Building a High-Resolution Multitouch Wall (Part 5)

This is the fifth blog post about our multitouch wall installation.  To see the previous ones see: Building a High-Resolution Multitouch Wall Part 1, Part 2 , Part 3 & Part 4(Update 9/7/12: You might want checkout the Presenter Touch Wall, a 65″ multitouch wall built for public spaces.)

As I have mentioned in previous posts, while we received permission to share the development process we’ve been unable to say just which “major North American aquarium” we have been working with. Now we can share the name and we are proud to say it is the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The 7- foot, round multitouch wall that we’ve been developing will be part of the Open Sea exhibition which is fully open to public on July 2nd.  You can learn more about the Open Sea exhibition in Monterey Bay Aquarium Pressroom.

The previous blog posts detail the methods, materials, hardware, software, and other aspects of the development process. So I won’t go to far in depth here, but I wanted to mention a few more details about the visitor experience and the software.

The large size and round form-factor of the multitouch wall should make for an engaging visitor experience. The wall is big enough to accommodate multiple visitors simultaneously.  It also support hundreds of simultaneous touch points.

As I mentioned earlier the exhibit will allow aquarium visitors to “touch” phytoplankton and learn more about them.The fact that microscopic plankton are the base of the marine food web and they produce most of the oxygen present in the Earth’s atmosphere makes the exhibit all the more significant. We hope this installation will provide a compelling way for visitors learn about these important tiny organisms.

The exhibit software was created in Unity 3D and the programming and design was done by Lindsay Digital (they also took the photographs that appear below). This is one of the first projects where we concentrated just on hardware.

Here are a few photographs of the installation at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We will share photos and video of the exhibit in full operation after the opening on July 2nd!

Calibrating the 7 Foot Multitouch Wall
Ideum’s Paul Lacey and Chris Steinmetz work on calibrating the multitouch wall. The number “2560″ which appears on the screen is the resolution of the round multitouch wall. It is 2560 x 2560 pixel which is better than HD resolution.

Installing the 7 Foot Multitouch Wall
Paul and Chris are silhouetted in front of the massive multitouch wall.


AAM Session: Museum Community Response to the Gulf Oil Spill

Tomorrow afternoon I’m participating in a session entitled, Saving the Future: Museum Community Response to the Gulf Oil Spill at the American Association of Museums Annual Conference. It is ironic that we are here in Houston, the U.S. headquarters of BP.

In the session, I’m going to be talking about the multitouch Gulf Oil Spill Mashup application that we produced last summer and provided free of charge to museums and aquariums. The application was built with the GestureWorks multitouch SDK and many of the software components in the application available free on the Open Exhibits website.

In case you missed it, here’s a video of the application in action.

I will post my slides here following my presentation. Looking forward to hearing how others in the museum community responded to Gulf Coast oil spill.

Updated May 24, 2010:  It was a great session to be part of and I found the other presentations really inspiring. In particular, I really enjoyed the talk by Jerry Enzler, the Executive Director of the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. Last summer, their institution opened a major exhibit on the Gulf of Mexico. Their large aquarium tanks were deliberately presented with no fish or any marine life. The tanks were covered with decals representing oil from the spill.

It was a great example of a museum (and aquarium) taking risks and making a strong statement about the environmental disaster that occurred in the gulf.  The opening of this unique exhibit was a great success and the story appeared in the national news. At the time, there were stories about the exhibit in MSNBC, USA Today, and many other media outlets.

I hope to post more about the session in the future, as all of the presentations were very interesting. For now, here are the slides from my presentation, Gulf Oil Spill Mashup Exhibit (PDF 3.7 MB)


Oil Spill Exhibit Update

Back in June, we announced the release of a free multitouch application that combined NOAA oil spill data, visitor contributed Flickr photos, and Google Maps.  (You can see that blog post and video,  BP Oil Multitouch Map Mashup.) The application was developed exhibit using our own GestureWorks multitouch framework for Adobe Flash.

This application is still available to educational organizations such as science centers and aquariums.  Since then a few different museums and aquariums across the globe have expressed interest.

Just this week we got our first photographs back from Petrosains Discovery Centre in Mayalsia. The exhibit is in their Hot Science exhibit area.

