CyberExpress
Saturday, 16 June 2001
The Dickson CyberExpress is a 21st century retail concept, first launched in Hong Kong last autumn. The HK$380m investment by the Dickson Group of Companies has resulted in a 70,000sq.ft, high-tech development at Kowloon Station.

It’s a full-on interactive shopping environment, offering a wide selection of the best known brands in the universe. The ‘cybermall’ functions as a complementary intelligent retail centre to Dickson’s e-commerce venture, DicksonCyberExpress.com.

The idea was to create the ultimate consumer experience for cyber-chic shoppers. The team chosen to pull the project together included UK-based design and production company Media Projects International, retail designer JGA Inc from the US, Hong Kong architects Gensler, UK-based AV systems specialists Electrosonic and various LDs and directors.CyberExpress’s seven ‘zones’ include Entertainment World (CDs, DVDs, videos, books and magazines), E-World (computers, communications, AV and electronic equipment); Fashion World (clothes and accessories); Kiddy World (toys, sweets and learning games); iCosmetic World (cosmetics and health products) and Sports World (sports and fitness products). Two internet caf├ęs - Exploration World and Cyber Sea - offer connected opportunities for shoppers to take a break.

Each zone has a dynamic mix of vibrant and innovative new media installations, interactive stations, virtual games, video programmes and information portals. Media Projects’ creative director, Malcolm Lewis, explains that although screen-delivered infotainment in retail is not new, the way Media Projects applied the concept at CyberExpress definitely is - in terms of scale and intensity. "We used the technology in an evolutionary way," he says, "to sell, present and brand the whole environment." The interlinked, product-related infotainment permeates throughout.

A potent psychological tool indeed, but when used and applied intelligently and inventively, it can also be the provider of many fun elements and an additional dimension to shopaholic heaven! "We wanted to amaze people with the technology," adds project manager Colin Payne. They appear to have succeeded.

One of Media Projects’ briefs was to develop a series of stimulating, constantly moving AV installations/screens throughout the space, which can be used by individual retailers for branding opportunities. These can be updated by the local managers and include cartoon characters and other fun elements. It’s impossible to talk about specific ‘technical challenges’ in any meaningful sense on a project this huge. However, one of the most exciting elements for Media Projects was the off-beat software production techniques utilised to produce - for example - the interactive dancing robots in Entertainment World. They harnessed the skills of computer programmer and DJ Ashraf Nehru - more usually found in the underground club scene in London.

The animated CyberDancers reside at the CD listening posts in Entertainment World. Via touch-screens, listeners can select a series of visual identities for the robot - from Elvis-style to an orchestral conductor or even their own face, mapped from a camera. CDs are copied onto computer hard drive, the software analyses the beats and amount of sonic energy - and the robots start to dance, in a highly naturalistic ‘human’ way. The listener can interact with and change this movement as they wish.

In the Cyberquarium, visitors can get embroiled in an ongoing story, create their own fish onscreen and release it into the story - which provides a ready-made context. Naturally, there’s no shortage of purchasing opportunities . . . here kids can buy a cuddly version of the cyberfish! Two weeks later they will receive an e-mail asking them to return and feed their fish - imaginative hooking perhaps?

The interactive examples are endless - in Kiddy World children can paint on-screen, in Fashion World, outfits can be modelled before committing to a potenti

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