Windows 8 storefronts offer shoppers interactive app experience

Yesterday was an exciting day for Microsoft, as Windows 8 was officially launched. We spoke to Martin Kearn, a Microsoft Technical Evangelist, about how the Windows 8 storefront displays at John Lewis and Currys PC World stores at Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road went from concept to interactive awesomeness for the launch. Martin built the “Touch Here” app that powers the experience and allows users to interact with Windows 8 directly via the shop window itself.

What inspired the storefront displays?

MK: We wanted to give people walking past store windows the opportunity to actually touch, use and play with Windows 8 directly from the street. One of our partners has a great technology which turns the store window glass into a touchscreen so we put the two together to allow user to actually use Windows 8 through the shop window.

How did you approach the project?

MK: We first considered what would be involved in creating something like this …. We had to make sure that the glass foil technology worked well (which is does. very well indeed), we then had to consider what we’d need to do to Windows 8 to make it safe for use on the street, we had to strike a balance between stopping people abusing the device and allow people to have a great experience with Windows 8, conscious that for many the shop window demonstrator may be their first exposure to Windows 8. We then considered how we show people the basic gestures that are necessary to use Windows 8 which we’ve achieved via a combination of a ‘touch here to get started’ app on the machine itself and boards that surround the screen.

What excited you most about working on this project?

MK: The main thing was that this has never been done to this extent before, by Microsoft or anyone else. We have an opportunity to create a blueprint for doing ‘street demos’ in lots of different scenarios. The other exciting thing is that the screens are 80” wide, which means that Windows 8 looks big, bold and bright!

What technologies/coding did you employ in the project?

MK: There are lots of technologies that have come together to make this happen. First we have the hardware: A high spec PC, a very large screen, the special/magic glass foil technology and a router to provide (and govern) internet access. We then have the technology that we used to ‘lock down’ Windows 8 – lots of policies, security settings etc. We also have a hand-full of carefully selected apps which the UK DPE team has been involved with. These include a few games and a special purpose built app to guide people through the key gestures needed to get the most out of the Windows 8 experience.

What were the main challenges and how did you overcome them?

MK: The main challenge has been to establish a balance between locking windows 8 down so that it is safe and ready to be exposed to the general public in shop windows and making sure users still get the feel of Windows 8. We did things like remove the touch keyboard, ensure there are not painting/drawing apps and restrict internet access, but we wanted to make sure that it was still a real machine that user could use and enjoy by looking at maps, browsing the web and generally playing with windows 8.

What inspired the UX and how did you fine-tune it?

MK: The UX is very much standard windows 8. We wanted to make sure we do not do anything special and that the experience was as out of the box as possible. The ‘touch here’ app is designed to mimic the standard windows 8 tutorials that are found online and are shown when windows 8 is being installed.

What would you like those encountering the storefronts to take away from the experience?

MK: First and foremost, we want them to have had fun playing with Windows 8. We also want to have inspired people to go inside the stores to get a full demo from one of the in-store staff members.

Here are the key facts about Windows 8:

  • With over 1.2 billion hours of pre-release testing, Windows 8 has better battery life, faster boot time and a smaller memory footprint. Download it here.
  • Over 1,000 new PCs have been certified for Windows 8, including many under £300.
  • Every Windows 8 PC will include the Windows Store.
  • Microsoft Surface is on sale now.
  • All Windows 8 PCs will have access to Xbox music and video, meaning your entertainment system will always be in sync across your PC, gaming system, tablet and phone.

Thank you to Martin for his insights and if you’ve had a play on these screens, we’d love to hear what you thought of the experience, so please leave us a comment below.

Published by Liam

Liam is a new member of the Ubelly writing team. He has a background in web, online publishing and social media; spending his time tinkering with Wordpress, Foursquare, Facebook and his DSLR. He has a love for all things creative and visual.

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