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How Sharp BIG PAD displays stay ahead of the design curve

Interactive Flat Panel Displays (IFPDs), essentially giant touchscreens, such as the Sharp BIG PAD range, promise a revolution in the way we work together. They make it incredibly easy for people to brainstorm ideas or present information to an audience that can then interact with the screen.

Interactive Flat Panel Displays (IFPDs), essentially giant touchscreens, such as the Sharp BIG PAD range, promise a revolution in the way we work together. They make it incredibly easy for people to brainstorm ideas or present information to an audience that can then interact with the screen.

For Sharp, the best displays are the ones that make it possible for people to work in a new digital way. There shouldn’t be any obvious restrictions to the way you interact with the display. It needs to be better than using a flipboard and marker pen, yet still as simple and intuitive, otherwise people won’t see the point in switching.

Staying ahead of the technology curve is vital, which is why we recently launched our BIG PAD Pro with Capacitive Touch (P-CAP). It uses an electrically conductive approach to measuring touch and one we’ve found faster and more responsive.

The main benefit is that P-CAP is very much the premium touch display technology and is similar to what you’ll find on your tablet or smartphone, making it a technology people are comfortable with and find reliable.

You can find out more about the evolution of our BIG PAD range with the following video:

Evolution of the Interface

We have been developing BIG PAD for six years. In the world of technology, six years is a long time and over that period we’ve seen the world of hardware, and more particularly the Operating System, change. The world has been learning and adapting to touch interaction.

When we started with touch we had to do a lot of work around the touch drivers, to create and develop functionality as it simply didn’t exist elsewhere. It’s fair to say there was a necessary level of complexity.

Since then Microsoft and Apple have completely redesigned their operating systems around touch. So, many of the functions we had to add have now been adopted by the operating system and simplified – making the whole touch experience more seamless.

In turn, this has influenced the way we design the overall look and feel of the BIG PAD interface, making it simpler.

Recently we have been working with more partners to develop BIG PAD’s interface for particular customers. In Germany, Sharp has partnered with smartPerform, a software solution of the company Immersion7 GmbH. smartPerform is a standardised software platform, which provides easy ways to create an interactive, immersive brand experience. smartPerform allows creating an information application for a multitouch-table as well as a User Interface for a conference room or a holistic interactive experience for a Showroom.

Sharp and smartPerform worked together on a project in Stuttgart, Germany for the Sparkassenakademie Baden Württemberg, offering the teaching staff and pupils at the academy a brand new and interactive way to teach and learn.

We asked Felix Wohlfahrt, Product Marketing Manager for smartPerform, about the company’s approach to design. He told us: “Interactive displays are fundamentally different due to the way we use them. Surfaces for PCs and laptops are designed to be used by external forces – typically a mouse and keyboard.

“The elements and buttons are usually much smaller but it’s a way of working you need to learn and become accustomed to. Therefore, it is very important the interface is attractively designed, so the user does not find it overloaded with information.”

The future is Interactive Walls

We’re very much at the beginning of the story for Interactive Flat Panel Display technology. A story that so far has very much been led by size. However, while one approach will be ‘bigger is better’ that may not be the correct solution for all users.

In some respects, we are coming to the edge of what’s possible in terms of display screen size. This is due to the practical physical considerations for an interactive panel. However, there is still a real desire for larger interactive spaces – what we like to think of as Interactive Walls.

This is where we’re going to launch our Multi-board solution, a proposition that allows us to link up to three BIG PADs to create a large interactive surface. Such displays give even more people opportunities to interact and collaborate together.

This is an exciting segment of the market and one we expect to see rapidly evolve. While currently designed to be used as one large display, a flexible system would be one that could be the wall, or broken apart and used as individual interactive spaces.

In terms of interface, the current tools are aimed at a single device that has just been scaled up to extend it over more devices. My intuition is the way we interact and collaborate with multi-boards is different to that of a single display, so we’ll see the interface layer evolve in different ways.

Ultimately, the real challenge isn’t around technology or hardware, it’s the cultural behaviour in the corporate office environment. How can we ensure that BIG PADs are being used effectively and that companies get the value out of collaboration?

People like using paper, but the trick is to find a way that transforms it into a digital input that has value and can be elsewhere. This is something we’re putting a lot of energy into solving – looking at how we can seamlessly combine paper brainstorm sessions with digital output. So you can use both and not lose out.

We really are at the start of an amazing journey with Interactive Flat Panel Displays. They are truly are an innovative technology and Sharp is proud to be at the forefront of the industry.


European PR Manager