“Step right up!” the carnival barkers would, well, bark to induce suckers to test their strength with ye olde hammer and bell game. The so-called “highstriker” attraction was a fixture in the carnivals and theme-parks of yore, until the 1930s when Popular Mechanics revealed most of them were “fixed.” Hustling he-men aside, the reason highstrikers were so popular (and still occasionally cameo in our culture) is for the same three reasons a successful interactive displays work today.
Physical – But instead of the blunt force of a mallet, an interactive exhibit uses a far more elegant form of engagement – the movements of the visitor’s entire body. Using invisible sensor technologies, a visitor can move unencumbered and elicit myriad effects depending on the exhibit (see examples). Such interactivity short-circuits the rational mind and reinforces an emotional connection to the experience. Ding!
Emotional – An interactive display delights and inspires by responding directly to its user’s actions, which creates a feed loop of positively reinforced results – the more your interact with it, the more satisfying the experience becomes (unlike the highstriker, which makes your muscles as sore as your ego). Like real life, which isn’t fixed with a set outcome (like no bell), an interactive exhibit is always changing, producing infinite variations while responding to the user’s image, silhouette, gestures or masculine displays of upper body strength (okay, maybe not the last one).
Social – Whereas the bell-ringers are likely showing off to their date or peers, an interactive wall like Snibbe Interactive’s SocialScreen, for example, encourages a group dynamic, which is more constructive than it is competitive. In fact, the more people interact with an exhibit, the more dynamic it becomes. Try this with the highstriker hammers and it’ll look like a game of polo gone tragically awry.
What’s more, the rewards of engaging with an interactive exhibit are far more satisfying than, say, the stuffed animal one might win. Visitors gain a shared memory that connects them and their friends and colleagues with an experience that deepens their relationship with the exhibitor’s brand or event — as well as to each other. Step right up and ring our bell!