Size (and Angle) Matters

Size (and Angle) Matters

By Peter Winston

ICS is building large touchscreen kiosks for retailers, through our work on other specialized touchscreen systems such as In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) systems for international airlines and In-Vehicle-Infotainment (IVI) systems for automobile suppliers, we’ve developed an expertise in creating high-performance, compelling and responsive end-user interactive systems. By developing kiosks, we are leveraging that expertise to revolutionize the retail customer experience. With customer experience gaining momentum in many industries, it seems like it’s the obvious natural extension of our existing work (see our Viewpoint Interactive Kiosk site:

Among the many things we’ve learned in building retail kiosks is the expectation for user interaction changes as the size of the display gets larger, that there’s a display size where an interactive kiosk moves from being a single user device to a multi-user device. Specifically, when the display size moves from 70-inches to 84-inches (as measured diagonally) it also shifts from the perception of a single user device to a multi-user or collaboration device.

Multiple users interacting with a single display has enormous ramifications for the user interface (UI) and the user experience (UX) overall. Up to now, we have assumed with touch displays that there is a single user interacting with the display. There is a long-standing concept in user interface design called user focus, which is then used to define the behavior of display elements the end-user manipulates and interacts with such as the active window, the pointer, etc. In the many years since windowing systems and pointing devices originally emerged, mature guidelines for single-user/single-display systems have also emerged and are now well established. However, once you allow for multiple users interacting through a single display all sorts of questions arise as to which user actions take precedence, and when.

Recently, Microsoft announced its Surface Hub PC, which is essentially a Windows computer built into a large display. It’s kind of like an enormous wall-mounted tablet. Microsoft is clearly positioning this device as the central point for collaboration and envisions it mounted in a conference room. It is offering 55-inch and 84-inch display versions of the Surface Hub (see The 55-inch version is small enough to be considered a single-user device, but according to our experience, the 84-inch version is going to be perceived as a multi-user system. Its size is going to entice multiple people to want to interact with it at once. So the question remains, will Microsoft offer a special version of the Windows 10 operating system to support multiple end-user interactions simultaneously? What will it mean to third-party developers of Windows-compatible software if they now have to design for simultaneous multiuser input?

Another thing we’ve learned is that you can disambiguate whether a display is touch-capable or not simply by lowering it and putting it at an angle. If you lower and tilt the screen, it invites people to touch it in a way that a wall-mounted displays at eye level don’t.

At ICS, we’ve learned lots about the expectations of both end users and specific retail requirements and how to deliver compelling solutions that maximize user engagement and increase sales.

What can we build for you?



Microsoft web page,, last accessed August 21, 2015