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Electrosonic Powers ‘Expedition Health’ at Denver Museum of Science and Nature

 Simplicity in tight spaces is key to the design of the new Expedition Health installation at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which includes highly interactive and personalized activities

Simplicity in tight spaces is key to the design of the new Expedition Health installation at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which includes highly interactive and personalized activities featuring AV displays, projection, and touchscreens from Burbank-based Electrosonic.

Inside the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

The 10,000-square foot installation–the museum’s newest permanent exhibition–explains how the human body constantly changes and adapts in ways that can be seen, measured and optimized. The experience is framed by the compelling story of a Rocky Mountain expedition organized by the museum as a keystone of its Health Science Initiative. Expedition ”buddies,” a diverse group of residents of the region, become virtual learning companions who accompany visitors through the exhibition and relate visitors’ activities to those they experienced during their own training programs and expedition.

Expedition Health has been one of the most fun and interactive exhibits we’ve been involved with,” says Guy Fronte, Electrosonic’s co-project manager with Gary Barnes. The real challenge was making all the electronics fit into the very compact spaces made by the main fabricator, Art Guild Inc., he said.

Upon entry visitors sign in, electronically select a virtual “buddy,” and receive a Peak Pass card to activate key components of the exhibition. The Peak Pass components recognize visitors, recall their personal data, and enable them to record their own performance at some of those components. At the exit visitors can print out a personal profile with data and images as a take-home souvenir. A unique login number allows them to extend their experience on the Expedition Health Website.

The Expedition Health gallery features 4,500-square feet of interactive exhibits and other presentations. Electrosonic was hired by Art Guild to furnish numerous AV, projection, and interactive elements starting with the entryway where a 30-inch Dell widescreen monitor, mounted in portrait mode, displays a show schedule/digital signage piece. Ten ELO touchscreens, driven by Dell computers, generate Peak Passes for visitors.

Nearby, visitors can place their hands on sensors to see and hear their own EKG courtesy of Dell computer systems, rugged Blaupunkt car stereo speakers, and proprietary Art Guild software. More feedback about heart rates is generated via the Bio Ride, featuring exercise bikes rebuilt by Art Guild so visitor-cyclists can keep an animated rider moving. Electrosonic furnished the Industrial Image 22-inch LCD monitors to display the animations to the cyclists and Gefen extenders to transfer audio, video, and USB over CAT6 cables from the Dell computers, housed in another room, to the bikes.

In another section, Wind Chill, visitors place their hands in the glass-fronted device to activate temperature-controlled air that demonstrates the effect of windchill on body temperature. Information on the phenomenon is delivered via a Dell computer, Blaupunkt speaker, and 22-inch Industrial Image LCD monitor.

An identical monitor figures in the nearby Altitude Adjustment exhibit, along with an Adtec HD player that sources a video about how urine production increases to help the body adjust when you climb to high elevations.

Another section gives visitors a view of themselves. When visitors stand in front of a camera and mirror system, a Full Body Viewer displays a generic full-size CG image of the body that reveals its muscle and skeletal structure and vascular and cardiopulmonary systems. Electrosonic provided RS232 control for the viewer.

Next, an ELO touchscreen, Dell computer, and Blaupunkt speaker inform visitors about the nutritional value of foods as they play the Feed a Hungry Hiker game. Visitors can then move on to Measure Up, an activity where they stand in front of a camera system and green screen, spread their arms, and see their image displayed on a 46-inch Sharp LCD monitor below the camera. The Height & Arm Span Investigator, another 19-inch ELO touchscreen with Blaupunkt speaker, graphically demonstrates how a person’s arm span compares to their height.

The Cross the Stream balance activity probably posed the most challenges for Electrosonic, according to Fronte. In this exhibit an 8-foot-long balance beam, beveled on each side to catch visitors who misstep, divides the “stream” in half. Two ceiling-mounted Panasonic PTD-W5100 projectors were precisely placed by Electrosonic to project synchronized images onto floor screens that flank the balance beam and give visitors the impression of crossing a moving stream. The streambed video loop is sourced from Alcorn McBride DVM7400 hard disk players.

Electrosonic also installed Museum Tools’ Sound Sensor, a microphone system that picks up ambient sound – such as kids giggling their way across the balance beam – and increases or decreases the creek flow sound accordingly.

As visitors explore Size Up Your Stride and the Walk Investigator, a camera system records them walking along a length of wall as they try to increase their energy output. Each visitor’s unique walk is displayed in silhouette on three contiguous Sharp 46-inch monitors in banner mode. A 19-inch ELO touchscreen delivers feedback about the visitors’ gaits and energy scores.

Electrosonic furnished more ELO stations for Top 10 Traumas on the Trail, an interactive about injuries and the body’s healing processes, and UV and You, about skin types and UV effects. Nearby visitors can dab sunblock on the back of their hands and place them under a UV camera, with images showing how sunscreen blocks UV displayed on special portrait mode Industrial Image screens.

An Industrial Image 22-inch monitor plays a central role in the Pupil Dilation interactive, where a camera system records visitors’ pupils as they dilate and constrict in response to lighting conditions and displays them on the screen. Electrosonic also supplied the visitor interface consisting of a push-button PI Engineering interface that triggers the camera and an Easy Capture USB video-capture device.

Mindball is a biofeedback game in which two visitors, with sensors strapped around their foreheads, try to control a ping pong-sized ball on a track. The calmest player wins. Electrosonic supplied a 30-inch Dell LCD monitor that displays both sets of brain waves; a Sharp 46-inch widescreen monitor in portrait mode provides core information about the brain.

In the See Yourself Age exhibit a camera records visitors faces and subjects them to aging software, comparing normal aging to the likely effects of exposure to the sun and bad habits such as smoking. Electrosonic provided a 19-inch Industrial Image display, Happ buttons and to set the aging process in motion, and a Blaupunkt speaker.

As Expedition Health winds down, two 22-inch ELO touchscreens with Dell computers, Blaupunkt speakers, and Logitech QuickCam 9000 webcams enable visitors to record their own health stories. The Tykes Peak area, designed for children age five and under, features a kid’s body silhouette with a 10-inch Industrial Image LCD monitor in a chest window displaying a graphic of a beating heart, Alcorn McBride SD video player sources the graphics. Interacting with a sensor, kids can take a giant stethoscope, place it on their own chests and hear their heartbeat through the silhouette.

The Summit Science Stage, for live demos and programs, includes a 30-inch Dell screen in portrait mode for digital signage.

Finally, visitors reach six 19-inch ELO wrap up stations where they insert their Peak Passes and receive print outs documenting their exhibit experiences.

Behind the scenes, Electrosonic provided eco-friendly AMX PC1 remote power units that can easily be managed by the museum’s IT staff.

At Electrosonic, Bryan Abelowitz handled sales for the project, Vince Conquilla was installation supervisor, Tom Miller and Mike Dwyre were installation technicians, and John Bush was commissioning engineer.

Lath Carlson was Art Guild’s Interactives Project Manager.

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