ESPN and Advanced Kiosks Collaborate to Bring Interactive Kiosk Technology to Bristol, Connecticut
ESPN Plaza, located in Bristol, Conn., is the headquarters of the ESPN network, the world’s leading multinational multimedia sports entertainment brand. The campus includes more than 1.3 million square feet across 19 buildings on 120 acres, with an additional 500,000 square feet rented nearby.
The plaza is home to one of the world’s largest and technologically advanced TV production facilities. Programs produced at ESPN Plaza include the network’s flagship ESPN SportsCenter, a daily sports news television program covering sports teams and athletes from around the world. Since it premiered upon the network’s launch in 1979, SportsCenter has aired more than 60,000 unique episodes, more than any other American television program.
As the face of “The Worldwide Leader in Sports,” ESPN Plaza was looking to replace outdated hardware and software for three tower video wall kiosks located in the lobby of its Digital Center 2, a state-of-the-art production facility that serves as the home of SportsCenter and ESPN’s NFL studio programming. Initially unveiled in 2014, the 194,000 square-foot facility houses five studios, six production control rooms, 16 craft edit suites, and four audio control rooms.
The kiosks consisted of three stacked 55-inch monitors, each displaying a vast selection of SportsCenter commercial videos. The digital experience was based primarily on users searching for and playing various video content pieces embedded in a touch-based interactive system that incorporates ESPN branding. The existing software was approximately five years old and was in dire need of a refresh. It also had no mechanism for updating content, making it difficult to add new videos.
Facility managers were seeking a refresh of the entire system, including both hardware and the user experience. They wanted to utilize the same three towers to hold the new hardware and were open to any user interface refresh/update.
To accomplish the task, ESPN turned to Concord, N.H.-based Advanced Kiosks.
As the home of SportsCenter, Digital Center 2 is a highlight for visitors to the ESPN campus. As such, it’s critical for the center to create an enduring impression of the brand.
Advanced Kiosks received approximately 400 mp4 video commercials from ESPN, tasked with creating a way for a visitor to efficiently interact with each of the towers, search for and watch videos of SportsCenter commercials. All of this had to be accomplished while maintaining Section 508 compliance for accessibility.
Technical requirements for the project included:
- New computer hardware, including 55-inch monitors and server room computers for each tower.
- Custom software to refresh and improvement of the digital experience.
- Admin console for the curating of video content.
- State-of-the-art security
While the production team worked on the project’s hardware side, the UX team worked on designing and developing the custom software used for the search and video interaction.
The design process was carried out as a high-tier custom UX job, part of the custom software design services Advanced Kiosks offers. The process ran the gamut from wireframes to mockups, to video mockups to the final product. The ESPN team and stakeholders were kept in the loop from start to finish. The Advanced Kiosks team embraced SportsCenter’s branding while creating the entire visual experience.
The Advanced Kiosks team spent several weeks implementing the various upgrades, including support and onboarding for installing the complete hardware and software solution.
To make the kiosks full operational, the team deployed three heavy-duty touchscreen monitors per tower, along with server room computers for each tower.
There are four categories on the kiosk display where a user can scroll through and narrow their search. Once in a category, a user can scroll through titles to choose a video or choose from a selection of filters to further narrow the search. When the user selects a video, a pop-up window appears and plays the video.
To ensure accessibility and ADA compliance, the software Advanced Kiosks developed for the kiosks included a button that could adjust the height of the interactive section of the screen to make it wheelchair accessible.
To help protect the touchscreens during periods of inactivity while at the same time engaging visitors, the team also designed a screensaver to fit the unconventional size and shape of the kiosk displays. And to enhance security and help prevent tampering of the kiosk software, the project included Advanced Kiosks’ Zamok Kiosk Management software. Once installed and set up, Zamok runs full screen in a lockdown fashion, with no desktop controls access.
The Advanced Kiosks team also created a web-based admin portal that allows system administrators to log in and upload videos from the server room. They can place them in any category they choose, and the video will appear in that category. The administrator can show or hide videos as well as put advertising messaging on the main screen. The admin has full control over the screensaver and the four large videos on the kiosks’ continuous rotation.
“As sports fans ourselves, we were thrilled to work on this project,” said Jeff LeBlanc, director of user experience with Advanced Kiosks. “We’re pleased we were able to contribute a little bit to what visitors to ESPN’s awesome facility take away.”