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Ideum develops touch-free add-on

¬†Isaac Valdez looks at the Immersive Video Wall during a tour of Ideum’s facility in 2018. The company is preparing to debut an “add on” that will make its displays contact-free.

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

With the coronavirus forcing social distancing and non-contact interaction, Ideum Inc. in Corrales is developing technology to rapidly retrofit multi-touch table displays into touch-free designs.

The company is collaborating with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to deploy a fully gesture-based kiosk this fall for visitors to learn about the gallery and map out their own tours of exhibits. The project, financed by a grant from the Alice L. Walton Foundation and more funding from Intel, will provide a proof-of-concept experience for visitors to orient themselves about museum content with just a wave of the hand.

The technology’s deployment at the gallery, and potentially at other places over the summer, will allow Ideum and project collaborators to gather needed feedback about touch-free systems. All information about hardware and software will then be shared through an open source initiative called Touchless.Design so other entities with touch-table displays can also learn how to convert them into non-contact tables.

The new technology is being “added on” to an existing gallery display to turn it into a zero-touch kiosk, said Ideum founder and CEO Jim Spadaccini.

“It’s hardware and software we developed that we’re calling the ‘add on,’ because it’s designed to fit existing touch tables to make them touchless,” Spadaccini told the Journal. “But, say, in a year curators want to turn it back into a touch screen, they can take off the add on. We’re designing it to work on many tables, and as a stand-alone system as well.”

A visitor interacts with Ideum’s Colossus Model multi-touch table during a tour in 2018. The company is preparing to debut an “add on” that will make its displays touch-free. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

The interactive kiosk will offer a range of ways gallery visitors can browse and explore the institution’s 150,000-plus items, suggesting gallery tours based on themes to make artwork more accessible, said National Gallery Director Kaywin Feldman.

“Providing ways to safely welcome the public back into the National Gallery of Art’s galleries and spaces has been a top priority for us, as it has been for museums across the country and world,” Feldman said in a statement. “The innovative touchless experience is one of the ways that we are re-thinking our approach to visitor engagement and learning in this moment. We are hopeful that visitors will enjoy and feel comfortable exploring our collection in this new way.”

Ideum has deployed hundreds of multi-touch display tables in 40-plus countries. It’s also built immersive, full-wall exhibits that come to life through motion sensors as people move through them. But unlike the kinetic-based sensors in those displays, the “add on” technology will provide individuals a direct, gesture-based interaction with automatic feedback about how to access desired information and images, Spadaccini said.

Ideum currently employs 47 people in Corrales, all of whom have remained employed throughout the pandemic.

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