One is the Loneliest Number: Designing a Multiuser Interactive Experience

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It’s no secret that we Millennials are obsessed with interactivity, our social and professional relationships increasingly mediated by technology. But still too often the hardware at our fingertips is built for a party of one; we conduct much of our digital lives on personal computers, cell phones, and tablets, all designed for the individual. In one of our latest interactive projects, NLP had the opportunity to break out of the confines of single-user media when we were asked to create an innovative multi-user experience on a 65” Ideum multi-touch table for the History of Armor and Cavalry Gallery in the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, GA.

This interactive exhibit is a map-centric look at the Iron Curtain and U.S. military presence in Cold War Germany (you can watch a brief demo of the touchtable on Vimeo). The goal was to create a platform where multiple users would be able to interact not only with the technology, but with one another. Situated in a bustling museum environment, the interactive hosts a fluctuating number of users who share a fixed amount of screen real estate. Visitors can approach the table from all sides, creating the need for an interface design that enables 360⁰ of accessibility.

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               Above: attract screen graphics and testing the interactive in our studio.

The use of multi-touch technologies addressed many of these issues: users can ‘pinch zoom’ to resize and rearrange windows as needed, and rotate them to face any direction. These and other multi-touch features, for instance the ability to swipe to navigate between screens and through lists, are functions that many users have come to expect in touchscreens, thanks in part to the prevalence of these technologies in mobile phones. Increased familiarity with these capabilities has also eliminated the need for extensive on-screen instructional text (“Touch to select,” etc.), rendering it unnecessary, even cumbersome and redundant.

These advances in technology have resulted in a more streamlined graphic user interface, leaving us producers to do what we do best: grapple with balancing the breadth and depth of content and teasing out the most striking visuals and intriguing facts to include.

The Gallery will be hosting a grand opening event tomorrow, Thursday, January 30, 2014. If you find yourself in the vicinity of Columbus, GA, please take the time to visit the spectacular National Infantry Museum and Soldiers Center, and check out the interactive media in the History of Armor and Cavalry Gallery.

UPDATE: Due to the severe wintery weather in Georgia (there’s a phrase you don’t get to use often), the dedication of the Armor/Cav Gallery has been postponed to a later date, TBD.

Below: copy editing and debugging—labors of love!

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