Gulf Oil Spill Application at Petrosains Discovery Centre

McWane Science Center in Birmingham, Alabama will be including the exhibit as part of their Science of an Oil Spill exhibition opening October 2, 2010.  We hope to have pictures very soon.

Also, the application was mentioned today in Art | Participation an Italian language blog and community site that focuses on interactivity and multimedia, Ideum e la mostra digitale della catastrofe del Golfo.

If you are a museum, aquarium, or science center and you would like to use this free multitouch software, please email us for details.


BP Oil Spill Multitouch Map Mashup

Just like everyone else over the last two months, we’ve watched the continuing oil spill in Gulf of Mexico with a sense of helplessness and despair. Not only did has this unnecessary accident taken the lives of 11 people, it continues to impact millions more.  From an environmental standpoint, it it is nothing short of a complete catastrophe.

To help educate the public about this unprecedented event, we’ve decided to release a free version of our multitouch-enabled Google Map and Flickr mashup application to educational organizations such as science centers and aquariums.  The Google Map and Flickr mashup combines oil spill and fishing restriction data from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) with eyewitness photographic and video accounts from the Gulf of Mexico. You can check and and join the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico Flickr group; it includes some amazing photographs of the crisis.

Here’s a video of the application in action.

The exhibit software requires a multitouch system. We are offering it for clients who have multitouch tables. We will be building a version that is optimized to work with the 3M 22″ multitouch monitor, a lower-cost system. If there is interest, we may offer a single touch version or Web version of the application later this summer. Please email us for details about this software.

The oil spill mashup application is similar to a Google Mapping and Flickr mashup exhibit that we developed for the California Science Center. In that application, we used a number of KML data overlays to show various features of the LA Basin. You can learn more about that exhibit, L.A. Zone Multitouch, Multiuser Table, on the ExhibitFiles website. That exhibit and the new Oil Spill mashup were both developed using GestureWorks multitouch software for Flash & Flex.

Finally, with reports that British Petroleum (BP) continues to try to block media coverage, we hope that this exhibit helps in some small way to better inform the public about this disaster.

Update: Some of you expressed interest in who was using the application.  A number of museums contact us with interest in it including: the McWane Science Center, Trelleborg Museum (Denmark), Vancouver Aquarium, and at Petrosains, The Discovery Center (Kuala Lumpur). I know that Petrosains and the McWane Science Center used the application on the floor.


Our third year as a carbon neutral company

Just a couple weeks ago our small company quietly passed a significant milestone-we exceeded 100,000 pounds of carbon avoided. Back in May of 2006, we made the switch to wind power for 90% of electricity needs.  A month later, we became a completely carbon neutral company. We calculated all of our carbon usage and began to purchase credits from NativeEnergy. Each June since, we recalculate our carbon production including travel for business and to and from work. We’re now entering our third year as green company.

This year I won’t detail all of the calculations (you can see how we offset our carbon production in previous years) but interestingly, even as the company has grown to twice the number of staff, our carbon production (and offsets) have remain steady. Much of the credit for this lack of growth in carbon production has to do with the fact that many of us ride our bikes or carpool to the studio. Carlos, our system administrator has even made the move to an electric scooter. The Vectrix has a range of about 30 miles, enough to get to work, and after a quick charge, back home.  Sixty miles-per hour and no tail pipe!

To see more on how and why we became a climate neutral company, visit our climate neutral page.


KQED QUEST's Next Step

A new and improved version of  KQED’s QUEST Website, which we helped to develop, is now live. QUEST is an ambitious project utilizing all of KQED’s platforms to not only broadcast science and nature programming, but to also build a community supporting further exploration in the area. Ideum worked with KQED to design a website promoting community participation via an interactive mashup-driven website.

The most recent version of QUEST includes a number of improvements intended to simplify the navigation of the site’s ever-expanding content. With nearly 100 television broadcasts and around 65 online radio broadcasts, the initial sort features (time based) became difficult to use. The radio/television tab can now be filtered by topic and type and the main map features the latest five items instead of search features.


