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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.


Multitouch Tutorials Abound

. . . on the GestureWorks site. Today, we’ve posted a tutorial on how to make a multitouch twitter application in Flash. Not your cup of tea? Maybe you’d like to make a multitouch Google Maps/flickr mashup or just learn the basics on how to create multitouch applications in Flash & Flex.

Our tutorials have been some of the most visited pages on the GestureWorks support site and and we’re looking to expand the list even further. We’d love to hear suggestions on what kinds of tutorials you’d like to see on the site. Tweet us @gestureworks or comment on this post.


Just How Many Points Can the New 3M 22" Multitouch Screen Handle?

There are many devices that claim to be multitouch, but only a few that can actually handle more than two points. Which is why we were anxiously awaiting our 20-point capacitive multitouch screen from 3M.

3M claims a >6 millisecond response time for all 20 fingers. Minus a millisecond stopwatch, we can vouch that the screen is highly responsive. Not to mention, we were able to get the screen to track 50 (yes, that’s five-oh) touch points within a GestureWorks-built app. And all of the apps that we originally built for our 50″ MT-50 Multitouch Table looked great on the high-resolution screen. It’s good to have true multitouch.


Multitouch Google Maps Tutorial Up on GestureWorks Site

Google Map w/ GW icon

We’ve added another tutorial to the GestureWorks site that covers how to build a multitouch Google Map application from start to finish. One of the more complex tutorials, it extends the Google Maps API, allowing the user to scale, rotate and “fly to” specific areas. The tutorial also describes how to use our 3-D tilt gestures take advantage of Google Maps’ 3-D features, and how to set map properties within the application.

We’ve built a few of these applications for clients, and look forward to seeing other variations on the Google Maps application as multitouch becomes more and more common. Next week our developer showcase launches. If you’ve built an app using GestureWorks and want it to be considered for the showcase, contact us.


Case Study on L.A. Zone Multitouch, Multiuser Exhibit on ExhibitFiles

I just posted a case study on the ExhibitFiles website. It examines the L.A. Zone multitouch table exhibit that we developed with California Science Center and details some of the design considerations we encountered in putting this multi-user exhibit together. You can read the complete case study here.

This custom exhibit was built using Adobe Flash with our Gestureworks multitouch framework and runs on our MT-50 multitouch table. There’s also more information about this exhibit on our portfolio page: “Visitors Explore Los Angeles in a Google Maps and Flickr Mashup.


Best Use of Web 2.0 – New Media Award

Screen shot 2009-10-05 at 1.30.55 PMWe just learned that the KQED Quest website won the Best Use of Web 2.0 / New Media Award at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.  We worked closely with the KQED Quest team to develop this site, which makes extensive use of Google Maps and Flickr photos “mashed” into visually rich map applications.

You can visit the KQED Quest Website or learn more about the project on the Ideum portfolio site. Other finalists in the category were Expedition: Blue Planet, Save Our Seas, and Wild Earth.


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.


Museum Mashups

termitemound.jpgToday I’m conducting two half-day workshops at the Museums and the Web Conference in San Francisco. This blog post contains the workshop description and the course materials for Museum Mashups, there’s another post for Real Science 2.0: Interacting with Scientific Imagery and Live Data.

The image on left is a termite “catherdral” mound, an example of the theory of emergence in nature. I decided to use this image after rading Alex Iskold’s article on Yahoo! Pipes, where he talks about emergence (part of complexity theory) and its relation to Web 2.0.

Workshop Description
Perhaps more than any other approach or Web technology, mashups exemplify “Web 2.0.” These unique web applications draw on content from more that one source to create something new. With hundreds of open APIs (Application Programming Interface) to choose from, over 1000 mashups have been created in just the past two years. Google maps, Flickr photos, and many other data sources and services are now available to designers and developers.

Unfortunately, few museums have explored the promise that mashups present. While some of the APIs are commercial in nature, many are relevant to the museum world and could be used to create compelling interactive experiences for museum visitors. Mashups have the potential to allow visitors to access archives, collections, and scientific data in innovative and exciting ways.

As museums slowly begin to explore other Web 2.0 technologies such as blogging and social networking applications, the potential for tapping into these communities with mashups increases. Our visitors are already using mashups and many of the core technologies that open APIs are making accessible.

This half-day workshop will explore the technical and design aspects of mashups. We’ll look at some of the examples that are out there and discuss the technology behind them. We’ll explore some of the more popular open APIs and talk about the possibilities they present.

Finally, we’ll explore the design issues surrounding these unique web applications. Due to the complex nature of mashups and the fact that many are produced solely by programmers, usability and visitor experience is often compromised. We’ll look at what is emerging as “best practices” in the development on mashups with a focus on design. Through a rapid design exercise we’ll take a look at the conceptual, information, and visual design aspects of mashups.

Bookmarks (for this workshop and RealScience 2.0):

The Presentation (The activity is not included):
museummashups-2007.pdf (800K)


Mashup of the Day and other thoughts

KQED Quest is the Mashup of the Day on the Programmable Web site, the authoritative directory of mashups and Web 2.0 APIs (application programming interface). Two other Ideum design sites appear in the directory as well: The American Image: The Photographs of John Collier Jr. and Recycle Torrance. As the Programmable Web shows, we are not alone in experimenting with mashups, the number continues to rise and recently surpassed 1,500 mashups.

While we’re on the topic, a few thoughts to share about mashup design. What draws us to mashups is the ability rapidly and cost effectively develop complex user-experiences. A few years ago we developed a custom mapping program in Adobe Flash for the Traditions of the Sun: Chaco Culture website, developing this as a mashup would have saved hundreds of hours in programming time. (The mashup services were simply not available when we created the site.) In addition, using a well-known service such as Google Maps also means that users are more likely to be familiar with them. Visitors know how to pan and zoom, change from map to satellite view, and so on. Not having to develop an entire user-interface from scratch is a major plus. Again, reducing further development time.

With sites like Flickr, the attraction is the ability to store, manage and share content. For the American Image project, having a ready-made database with a built in content-management system, allowed us to focus on other aspects of the project. The fact that we could also connect with the Flickr community has turned out to be a factor in the success of the project. So far, more people have seen John Collier Jr.’s work on Flickr then on the American Image site itself.

While this all is very positive, there are some drawbacks. You have to include the service site’s branding, there is a bit of learning curve in mashup development at first, and there can be technical limitations and obstacles in using an API as opposed to developing something from scratch. One major issue we ran into repeatedly with the KQED Quest mashups was Javascript implementation across various browsers: IE 6 and 7 and Apple’s Safari were all problematic at different times.

I’ll be posting more about mashups in the coming weeks, as I begin prepare for two half-day workshops for the Museums and the Web conference. I’ll be teaching: Museum Mashups and Real Science 2.0 Interacting with scientific imagery and live data at the conference which is held April in San Francisco.

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