United People is a video messaging service for Benetton stores around the world, launched in 2003.

Video mail could be sent from the in-store United People kiosks and United People identities were also visible online.

The kiosk was based on an eMac with custom touchscreen and firewire webcam. I worked as part of the design and client software development team, also providing the sound design for the kiosk.

United People uses Apple eMacs as video kiosks and local DSL services to connect to an Oracle database and Benetton’s web servers. Users put themselves online, look at the faces already in the database and send messages to anyone that appeals to them. The system can be used to flirt, play, show off, or simply send messages to friends. United People is currently installed in Benetton stores in Hong Kong, Rome and Birmingham and will be extended to Barcelona, Moscow and London in the next 2 months. Already Benetton are taking advantage of the system to run local marketing initiatives like the highly popular ‘Are You the Face of Birmingham?’ promotion which ran in the Birmingham Bull Ring store between September and December 2003. One Birmingham ‘face’ will be selected to be photographed as a Benetton model in February 2004.

United People augments the space of the Benetton megastore with a virtual network which mirrors the global retail network and in which the global customer can insert his or her message. It gives a voice, and a face, to the client. It reverses the usual flow of communcation, whereby the corporation speaks and the consumer listens. It’s also a lot of fun. You never know, it might just catch on.

Excerpt taken from Andy Cameron’s ‘Art and Retail’