Monday, January 12, 2009

Projected Floor Signs

Projected floor sign
Originally uploaded by thehubatwts
I've had a number of inquiries about our floor sign, so I thought it might be time to write about it. When we first opened the Hub, we made some significant changes to the AV lab area (added Macs, set up the Windows machines to require a logon, etc.). To help ease patrons through the transition, we posted a number of useful facts on a whiteboard just inside the lab: here's how to get a Mac account, here's where you can use a computer if you don't have an account to access the Windows machines, go straight ahead to this desk to check out a laptop, and so forth. It was a lot of clutter, and the whiteboard got erased a few times. We'd considered making a permanent sign, but the information changed too often.

James, one of our AV technicians, had this terrific idea to take an old projector and laptop which were both bound for surplus and turn them into a creative, flexible signage system. The only cost was a wireless card for the projector. Another cost would be a permanent mounting system, but we've found that an old wire-framed desk inbox works pretty well to hold the projector against the wall. Surprisingly it doesn't look that bad, either--I'll have to add a picture to our flickr account.

Once we got the laptop talking to the projector via wireless, all we had to do was create a PowerPoint which incorporated all the information we needed to share about the Mac lab, Windows lab, and AV desk. While I am not usually a fan of animated PowerPoint shows, we incorporated some animation in the sign to make it more eye-catching. I've experimented with several kinds of files, even showing a video of a Second Life avatar in the lab pointing at different features with a dialogue bubble providing the information, but I found that was too hard to read on the carpet. It was probably overkill, too, since people just need the basic information, but it did look really cool. I've found that the best sign is a black PowerPoint with white letters and animated arrows.

So go check out your surplus area and see if you have 6-7 year old laptop in need of a purpose. You'd be surprised how easy it is to put together such a flexible, attractive signage system.


Alex Grigg said...

That is all kinds of awesome! I definitely need to come check it out in person the next time I'm in the building.

Stacey Greenwell said...

Thanks, Alex, we think it's pretty awesome, too!

On an amusing side note, I should have mentioned the behavior of some library visitors around our sign. Some intentionally step around it as if they might break something, others step on the arrows as if they'll activate something. I want to say: "sorry guys, it's not DDR."

Actually we could use this to set up a fake DDR pad (or piano keyboard ala Big) just for fun...maybe something to consider for April Fool's!

griffey said...

What sort of wireless connection does the projector have with the laptop? Are you actually using a wireless VGA bridge? If so, what kind???

Wireless video is never easy, and it would be great to know the specific things you're using with this. :-)

Stacey Greenwell said...

I should have mentioned the software, as that is really what makes the magic happen. We installed the projector management software for the EPSON projector (EMP NS Connection) on the laptop. Basically the software creates a private network between the laptop and the projector and allows us to manage the connection between the two devices. It does flake out on us occasionally and we have to reconnect from the laptop. It's not a big deal for us that the laptop isn't on our network, as it is old and we didn't particularly need it there anyway, so we simply copy files to the laptop with a flash drive as needed.

Does this answer your question?

Anonymous said...

does anyone know what type of projector was used in this location?

Stacey Greenwell said...

We're using an Epson PowerLite 62c.

awdang said...

How often are you changing the bulb in your projector?

Stacey Greenwell said...

@awdang: It varies. We've gotten a good deal of life out of some, long beyond the predicted number of hours. Plus we turn it off during slow times, particularly in the summer.