GRAND RAPIDS — When restaurateur Johnny Brann of the regional Brann’s Steakhouse and Grille chain decided he wanted to open a restaurant, he envisioned a concept that went beyond Brann’s traditional casual dining experience and sports bar aesthetic.
“The vision was to challenge the status quo, to challenge the restaurant industry,” Brann says of the mission of Kitchen 67, his new eatery at Knapp’s Corner.
Part of the concept focused on changing how customers viewed advertising inside the restaurant. With the reciprocal support of Marcel Thibert and Jordan Verburg of Vizidef Display Technology, a digital signage/advertising and technology company, the restaurant is beginning to do just that.
Beyond changing the traditional concept of restaurant advertising, Vizidef believes it could be on the cutting-edge of the technology that will shape the future of interactive displays. The company specializes in “a new form of digital signage” that uses laser, hybrid projection that can be interactive and displayed in custom shapes and logos.
Brann’s Kitchen 67 is just one of many clients working with Vizidef as the company spreads out over West Michigan.
“MLive is definitely our anchor client right now,” Thibert said. “Especially with how many displays of ours they have on their windows downtown.”
The hub office space for the Grand Rapids Press staff on Monroe Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids features a 24-foot by 4-foot billboard by Vizidef, as well as a street-level display with the MLive logo showing live tweets of events throughout the city, Thibert explained.
Aside from MLive, the company created displays for businesses and organizations such as the Grand Rapids Griffins, Fox Motors, TEDx and retailer A.K. Rikk’s. Vizidef has also installed its technology for events at SiteLab and at the Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF), where Thibert explained that they were attempting to “make the building look like it was falling down.”
See product demo here: http://vizidef.com/194/
For Thibert and Vizidef co-owner Jordan Verburg, the artistic process was only one aspect of what drew them to their recent spate of local projects, including for Kitchen 67.
“What I love about [Kitchen 67] is it’s a whole new environment that never really existed in West Michigan,” Thibert said. “You can come in here, set up, have a meeting. They’re open to that. … We are doing leaps and bounds having a place like this in West Michigan because I have a feeling other restaurants are going to start doing some different stuff like this.”
Thibert cites some of the amenities of Kitchen 67 aimed at business people, such as a video conference center, wireless charging stations embedded in tables, and many booths with iPads ready to use.
While Vizidef is only one of the companies that were contracted to help create the modern and sometimes unusual ambience of Kitchen 67, the company says it is very proud of its contributions, namely the virtual Pepsi machine. Rather than just the typical display of the pop company’s name seen on most soda fountains, Vizidef has installed rear projectors that have moving images and show video.
“When people found out [what we were able to do after the ICCF installation], we got contacted by LiveSpace [another Grand Rapids-based audio and visual company] and Pepsi,” Thibert said. “Pepsi was excited to try to do something like this in a real-world environment.”
Now that Vizidef has some big, high-profile projects under its belt, Thibert and Verburg are looking toward the future.
“Our newest project is a touch-screen with rear projection so we can make these displays that are extremely thin,” Thibert said. “They can be table-top or a large version of your smartphone. We are going to try to mimic the movements of how a [smartphone] works to be able to show mobile apps in a conference room setting.”
While Thibert describes himself as the “networker,” Verburg, while still a student at Kendall College of Art and Design, is the developer and maintains an uncanny understanding of the newest technology at hand — as well as a 5-percent ownership stake in the company.
Verburg has also worked with Nexus Digital Signage, another West Michigan-based digital advertising company.
“I was fascinated by what they were doing because it’s the same stuff other people are doing out-of-state,” Verburg said of Vizidef.
Vizidef’s technology and some of its future applications include the kind of processes envisioned in science fiction movies like Minority Report and The Lawnmower Man.
“One of the things that [Verburg] has been studying that’s huge is augmented reality — you know, putting people in a space and almost making a new space,” Thibert said.
Thibert cites the ongoing work of Google’s Project Glass, a kind of augmented reality glasses, as an example of the new cutting-edge technology currently under development. Both Thibert and Verburg are confident these types of technologies can be developed in West Michigan and not just on the coasts.