Projects: Cleveland Museum Of Art’s Terrific Interactive Wall

March 27, 2013 by Dave Haynes


The Cleveland Museum of Art’s $100 million renovation included a new set of interactive video walls that make really good use of touch, archives and dynamic screen layouts.

The museum’s Gallery One has a 40-foot wide multi-touch screen made up of a pair of 15-units wide by 5-units tall Christie MicroTiles, fitted with the Christie Interactivity Kit (Baanto’s ShadowSense multi-touch solution).

As many as 16 people can independently select and manipulate images of works of art shown in thumbnails on the wall. hen one is chosen, it blows up in size and dynamically reorganizes the surrounding thumbnails. People can find what interests them and load them on available iPads.

Here’s how it works, according to the museum:

The Collection Wall is the largest multi-touch screen in the United States—a 40-foot, interactive, microtile wall featuring over 3500 works of art from the permanent collection, most of which are on view in the galleries.  The display changes every 40 seconds, grouping works by theme and type, such as time period, materials and techniques, as well as 32 curated views of the collection.  It facilitates discovery and dialogue with other visitors and can serve as an orientation experience, allowing visitors to download existing tours or create their own tours to take out into the galleries on iPads.  The Collection Wall enables each visitor to connect with objects in the collection in a playful and original way, making their visit a more powerful personal experience.

Standing 5 feet by 40 feet, the wall is composed of 150 Christie MicroTiles and displays more than 23 million pixels, which is the equivalent of more than twenty-three 720p HDTVs. The Christie iKit multi-touch system allows multiple users to interact with the wall, simultaneously opening as many as twenty separate interfaces across the Collection Wall to explore the collection. Software was written using open Frameworks and runs on two Windows 7 workstations supported by four Linux servers processing the video across the wall, and an RFID server managing the iPad station connectivity.

High-resolution digital cameras that range from 48 to 192 megapixels were used to photograph CMA’s objects. These enable museum catalog-quality photographs as large as 50 by 40 inches, and will enlarge on a standard iPad or computer monitor to 220 by 160 inches for examination of detail.

Every 10 minutes, an application content management system updates the wall with high-resolution artwork images, metadata, and the frequency with each artwork has been “favorited” on the wall and from within the ArtLens iPad app. Users can save favorites to their iPad from the wall by placing their device on one of eight docking stations, which identify an iPad by detecting an RFID chip on the back of its case.

The visitor’s favoriting and sharing activity creates metrics that enable museum staff to understand what artworks visitors are engaging with, creating a feedback loop with the museum. Visitors can also queue curated themes to display on the Collection Wall, playing them like a jukebox that changes every 40 seconds. These themes can be changed dynamically, creating another mode of expression for staff, and connecting with temporary exhibitions or creating new ideas for the permanent collection.

The project was put together by integrator Zenith Systems. Bob Fortney of Zenith said the Tiles were attractive as a solution because they could be built into a wall, serviced easily from the front, and would last a long time.  “The big things that appealed to us are no lamps to replace, the 65,000-hour half-life of the LEDs, the technology in the MicroTiles that helps them maintain a uniform color across all the tiles, and the great black levels. Trying to make this art look really spectacular requires fantastic black levels and the MicroTiles give us the blacks we want. The art really ‘pops’ on it and adds to that ‘wow’ effect because the black levels are so good.”

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