Touchless alternative rolls out across the US
Recent surveys show that most consumers prefer to shop in-person, especially if seeing and hearing a product is vital to the process. But of course most automated demonstrations require the shopper to push a button or use a touch screen, which is not safe in today’s public health climate. That’s one reason Ascentic Retail Engineering developed sensors that allow shoppers to operate an in-store demo without making contact. As soon as the pandemic started, company leadership made the decision to divert all engineering resources to create a sanitary, intuitive, reliable, and affordable touchless alternative.
Early in the pandemic, as the Ascentic Engineering team was perfecting our new touchless controls, one of our contacts with a major brand CE manufacturer rolled out a three store test in Kansas City, Omaha, and Dallas. It was a basic sound bar demo using our 1703 player with the new touchless sensors. The test went well, and the brand began to look for the ideal fixture house to design and deploy a new fixture for all their major outlets. The brand had worked with Ascentic products via different fixture houses, spanning several years. They had used thousands of our media players in Walmart, Target, Costco, and Sam’s Clubs, so they knew Ascentic could deliver the quality and quantity of players within their timeframe.
They were happy with the performance of the 1703, but the new Ascentic audio player, the AH1 AudioHub, offered some improvements. The two switched optical outputs enabled them to demonstrate each sound bar without using a separate switching device. This was important because some of the displays had two sound bars, and others had only one. The AH1 could operate in either configuration without modification. The AH1 also has native support for touchless controls, and extended serial control capabilities.
The touchless controls were a new requirement in this application, so they did some research, and they soon declared that the Ascentic PX-100 did perform the best, and had the best design for a shelf-top display. The sensor assembly had to be small, and ideally it would have a form factor similar to classic push-buttons. The design of the sensor had to be intuitive and inviting, and the behavior needed to include positive feedback, similar to push-buttons that have their own tactile and visual feedback. Without tactile feedback, the PX-100 confirms an activation by blinking – the LED behavior is carefully calibrated to achieve the ideal rate and brightness so that the user is immediately sure that the control has been activated.
A nationwide rollout is often challenging, but Ascentic was able to obtain materials before the chip shortage and other trade-related events could get in the way. Production went into overdrive at the Ascentic product line in Lexington, Kentucky. We did have to enact some measures to increase our through-put during the most intense production runs, but we were able to beat the required delivery dates for each shipment by a few days, all while maintaining our strict quality standards.
Our client ended up purchasing thousands of extra PX-100 sensors and hundreds of AH1 AudioHubs for future projects, so we’ll see where those little waving hands show up next!
We first developed AirSelect sensors to keep people safe during the pandemic, but touchless sensors are here to stay. Our proximity sensors are an easy replacement for push-buttons, and AirSelect gesture sensors can be used to replace more complex interactive systems. Touchless sensors are useful for all kinds of applications beyond consumer electronics retail displays, and even beyond the retail environment. Reach out to us with your touchless ideas!