the live position of the viewer as captured through the webcam.
Combined with AR will make for a mind-blowing realistic experience, which will make you forget that the character does not actually exist in the real world.
Okay, that was interesting to explore, but where exactly do we use it?
Interactive kiosks in retail stores can display a specific 3D character in their kiosks to welcome and interact with the customers as soon as they enter. Many of these shops have mascots that are already animated 3D models, hence these can be brought to life by use in kiosks as 3D characters.
In the case of restaurants, the 3D character can take orders from customers and inform the chefs directly through an app. This is possible either through kiosks at the entrance or via tablet-kiosks at each table. In the case of several interactive signage standees or numerous other kiosks are present in the same shop, the character can jump onto other kiosks and appear in different locations such as wall-mount digital signages or other kiosks nearby to add more realism to the experience.
The hospitality sector is another area that can benefit from such characters in kiosks. It can be used in hotels, where an interactive kiosk can be placed in each floor or even within the room, where a 3D character can act as a digital concierge. This character can interact with the guests and inform them of the required information, and it can even take room service orders. A lucrative business model involves grabbing user data during the interactions and sell them personalized experience, all through the relatively innocent guise of a cartoon character.
Hospitals help desks and receptions can use interactive kiosks with 3D characters in them to guide patients to the respective sections and doctors by listening to their problems and responding appropriately. It can help in the emergency section to guide the visitors in or outside operation theatres to inform the patient’s family members of critical situations while also comforting them.
In the psychiatry ward, it can be a smart automated care taker that’s programmed to monitor the mental health of patients regularly, while also interacting with them in an empathetic and friendly way. Not only that, but the character can give company and speak positively to patients undergoing therapy, those who are recovering from trauma or tragic losses and those who may be suffering from clinical depression and feeling lonely and hopeless.
Wayfinding Kiosks can be placed in the entrances large campuses of hospitals, universities, in large expos, concerts, tourist places, events and exhibitions to offer guidance to people who need to know some important information regarding timings, schedules or directions. The lively characters can help attract more people from outside as well who will be curious to interact with it. While the security staff may get over whelmed by large crowds, the characters in kiosks at the helpdesk is always ready to help people 24X7, without making any mistakes or getting tired the whole day. One great example of its use is: In case a child gets lost in a crowded mall or concert, he/she may not know what to do or who to talk to, as the kid is too scared and worried. But the child may get attracted to the cartoon character in the kiosk, which can understand the situation and offer helpful guidance, and even call the authorities to look for his/her parents.
Kindergarten schools and primary schools can employ these 3D characters to feature in kiosks kept in class rooms. The kids will love to interact with their favourite cartoon characters, which can help in education as it can teach them basic manners by wishing “Good morning, Thank you, etc. “. It can clear doubts, play puzzle games and engage the child in proper conversations like a human is capable of, improving his/ her attention span while also keeping the kids occupied so they’re less of a hassle for the caretakers to deal with.
Digital signages can display cartoon characters, which can demonstrate various actions such as yoga, sports, dance and other fun activities so that the students can follow along and learn from it.
It can be used in emergency centers like Fire airs, police stations where the cartoon character can help calm people down, while also providing practical solutions. For example, the character itself can perform the action of rolling on the floor to demonstrate what to do in case someone is on fire. The forest department can use self-service kiosks in their offices inside the forest and in wildlife reserves as the place may not be hospitable or habitable for staff to work there. Tourists and visitors on wildlife safaris can watch walkthroughs of Do’s and Don’ts from the signages before they are allowed to enter in the forest. For example, 3D characters based on animals can warn the visitors not to litter the place and the characters can show through an animated story, how this act affects them. Even more importantly, These kiosk help desks can be placed in hiking trails and shelters in the wilderness, where trekkers or adventurers who got lost and fighting for survival can interact with the kiosks to send SOS signals to save their lives.
As we’ve seen so far, there’s possibilities are endless for the usage of 3D characters in kiosks. With this, technology seeks to fill the gap in in-person social interactions, a gap which was created by technology itself, which it now seeks to remedy through characters in interactive kiosks.