You’ll also notice that blog posts are now displayed as items on the main site’s map – a feature we were able to implement using data from the geopress plugin for WordPress. This feature means that all of KQED’s great content can now be available within the Google Map Mashup. Since the purpose of KQED QUEST is to explore “the stories behind Bay Area science, nature and environmental issues,” this addition makes perfect sense. Take a look at the KQED site or check out  KQED Quest in our portfolio to learn more.


Nevada coal power plant stopped. For good!

smokestack.jpgIn 2005, we helped design the Nevada Clean Energy website. The Nevada Clean Enerby Coalition is devoted to finding alternative energy sources and opposing the massive Granite Fox power plant, which was to be built in Northern Nevada. Last year, Sempra Energy decided to try to sell its interest in the plant. Just today we found out they’ve given that up as well!

Here’s a copy of the “Withdrawl of Application” presented to the Public Utilities Commision of Nevada.


This is a great victory for all of us in the West who are concerned about our energy future. It shows that a small but dedicated coalition can make a difference, even when they’re up against a multi-billion dollar company (Sempra’s revenues in 2006 were $12 billion). We hope Sempra will pursue sustainable energy production, rather than dirty coal-fired power. Congratulations to the Nevada Clean Energy Coalition and people of Northern Nevada!


Climate Neutral: Year Two

earth.jpgAt the beginning of last summer, we decided to make Ideum carbon neutral. (See We’re a Climate Neutral Company or our Climate Neutral Page.) Since then we’ve been using wind power and purchasing credits to offset our carbon production. As of today, we’ve avoided nearly 50,000 pounds of carbon, the equivalent of planting over 2,000 trees.

Just today, I’ve renewed our effort and have adjusted our carbon usage. For example, last year at this time we had five employees and now we have ten (although two are part-time). 90% of our electricity still comes from wind, but some of the other factors have changed. Here’s how are carbon usage was recalculated.

  • Electricity (the remaining 10% from fossil fuels): 1,742 lbs of carbon, an increase of 20% from last year. Lots of new computers. (Calculated from the Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Program)
  • Travel to work: 26,660 lbs of carbon (13.3 tons). 10 employees, 240 working days, 145 total daily miles= 35,525 miles annually. Some of our employees bike, walk or car pool, and this has kept the figure down, although it is still higher than last year with double the number of employees. (Calculated from An Inconvenient Truth > Carbon Calculator)
  • Air Flights: 9,500 lbs of carbon. 10 medium, 4 long, and 2 extended flights. A 30% reduction from last year. Much less air travel with new, longer-term projects. (Calculated from An Inconvenient Truth > Carbon Calculator)
  • Natural Gas: 3,200 lbs of carbon. The same as last year. (Calculated from the Carbon Footprint, had to convert English pounds to US dollars)

The total amount of carbon that we needed to off-set was 41,300 pounds, up from 32,052 pounds last year. Today we purchased 21 one-ton “RECs,” or renewable energy credits, from NativeEnergy. Our cost is $252 a year to off-set our carbon production. If you add in the extra $12 a month for electricity from wind, our final cost is a nominal $396, just over $1 per day.

Perhaps this weekend’s Live Earth concert will inspire other companies to examine their carbon footprints and consider becoming climate neutral.


10,000 pounds and counting…

Since Ideum became “climate neutral” back in June, we’ve avoided 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. This is the equivalent of removing 517 cars from the road or planting 764 trees. As we mentioned at the time, the cost of zeroing out our carbon emissions was relatively inexpensive and the process was simple. We have a page that explains more about becoming carbon neutral.


"A model recycling Google Maps mashup"

mapsmani.jpgThe Google Maps mashup we developed for the City of Torrance, “Where to Recycle,” is featured today on Google Maps Mania. (The permanent link is here.) This blog is the “unofficial” authority on everything Google Maps. The review briefly explains how our mashup works and ends with a very positive statement, “In my view, this kind of mashup should be present in every city website!”

We’d like to see that happen, too. As I mentioned before, the key motivation for developing the site was to make recycling easy and to make it happen more often. The goal was to help visitors to find out where they can recycle a product in the fewest number of steps and then guide them to the location.

I think most people know recycling is the right thing to do, but it needs to be more convenient. Our hope is that “Where to Recycle” does just that.

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