A post-COVID world has accelerated the adoption of a variety of technologies that provide customers and users with a contactless self-service experience. For example, contactless purchasing – historically used to describe the ability to pay via options such as Google Pay or Apple Pay – enables a user to wave a card or phone in front of a reader without touching it to complete the transaction. More broadly, though, contactless means providing a completely touchless self-service experience through the use of voice, biometrics, or other technologies.
Why are we talking about contactless kiosks?
A fully contactless kiosk doesn’t require a user to touch the screen or input devices to interact. In an effort to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, kiosks have seen a bit of pushback as spreading germs and bacteria when multiple users interact with the kiosk without cleanings in between. Even with the concerns about surface transmission, kiosks are still a better option than person to person interaction, protecting both users and employees from contracting COVID-19.
Technologies that enable a contactless or touchless experience
There are a variety of technologies that can be employed to allow users to limit or eliminate their physical contact with a kiosk. Note that kiosks should offer multiple accommodations to allow for various types of disabilities – a contactless kiosk that requires only gestures is useless to someone who cannot move their arms.
One such technology that is useful to reduce or eliminate contact entirely on a kiosk is voice command. Voice recognition/command technologies serve as a great option for allowing users to make a selection and navigate an application without touching anything. Voice recognition allows users to use their voice as an alternative to touch for inputting data or navigating through a kiosk application. Read more about Voice Recognition and kiosks on our Developer Blog.
Another technology that can assist in a contactless experience is a QR code. QR codes can be used to link a user’s phone to a kiosk, then the smartphone can be used as a remote (alternative) screen for navigating the kiosk screen. More typically, QR codes are used to drive kiosk users to websites that allow for online ordering or duplicates other kiosk functionality.
Contactless interactions can also be accomplished through proximity sensors that initiate a launch sequence on a kiosk. The kiosk can then look for user gestures or body motion for navigation cues. This touchless interface via gesture control is a technology option that may be added to kiosk deployments as an input option.
Other hands-free options are being developed to allow kiosk users to interact with a kiosk without using their fingers to touch the kiosk. One such alternative is a foot pedal for navigation and input. The foot pedal would work to tab right or left and then “enter.” This mimics the same functionality of a standard input device, only it is large and on the floor so people can use it while standing or sitting in front of the kiosk. The foot pedal input device is manufactured by Kiosk Innovations.
Facial recognition technology can also be used to create a contactless experience. A user walks up to the kiosk and the kiosk application pulls up a user profile based on previous interactions. This contactless customization allows customers to select from their favorites, recent orders, or other saved preferences.
Limitations of touchless options
In the previously listed touchless options, the touchless or contactless solution is dependent on the accuracy of the technology and the ability of users to speak clearly and/or move in a distinct manner for the machine to understand and successfully compute the input. Such technology may be fine for some individuals with disabilities but be completely unusable for others.
In order to be accessible to users who are blind or who have low vision, the kiosk content must still use a screen reader to share the content on the screen. There must also be clear audible information about the location of the user within the kiosk content and details about what is selected on the page must be communicated audibly. A user who is blind or who has low vision may benefit from voice recognition technology or touchless gesture technology, but they will also need standard accessibility tools such as a physical input device and a screen reader, to allow for a fully interactive and accessible user experience.
Addressing kiosk cleanliness and health concerns
Kiosks have been on the receiving end of both good and bad press due to concerns about cleanliness and bacteria transfer. Kiosks options abound for using materials that are antimicrobial or that are easily sanitized and cleaned. Adding contactless options and incorporating sanitation schedules and antimicrobial materials are just a few ways to improve the overall kiosk experience for all.
Contactless options for interacting with kiosks are available through a range of technologies. Providing users with multiple options – including a contactless option – is a great way to improve the customer experience and reduce the spread of dangerous pathogens.