Liquid Galaxy and the Coral Reefs of London
By Gerard Drazba
September 2, 2015
Exploring coral reefs and studying the diverse species that live in them usually requires some travel. Most of the coral in the world lives in the Indo-Pacific region that includes the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia and the Pacific. The next largest concentration of reefs is in the Caribbean and Atlantic. Oh, and then there is London.
London, you say?
Yes, the one in England. No, not the coral attaching itself to oil and gas platforms in the North Sea, nor the deep water coral there—admittedly far away from London, but perhaps in the general vacinity on the globe. We’re talking about the heart of London, specifically Cromwell Road. Divers will need to navigate their ways there, but scuba gear and a boat won’t be required once they arrive. No worries! Divers can float right up to the Liquid Galaxy in the exhibit hall at The Natural History Museum. The museum opened CORAL REEFS: SECRET CITIES OF THE SEA on March 27th. and the exhibit runs through mid-September this year.
Actually, there are 3 Liquid Galaxies at the Natural History Museum in London to allow a maximum amount of exploration and a minimum of waiting in queue.
Last year, the Natural History Museum engaged End Point to provide an experience for their guests that will take them to coral reefs from around the globe. Working with panoramic images captured and provided to the exhibit by the XLCatlin SeaView Survey and at the direction of the curators of the exhibit, End Point prepared 3 Liquid Galaxy server stacks with the selected SeaView Survey reef dives for the exhibit. Each of the Liquid Galaxies has three high definition screens.
The screens are angled in toward the viewer to compensate for the distortion that can occur when viewing panoramic images on a flat screen. It is a bit like having a bay window on the nose of a submarine. This immersive experience is an unique feature of Liquid Galaxy. The 360 degree spherical field of view that is a panoramic photosphere will distort on a flat screen and present as a fisheye view of the image. Liquid Galaxy is designed to compensate for the geometry of a panoramic image and on the angled screens place the user’s point of view in the center of the image.
The mission for CORAL REEFS: SECRET CITIES OF THE SEA required a simple and reliable display solution. The solution for this exhibit at the Natural History Museum uses locally stored panoramic images rather than downloading the content. The Liquid Galaxy hardware is able to handle the XLCatlin SeaView Survey panospheres as a single image across the three screens to keep the technical needs of the exhibit simple, cost effective, and robust. With the imagery being stored locally, expensive bandwidth was not needed. A smaller inexpensive network connection is used so that the health and operation of the Liquid Galaxy systems can be monitored remotely. This is a feature that End Point has developed for all of our Liquid Galaxy clients. It is worth noting that since opening in March the exhibit has required almost no system intervention from End Point engineers. We are still monitoring the systems and should technical intervention be needed to keep the exhibit operating we are ready.
The unique ability to surround the viewer with imagery is what sets a Liquid Galaxy apart from a flat screen of any size. The Liquid Galaxy display provides context for the natural habitat of the 250 specimens and the live coral and fish that are also on display at the Museum. The Natural History Museum hopes to get guests so immersed in the imagery that they’re able to feel the importance of the coral reefs to the planet. We are glad that the museum recognized that End Point’s Liquid Galaxy products and services are a great choice when immersion is important to the mission.