Ideum: The First 15 Years and the Year(s) Ahead

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Ideum has been involved in emerging technology and exhibit design and for the last 15 years, we've been lucky enough to work with great people on interesting and diverse projects.

Last month marked Ideum’s 15th year in business. Having founded the company back in 1999 in Sausalito, California, it has been quite a journey.

I started the company with the simple idea that I wanted to work with great people on interesting and diverse projects. At that time, I had just left the Exploratorium and was looking to do more in terms of exhibit development and to explore content outside the realm of informal science education. Don’t get me wrong, I love science and some of my favorite projects at Ideum over the years: The EM Spectrum, Beyond Our World, Climate Change Miami, and the Space Weather Viewer, have explored fascinating science subjects.

By expanding beyond science, we’ve been able to explore art and history through exhibits like State of the Art, Garry Winogrand, MOAD Slave Narratives, The American Image: the Photographs of John Collier Jr., and the World Series Interactive for The Baseball Hall of Fame. In addition, interdisciplinary projects such as Traditions of the Sun, The LA Zone, and others have explored science along with other topics. We have been lucky to have an opportunity to work on such interesting projects with such great clients. (Please don’t feel left out if we didn’t include your project, we’ve worked on over 100 projects to date.)

After 15 years, it feels great to honestly say that right now, we are doing our best work ever. New projects with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Milwaukee Public Museum, Science World in Vancouver, and HP will be released in the first half of 2015.

One thing we didn’t imagine when we started back in 1999 was developing integrated hardware. We began to do that just six and half years ago, but through a relentless prototyping and development process—which has included listening carefully to our clients—we’ve taken what was experimental technology and made it turnkey. Ideum has now gained a reputation for developing high performance, ultra-reliable, hardened multitouch tables, touch walls, and custom exhibits. We’ve sold hundreds of these unique products to a diverse set of clients including museums, design firms, nonprofits, schools, and universities in over 30 countries.

We also developed some very challenging custom hardware installations. Back in 2011 we developed a 7-foot tall, round multitouch wall for Monterey Bay Aquarium. Just last month a dozen first-of-their-kind multitouch tables were installed at the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt Design Museum in New York. Later this year, the Field Museum will unveil a new museum-wide electronic reading rail system comprised of 80 ultra-wide multitouch monitors custom designed by Ideum. In each instance, we have worked closely with our partners to produce the best possible hardware to match their unique vision for their amazing exhibition spaces.

We connected museum hardware to learners everywhere in 2014 by redesigning and enhancing the Groovik’s Cube kiosks at Liberty Science Center. Users can now help solve this 26-foot Rubik’s Cube cube puzzle, wherever they may be, using the mobile and web version Ideum created.

Thanks to a National Science Foundation grant, we created Open Exhibits, a free multitouch software initiative, and with the Museum of Science Boston, National Center for Interactive Learning, WBGH, and advisor Sina Bahram, collaborated on Creating Museum Media for Everyone (CMME) to research, develop, and evaluate digital interactives that are inclusive of all people. In 2013 we hosted the HCI+ISE conference, which brought together exhibit designers and developers, learning researchers, and technology industry professionals to explore the potential impact of new human computer interaction technologies in informal science education settings. In late 2014 we received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Science to create Omeka Everywhere, which will tie Open Exhibits to Omeka, an open source web publishing platform for the display of museum and library collections.

Of course, all of these developments over the last 15 years have been made possible by our tremendous staff. I’m lucky enough to collaborate every day with talented designers, engineers, programmers, content specialists, project managers, and administrators who are dedicated to producing the best possible projects and products. These folks are always challenging me, pushing the boundaries of what is possible, and incorporating “what’s next” into our products and exhibit projects.

Thanks for your support and interest in Ideum over the last decade and a half. We are looking forward to the next 15 years.

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