Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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MW2009 – Multi-touch: what does this technology hold for future musuem exhibits?

April 16th, 2009 by chrisbell

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Hi I’m Paula Bray and I usually blog over at Photo of the Day.

Today, whilst Seb was slaving away giving two workshops in a row at Museums and the Web 2009 I spent the day with Jim Spadaccini and Paul Lacey in a great, full-day workshop called ‘Make It Multi-touch’ that showcased the custom built 50” touch-table. You can view it over at Ideum .

We got inside information on how this technology was developed from the initial prototype back in September 2008 that featured a dual mirror and two camera solution that resulted in the need to process complicated gestures and quickly. Two prototypes later is the final product you can see here. This technology can process simple to complex gestures known as ‘blobs’ (fingers reflected) which is fed to software that can process touch, drag and drop, pinch and expand, drawing, rotate and double tap features that are all intuitive to the user within a short time-frame. The aim is to provide an interactive social experience that is very different to the traditional computer based interactive exhibits that can tend to isolate the experience to one visitor.

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What can we learn from the public about using museum collections and content through technology such as multi-touch? This form of technology may be a novelty for some at this stage but the future design of this product holds potentials for change amongst many museum applications.

Scenario: Multi-touch tables are available in a museum exhibition for the public to use and interact with exhibition content. Images of collection objects can be moved across the table, details of content can be zoomed in through simple “blob” (finger) movements. Descriptive information about the object can be shown through XMP metadata stored in the file. Location data can be retrieved and the user can create their own exhibit and learning experience. This is a very different user application that can change visitor’s experiece. Do we need to compete with devices that are currently available at home and make it social and educational in the museum? Does fixed navigation work anymore?

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Multi touch technology has potential to change museums experience and it will be interesting to watch this technology develop. Will the public start to expect to come to museums to interact with exhibits in this new way?

This is definitely more than a “big-ass table”.

Post & photography by Paula Bray

Tags: 3 Comments

  • LyndaK

    Thnx Paula. Any idea if this will become more widely available (ie in Oz?). The folks at the Smart Services CRC based at Australian Technology Park have developed something similar in conjunction with Sydney University – http://www.smartservicescrc.com.au/Foundry.html

  • Erika

    Exciting stuff Paula! hope we can see one in the Museum soon.

  • johnh

    The Picnic table in the Powerhouse Museum MBF playground is a multitouch table.
    If you haven’t played with it give it a go.