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The OmniGlobe: A Self-Contained Spherical Display System

The OmniGlobe is a large acrylic globe with a self-contained, high-intensity LCD projector built into its supporting base. Basically a "spherical monitor," the OmniGlobe can be used as an interactive display for presenting spherical data in its natural format. It is a true 360-degree display system.

Innovations
  • The video signal from the projector in the base shines up through a hole in the globe, reflects off of an internally mounted dispersal mirror, and finally hits the inside surface of the sphere. Having the projector in the supporting base greatly simplifies the installation and alignment of the optics for the OmniGlobe. In 2002, ARC Science Simulations received a patent on the use of internally mounted dispersal mirrors and external projectors in this type of spherical display system.

    Because of its peculiar geometry, images sent to the OmniGlobe need to be mapped into a special spherical projection. Pixels near one "pole" of the source image are compressed down to a single point on the projected image, while pixels near the other "pole" are distributed all the way around the outside of the projected image. Some areas of the projected image are optically further from the projector than others. Those areas are "brightened" so that the final image on the OmniGlobe is displayed at a uniform intensity.

  • One of ARC's first OmniGlobe customers was the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis. Creation of their 600 Million Year Plate Tectonics simulation presented several challenges. Ronald Blakey, professor of geology at the University of Northern Arizona, provided flat, 2D "keyframe" artwork, spaced 30 to 40 million years apart, showing the position of the continents, topology, and vegetation patterns. The challenge then became filling in the "in-between" images needed to provide smooth transitions between the keyframes. ARC developed an in-house methodology for morphing between 2D flat images to represent projections from a 3D sphere.
Vision
This display technology is adaptable to a wide range of fields. One group is interested in using the OmniGlobe as an interactive "economic monitor" to maintain a continuously updated display of worldwide markets and exchanges. In the remote sensing and GIS arenas, the OmniGlobe could display three-dimensional spatial data. A smaller version of the OmniGlobe would make an ideal teaching tool for elementary-school classrooms. Imagine a teacher being able to instantaneously call up and interact with:
  • A world political map for any period of history extending all the way back to ancient Egypt.

  • An interactive animation showing the paths taken by the great explorers.

  • A geology map showing the major tectonic plate boundaries and how the plates are moving.

  • A "running" animation showing current internet backbone activity all around of the world.
Goal
The OmniGlobe Display System represents a huge step forward in display of spherical data. For display of data relating to the surface of a planet, it has absolutely no match. Two-dimensional projections of spherical data have always represented a bad compromise, stretching some areas and compressing others to try to "squash" the curved data down onto a flat surface. Too many children have grown up believing that Greenland is the same size as South America. The OmniGlobe gets rid of all the compromises. It presents spherical information in its natural form, in a way that is instantly comprehended by even the smallest child.

Contact
Christopher Fedde
ARC Science Simulations Inc.
cofedde@arcscience.com

Contributors
Jonathan Lang
Thomas Ligon
David Hilligoss
ARC Science Simulations Inc.




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