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Installation Profile: NYC Inc.

Apr 14, 2009 12:00 PM, By Dan Daley

Smart screen technology greets global visitors at the Big Apple information center.

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New York City Information Center

In a $1.8 million project, the New York City Information Center brings tourism and technology together with the help of integrator VideoSonic Systems. Visitors can plan their stay in the Big Apple with the touch of a finger using customized GestureTek touchscreens that display activities based on the search criteria they plug into the system. Photos by Anthony Donovan

First impressions count for a lot in business, and NYC & Company—New York’s marketing, tourism, and partnership organization—understands that. It largely prompted the creation of the official New York City Information Center, located at street level in one of the city’s signature skyscrapers just north of Times Square. And as appropriate for a city called Silicon Alley, there is plenty of technology integrated throughout the 2000-square-foot center.

Packing a lot of equipment into the space called for a somewhat different relationship with service vendors. In this case, VideoSonic Systems—a New York-based systems-integration company that specializes in integrating audiovisual technology for museums, universities, corporate buildings, and retail facilities—was chosen as both the project consultant and the technology integrator.

“Serving as both the client’s consultant and systems integrator meant that not only did we need to specify the equipment, but that we would be responsible to install it and maintain it,” says Glenn Polly, the integrator’s president and owner. “VideoSonic’s responsibility was to interpret a very loosely defined operational specification from the content producer, and locate and then integrate the hardware and systems that could support the functionality for the visitor’s experience.”

Tables and Walls

Visitors to the center soon encounter exotic video technology, starting with GestureTek ’s touch-sensitive object-recognition engine, which is manifested in three tabletop display housings that were custom-manufactured for VideoSonic. Beneath the display screens are projectiondesign F10 high-definition WUXGA 1920x1200-resolution DLP projectors, configured for a 16:10 aspect ratio. While GestureTek’s screens are found in museums and other facilities around the world, Polly says that this is the first time the system has incorporated both finger-sensitivity and object-recognition capabilities.

Riding on GestureTek’s engine is a Flash program created by Jake Barton at Local Projects in New York. The program is based on Google Earth software that allows visitors to self-navigate a tour of the city on the screen, choosing museums, restaurants, clubs, and other sights by using an active “puck” that will log each choice. The content is actually pulled from a database maintained by NYC & Company, whose staff enters information related to events, openings, restaurants, shopping, theaters, and transportation that appears as responses to a visitor’s selection.

“Multitouch tracking has only been around a few years, and there’s no operating system specific for it,” says Ed Betts, director of business development for GestureTek, who adds that much of the engine runs on open-source technology.

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