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I had a great time walking the floor at NRF. I ran into some familiar faces, including Kyle Porter of Nanolumens, and saw some great applications of next-generation retail technology. The show was dominated by the major tech players, including Motorola, IBM, Microsoft, HP, and Intel. What’s interesting about each of these tech giants is that their booths were dominated by application partners. I read one recent article that said HP had at least 4 different digital signage companies in its booth.

While I really liked some of things I saw at smaller booths, such as AisleBuyer’s mobile application that enables seamless scan-to-purchase capabilities, Intel blew me away. The company dominated NRF in my opinion. Intel even featured technology being pioneered at MIT Media Lab. For regular readers of this blog, you know what a fan I am of the MIT Media Lab. I’m hoping that I will be able to visit the Lab soon.

Intel captured the lifeblood of the conversations that encompassed NRF 2011. As has been the subject of many posts on this blog, talk of next-generation retail experiences flowed from booth to booth at NRF. Through retail experiences that leveraged multi-touch, multi-user interactivity, end cap displays that incorporated gesture recognition, and laser projectors mechanized by robotic arms, Intel showcased its understanding of how emerging technologies are redefining the nature of bricks-and-mortar retail.

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Jose Avalos and his team at Intel are deeply embedded in the digital signage and interactive retail sectors. This is clearly an area that Intel wants to “own.” As evidenced by the wall-to-wall attendees who filled up Intel’s booth throughout the show, the company succeeded in using NRF to make a major impression on the whole of the retail industry.

I found the Adidas multi-touch wall to be one of the best such systems I have ever encountered. The responsiveness of the displays were great, while the content attached to each shoe made the entire experience come alive. With embedded anonymous video analytics, the wall has a range of data capture capabilities.

This is definitely the future of retail. It, however, is a future that is still a few years out. A wall like the one featured at NRF is price-prohibitive for roll out beyond flagship stores. As hardware prices continue to decline, and new display technologies hit the market, solutions like the Adidas shoe wall will find their way into medium-sized markets. It will just take some time, and major investment on behalf of retailers.