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Captured on thermal film

Gestural interface

Pressure sensitive surface

Tech Test Zone feedback

Sound Circles

Paper chase

Pixel eye tracking

The Tech Museum in San Jose, Calif., this week opened a cutting-edge gallery focused on prototypes relating to the future of museum interactivity.

Prototype tech on display in the museum's Tech Test Zone includes designs from corporations, academic labs, and professional designers.

The exhibit opening was held in conjunction with a conference on interactivity for museum professionals that explored how museums and other public-space designers can use such technologies to enhance visitor learning and experience.

Here, a museum visitor interacts with a thermal camera that captures the long wavelengths of infrared light. Warm areas appear white, yellow, or red, while cool areas appear blur, purple, or black.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
This gestural interface uses Open Exhibits' open-source software and a Microsoft Kinect to use your whole body to move, pan, and zoom into this 1-billion pixel image of Yosemite National Park.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
This experiment in pressure-sensitive surfaces, called Digital Foam, lets users sculpt 3D models with their hands.

Sensing direct pressure, the program translates the sensitive foam's information into a digital drawing.

Digital Foam was developed by Ross Smith, of Australia's University of Adelaide. He researches simple techniques for digital 3D design and the 1-to-1 relationship between the physical device and digital forms.

Speaking this week's conference, Smith said the reproduction of finger manipulation into the virtual world has many potential uses. One use he's exploring is in medical-training mannequins that can teach techniques by tracking body manipulation, pressure, and location.

Reverse the foam, he added, and it could have potential uses as a means of touch-sensory input for robots.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
The Tech Test Zone houses exhibitions of prototypes and gives visitors the chance to interact with the projects and comment on the potential of the ideas.

Museum guests get to participate in the engineering design process and the developers can gather valuable user-testing data on their work.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
Implementing a touch interface, the Sound Circles display initiates a circle that grows, originating at the touch point. Sounds are made when the circles collide, with the size of each circle determining its pitch.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
Ori Inbar, CEO of Ogmento, asks "Did you ever imagine that paper could be used as a platform for a user-generated digital experience?"

This augmented reality exhibit uses a camera to identify the shaped drawn on the paper, and then creates a digital racetrack based on the shape.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
Pixel is an eye-tracking device that lets other people see the world through the user's eyes.

Using open-source code, one camera looks inward, tracking the users pupil, while a second camera looks outward.

These two images are combined and display a live view highlighting where the viewer is looking within the image.

Co-creator Matt Miller says the Pixel project is potentially a way to further engage museum visitors in the future.
Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
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