Earth Day at NASA

I've been invited to work on an interactive Earth Day exhibit for the Silicon Valley SimCenter and the NASA Sustainability Base.  I'd like to design a space, or spaces where people can interact with the amazing images that NASA captures. NASA has released beautiful pictures of our planet on past Earth Days.

I spent a few hours sketching a space to showcase these images. Most of the illustrations are set within the NASA Ames's Visitor Center. A very cool building, but probably not the final location of the exhibit. The actual location will probably be the lobby of the Sustainability Base.

I like the notion of people using Augmented reality (AR) apps to see additional content that is tailored to suit them. One visitor might be interested in global weather patterns while another is interested in scenic photography. AR would provide both visitors with a cool personalized experience. 

Augmented Reality

FXPAL, the research lab I work for, is developing a set of technologies called Tabletop Telepresence. Put simply, it's a system that enables video conference participants to share paper documents and other physical objects more naturally. It's comprised of cameras, projectors and a system for controlling everything. Here's a practical example: I can present an English document to the system that is scanned, translated and then projected as a Japanese language document in another location with the original page layout preserved. This allows my colleagues in Japan to read, interact with and even print their own copy. Our lab also researches other advanced telepresence technologies. Another group of researchers and engineers at FXPAL is exploring robotics and methods for very accurately determining locations within a room or set of rooms.

I've incorporated many of these ideas into this next few illustrations. I'd like to provide visitors with a way to share messages with people at other locations. These illustrations depict an exhibit where placing a message under a document camera sends it to other exhibits to be translated and projected. When creating messages, users can also ham it up for a video camera. These video clips would be associated with their message. Later, if another visitor touches the projected message they'll see the video on a large screen. The screen could also cycle through clips.

Tabletop telepresence components of the exhibit

Tabletop telepresence components of the exhibit

I incorporated robots into some of these illustrations. These robots may function as mobile projectors, adding information overlays to the content of the exhibit. They may act as mobile telepresence devices, providing a way for people in distant locations to visit the exhibit. Robots like these would rely on technologies being developed by FXPAL and other labs to navigate the space autonomously and/or be easy for remote participants to control.

Another view of the exhibit that includes telepresence robots  

A few hours before our first meeting I sent these sketches to everyone involved. I got some great feedback from people representing the following points of view: The Silicon Valley SIMCenter's goal is to give humanity tools to manage the planet's resources more wisely. Nasa's Sustainability Base is the most energy efficient building ever constructed. Don Kimber's WorldViews is an image and video visualization tool that's in the very earliest stages of development. This input, lead to a whole new idea. 

Sketched out very quickly, this decision making game is made up of a tablet/smartphone app and a shared display (the globe in the drawing). People using the app adjust sliders that reflect their environmental impact. The goal of the app is to lower an individual's impact, improving the overall health of our ecosystem. A combination of AR and projections will enable visitors to see the overall health of the environment as well as their specific impact. Beyond that, the app might have an "at home" mode that helps people track their impact over time.

A very quick sketch of an interactive globe

These ideas will continue to evolve. If you'd like to share an idea of your own, or participate in this 2017 Earth Day activity, please leave a comment below.