NOAA’s Science on a Sphere adds a new dimension to data displays
What do you get when you mix a beach ball with a bunch of projectors and a few NOAA visualization scientists? You get ‘Science on a Sphere’, as the visuals are projected onto the sphere to allow true visualization of the earth’s surface. Controlled by a Wii-mote, it projects a 4000×2000 display onto the 68-inch sphere showing ocean currents, atmospheric temperatures, population trends, and anything else you can think of.
The software is written to support any number of projectors, but the zoo’s setup is typical, following NOAA’s recommendations for equipment. It uses four high-end Sony projectors that provide a resolution of 72 dots per inch on the sphere. These are aligned every morning to keep the images in sync. Each projector is controlled by a Dell Precision T3400 workstation running Red Hat Linux. A fifth T3400 hosts the content for the sphere and controls the other four computers. There is a Bluetooth connection on the control computer for the Wii Remote.
The system costs only $165,00 0and software is already available from NOAA to run on it, making it a pretty useful tool on day 1.