Digital signs can point you toward what’s trending

Kelly O'Mara

There’s nothing more frustrating when traveling than being lost with no idea where to turn. While smartphones and digital guides have eliminated the old stereotype of tourists standing on a street corner staring at a map, it’s hard to search for “Where should I go?” on Google.

Breakfast, a boutique Internet-focused design and technology firm, hopes to answer that question with digital signs that were launched in Brooklyn, N.Y., with more venues to come.

“We were sitting in parks, etc, and realizing how little information there is helping you find your way around,” said Andrew Zolty, the co-founder and creative director at Breakfast. “It was in no way dynamic.”

What Zolty and the Breakfast team have invented is a responsive, interactive street sign called Points that can direct you toward what you’re looking for – even if you don’t know what it is you’re looking for.

Points has five buttons on its main screen, which change and typically list things like lunch, events, or sights depending on the time of day and what’s happening. Pressing one of the buttons lights up the arms of the sign with different options – for example, listing the way toward places nearby to eat lunch. Those arms then spin and move, literally pointing you in the right direction and lighting up with information about where you’re headed and how far it is to get there.

The signs don’t necessarily help you find a specific thing – if what you’re looking for isn’t on the menu or arms, you’re sort of out of luck, said Zolty – but the idea was to create a constantly evolving guide to where you are. The menu buttons are set to change with the time of day, listing dinner places in the evening, or with new events, pointing the way to concerts or sports games.

Points can also be customized for a conference or festival or hotel, updating with information about what’s happening there. The whole thing can be installed or taken down in 20 minutes.

The system stays updated by interacting with a number of APIs and RSS feeds, pulling information from social media sites like Twitter. Maybe a band puts on a surprise show, said Zolty, at a bar near a Points sign. That sign then can recognize the traffic on Twitter and Google and would point passersby to the show – something your standard street sign would never be able to do.

“All three arms are constantly updating,” he said.

Points was just unveiled a week ago and Zolty says they’ve already been “bombarded” by calls from festivals, airports, hotels, and cities. They plan to rent out the signs initially, with permanent installations by next year. But, that kind of virtual tour guide isn’t cheap. Points costs in the “low five figures,” Zolty said, depending on the customization.