As part of a class project in the 1970s students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute created a large relief map of New York State. The structure, measuring 14' x 17.5' soon after was installed on a wall In the west hall corridor of the New York State Museum. Throughout the following decades several attempts were made to add more educational value to the map installation but were ineffective because of limited technology or resources.
In 2013 I proposed a new museum interactive to use video projection and an Apple iPad that would allow visitors to learn more by touching objects that appear on the map. The interactive would include video elements, animation, photos and text to tell a brief story of New York. All subjects of people, history, natural history and science would be explored using the map surface, not just as a viewer, but as a geographic reference of where subjects relate. Additionally, traditional maps would be listed where the user could 'skin' the map with NY's topography or population density.
Due to parameters of the project I was required to use an iPad as the sole control surface for the interactive. In my design the iPad would feed a video signal to the projector, mirroring its screen. The challenge was how to exactly align this projection with the existing wall map.
New York's shape combined with the native resolution of an iPad dictated that the projector needed to operate at 1024x768 pixels. It also needed to be able to cover the entire width and height of the map (14' x 17.5') but could not be mounted further than 25' away. I chose an Epson Powerlight G6150 which met all these requirements.
To connect the iPad to the projector the video feed needed to be translated without altering the aspect ratio of the original. I found using Apple's Lightning to VGA (with power) adapter worked perfectly. The VGA signal was delivered to the projector with the use of a Gefen VGA-to-CAT5 extender which also did not alter the aspect ratio of the original image.
Projection/Image Mask Alignment
The Museum's production crew suspended the projector vertically centered on the map and 25' away from the wall. That allowed perfect coverage without any need for zooming or key-stoning. The next challenge was to create a mask graphic that perfectly matched the outline of the state. It became obvious that I could not just attach my laptop to the projector to create the mask without altering the aspect ratio of the projection. The editing had to be done on the iPad. Therefore an elaborate remote desktop setup was configured so that I could edit the shape on my laptop but also see how it is outputted to the projector via the iPad. If it sounds confusing, it was.
The interactive is completely HTML5 generated from Adobe Edge Animate. I first used Animate a few years ago when it was still in beta and found it to be very stable and ideal for these applications. The iPad is running Kiosk Pro Plus which adds some useful hacks including how quicktime video playback and controls are handled by iOS ie removing controls and enabling on autostart.
The interactive has been running steadily since May 15, 2014. It includes 50 different subjects related to New York and 6 map skins.