Anthropologist Marc Auge once referred to an airport as a non-place; a location people come to in order to leave. But more and more, airports are becoming places where people linger to enjoy contemporary artwork as they pass through on their journeys.
The very notion of artwork being inside the fence is a fairly new one. The aviation industry is heavily focused on process. Thus, when managing most projects in the busy airport environment, the focus tends to be on following a defined process. As a result airports wind up with digital installations where form closely follows function. However, recent trends in airport terminal digital displays have demonstrated a renewed effort to break away from the standard Flight Information Displays and move toward those designed to increase passenger engagement. Such efforts, if done right, can increase customer satisfaction and drive airport revenue.
Today’s airports are now using large-format digital, interactive kiosks and mobile digital solutions to engage and connect with passengers inside the “technology cocoon” that has developed as the number of personal electronic devices travelers carry rises. When researching options for a potential new installation, I discovered a new term to describe airport digital projects—immersive.
Immersive installations encourage discovery and deepen customer engagement via large-scale interactive media systems, such as the one unveiled at Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) this summer. This Integrated Environmental Media System (IEMS) program is described in an LAX press release as “focus[ing] on the engaging passenger experience.”
But don’t take their word for it. Richard Lebovitz, editorial director of Digital Signage Expo for DigitalSignageConnection.com, sings its praises as well stating in an article for the Digital Signage Connection blog: “Seldom have we come across as inspiring an installation of digital content as that found at the new Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.”
And, the Moment Factory’s description of the online video portion of the TBIT install concisely describes the scale of this installation, stating, “The result is the largest immersive multimedia system of any airport in the Americas.”
As a consequence of these reviews, I decided that a digital system described as engaging, inspiring and immersive was worth a visit. Such a visit was possible because of fortunate timing with a conference, cooperative flight schedules that allowed an extended layover at LAX, and supportive local staff. And because of this visit, I am able to discuss the impact of the IEMS and how the connections created by these different elements rightly justify the above descriptions.
The $737 million terminal at LAX is outfitted with the latest in multimedia technology. Sardi Design and MRA International designed the terminal’s iconic multimedia features; Fentress Architects created the terminal and supported the media installation; Smart Monkey’s Inc. conceptualized and engineered the audio-visual system; and Moment Factory produced the content.
The objective of the installation is to enhance the passenger experience and turn the terminal into a spectacular and welcoming place to pass the time.
Detailed information about the IEMS is provided by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) and its partners online through press releases, data sheets, and other content. Additionally, a search using Google or Bing with the terms “LAX Tom Bradley experience” can connect you directly to professionally created videos on YouTube and Vimeo covering the install and virtual tours of the terminal.
The specifications on this install can be overwhelming. For example, the Time Tower alone is 6,480 square feet of digital surface created using Daktronics 6mm and 10mm video displays (the smaller the distance between the individual LED elements, the higher the resolution).
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