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Ideum creates immersive, interactive video walls

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Corrales company Ideum Inc. has created a virtual doorway into the world of dinosaurs at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.

Thanks to Ideum’s new video wall technology, visitors can come face to face with gigantic images of prehistoric creatures at the museum’s DinoStomp exhibit. Kinetic motion sensors capture people’s movements as they approach, causing detailed renderings of various dinosaur species to spring to life on the video wall.

Visitors at the nearby DinoLand exhibit can also create their own images and scan them into a wall-sized animation projection system.

Both exhibits are part of Ideum’s efforts to use cutting-edge sensing and projection technology to create interactive, immersive social experiences in public places, said Ideum founder and CEO Jim Spadaccini.

“We’ve created large-scale video walls that can offer more substantive, meaningful experiences for people,” Spadaccini said. “Many museums want to make their exhibits more relevant to connect with new generations of visitors. We’re using technology to help make that happen.”

Isaac Valdez admires an Immersive Video Wall during a tour of Ideum recently in Corrales. The company employs 45 people and plans to hire another seven in the coming months. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

The video walls reflect a new, innovative direction at Ideum, which began making interactive, multitouch display tables in 2006. The tables, which allow groups of people to simultaneously pull up visual displays and information at the touch of a finger, are now deployed at hundreds of museums, research institutions, corporate buildings, military installations and other venues around the world.

The company has been selling about 500 tables annually in more than 40 countries, generating more than $8 million in revenue last year, Spadaccini said. It employs 45 people at a three-building, 22,000-square-foot complex on the south edge of Corrales. It plans to hire another seven people in the coming months.

“We believe 2018 will be our best year ever,” Spadaccini said. “We have a lot of interesting opportunities with some exciting institutions.”

The company’s success reflects its constant embrace of new technology, not just to improve the quality and capabilities of its core display-table product, but to deploy new and bigger concepts like the video walls.

That new product combines sensing technology with video and audio projection to convert entire rooms into interactive displays. The walls are made up of vertically hung monitors that stretch from nearly floor to ceiling. They’re designed with a deep curve to completely fill a visitor’s peripheral vision. That creates a near virtual reality experience that people can share, as opposed to the typical, individual experience of augmented reality based on head gear or other equipment, Spadaccini said.

Gavin Jackson, 7, plays an interactive game at Ideum.

“It’s a fully immersive video wall in a half circle that people walk into,” he said. “You don’t wear any gear or devices, so you can speak to the people next to you and share it.”

Creating shared experience is a critical goal.

“That social dynamic is what interests us,” Spadaccini said. “When people go to museums with family and friends, they’re not alone. It’s all about interacting with things and with other people, so we’re using augmented reality to create a socially mixed experience.”

Ideum has deployed video walls at Hoover Dam, highlighting the facility’s construction and its impact on wildlife and the surrounding ecosystem, and another being used by the sales office at The One tower, a skyscraper under construction in Toronto.

Ideum is also experimenting with its sensing and projection technology to create types of exhibits that can add more interactive, educational depth to things. It worked with an Acoma Pueblo artist, for example, to create a concept for exploring pueblo pottery that uses a 360-degree video projection system to beam Native American symbols and art onto an oversized white olla, or water pot.

“Visitors use a touch screen in front of the pottery to select images and designs that get projected onto the pot,” Spadaccini said. “The symbols projected have deep meaning for Acoma and Native American people, which we’re presenting in a new way.”

The company showed off its new technology at a winter studio party in early February. It also plans to open a permanent exhibit development space in Corrales.