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Chicago Maps Exhibit Raises the Bar for Interactive Signage

A recent exhibit at The Field Museum in Chicago took digital signage to new levels of sophisticated interactivity with Maps: Finding Our Place in the World, a three-month exhibit running from Novembe 6/24/2008 8:00 AM Eastern

Chicago Maps Exhibit Raises the Bar for Interactive Signage

Jun 24, 2008 12:00 PM, By John W. DeWitt




For the maps exhibit at Chicago's Field Museum, Accenture developed an innovative application using infrared lights and cameras to triangulate the position of multiple visitors' fingers as they touched a video wall of six 46in. NEC LCDs.

For the maps exhibit at Chicago's Field Museum, Accenture developed an innovative application using infrared lights and cameras to triangulate the position of multiple visitors' fingers as they touched a video wall of six 46in. NEC LCDs.

A recent exhibit at The Field Museum in Chicago took digital signage to new levels of sophisticated interactivity with Maps: Finding Our Place in the World, a three-month exhibit running from November 2007 through January 2008. Combining the latest navigation software and interactive digital signage technology with 3,000 years of maps, the museum and its exhibit partners explored cartography through the ages, cleverly portraying not only how far navigation has come, but also what the future holds in store. The interactive application highlight: using infrared lights and cameras to triangulate the position of multiple visitors’ fingers as they touched a video wall of six 46in. NEC LCDs.

Field Museum administrators wanted to illustrate the history of mapmaking over the last 3,000 years, including today’s digital possibilities. Five years in the making, the exhibition featured more than 130 of the world’s rarest and most historic maps from 68 lenders in 11 countries. These famous maps are juxtaposed with modern ones, including in-car navigation and handheld systems powered by Navteq.

The Field Museum exhibit planners, who often seek audio/visual solutions to enliven museum projects, wanted to introduce the element of interaction to this exhibition and add a new and current dimension to its content. A key section of the exhibit focused on the emerging phenomenon of digital maps—from those aiding military operations to everyday maps, such as ones providing tourism and real-estate information. To assist in their efforts, they collaborated with digital map company Navteq, a presenting sponsor of the event, along with systems integrator Accenture and screen provider NEC Display Solutions.

“We wanted to create an interactive [exhibit] with fun elements so that it differentiates itself from others,” says Todd Tubutis, senior project manager for exhibitions at The Field Museum. “We wanted a high-tech touchscreen display specifically for this exhibition.”


Chicago Maps Exhibit Raises the Bar for Interactive Signage

Jun 24, 2008 12:00 PM, By John W. DeWitt




The interactive application was especially challenging because multiple visitors would need to simultaneously use multiple displays connected in a tiled setup with touch capabilities integrated into the screens. Navteq tapped Accenture to provide the interactive touchscreen application using NEC displays. Accenture decided to use a 3x2 video wall configuration with six of NEC’s 46in. MultiSync LCD4620 displays, which are fed by three coordinated PCs. Each display acts as a navigational tool, allowing visitors to simultaneously explore different areas of the world. Using a camera-based system with infrared red lights, visitors are able to navigate maps with their finger on the lower screens. The corresponding screens above provide a closer view, whether a user is spanning the entire globe or zooming in to street levels.

“Essentially, a camera in each upper corner of the top screens is aimed along the surface of the screens [and] these two cameras can see fingers as they touch the screen and use triangulation to find the actual position,” says Kelly Dempski, director of HCI research for Accenture Technology Labs.

The infrared lights make the finger more apparent without adding extra visible light to the installation. Because the solution scales to very large screens, it doesn’t require any sort of overlay on the displays themselves. The result lets multiple users interact with the way-finding content on the six NEC displays.

“The solution allowed the visitors to enjoy the exhibition by investigating the maps, pointing things out to each other and generally exploring more naturally and fluidly than they could on a single user kiosk,” Dempski says.

For more information, visit www.fieldmuseum.org/maps, www.navteq.com, www.necdisplay.com, and www.accenture.com.


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