Movie trailers at your fingertips

Saturday, January 9, 1999

Staff Writer

ObjectSoft Corp. of Hackensack develops public-access kiosks, which offer information and services at the touch of a computer screen.

The company first offered the StreetSign kiosk to the municipal market. David E. Y. Sarna, chairman and co-CEO, has decided to take the technology to the video rental and retail market, offering consumers access to a database of trailers and movie summaries.

Q. How did ObjectSoft get involved with kiosk technology?

A. We initially developed kiosks designed for the municipal market. We have them in Seattle. We have them in San Francisco subway stations. In New York, we have one in each borough, one in the headquarters of the Department of Health, one in Harlem, and one at the Staten Island ferry.

These allowed people to do such things as apply for copies of their birth certificate, to check the records of the building department for violations or permits. They provide a lot of information to visitors and residents about things such as restaurants and museums, as well as a lot of detailed information about whom to contact within city government for what purpose.

Q. What led to your decision to focus on the retail market?

A. The kiosks have actually proved to be quite popular. But we are finding that the municipal market takes forever. It is taking a long time to capitalize on those initial successes. We have decided to repurpose our software for something that was wholly in the private sector, where the decisions can be made much more quickly.

Q. What does your newest kiosk offer?

A. FastTake is built, for the most part, on the existing software from our StreetSign kiosks, but it is designed for video stores. You can search on a favorite actor or director or part of the name or whatever you remember about the movie. Then you look at the plot summary, the actors, the directors, and actually watch the trailers, which we have in DVD quality, because they are run off of DVD drives.

Q. How many entries will be on the database?

A. For the 500 most recent movies, we'll offer trailers. We'll have about 10,000 entries in our database.

Q. Where will these kiosks be placed?

A. We will be shipping in February the initial run of 30, which have all been allocated. We are placing an order for another 70 for delivery in March. So I suspect that, by the end of March, there will be at least 100.

Initially, they are going to pilot locations. We will have some locations right in Bergen County, at Teaneck and Hackensack, probably Ridgewood as well. We also will be piloting them in various other locations on both coasts, as well as in Minneapolis.

Q. Do the stores rent these kiosks from you? What are the advantages?

A. They rent them for $400 a month; that includes the cost of the kiosk and the monthly updates. They are getting more sales; it stimulates the sales of their in-store rentals as well. If you are able to see a product first, you are much more likely to rent or buy it.

Q. How do you think the consumer will react to these video kiosks?

A. Everybody realizes that when you go to the theater, you watch the previews, and that's one of the things you use to decide whether you are going to see the movie or not. Similarly, with the videos, the belief is that if people can sample first, they won't be disappointed. That will make for more happy customers.
It will become just as it is in music stores: If you walk into a music store, you expect to sample the records before you buy them.

Q. What is the kiosk's user interface like?

A. It's got a touch screen. It's got a very fast personal computer, and it's got DVD drive as well as CD-Rom. It's got a connection to the Internet, which we use to monitor the kiosks and to get information about their use. Very shortly, we will be adding electronic commerce features so that if people find a title in the database, they will be able to purchase it from the kiosk and have it delivered to their home or the video store.

Q. Are these databases limited by the distributors that provide them?

A. What we are offering is the most comprehensive database of videos from all over the studios. You have the studios that make the movies and they sell them to distributors. Most of the big distributors may feature certain things, but they are capable of special-ordering anything.
We actually process the order through whichever distributor the video store is using. It goes through their normal channels. We are basically taking the customer's order and handing it off to the auto-processing system of the distributor.

Copyright © 1999 Bergen Record Corp.

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