In order to meet the challenge of providing interaction across the entire width of the wall, Liberty teamed up with InfoStrat, a Kinect for Windows partner located in Washington, D.C., to develop the visualizations and create a custom service that enables the simultaneous use of multiple Kinect for Windows sensors. The sensors are critical to engaging students in this experience and demonstrating Liberty’s technical leadership.
Marcy Pride, dean of the library, praises the Kinect feature for the way it draws students in, noting that it “positions us nicely as a twenty-first-century library that uses the technology to engage students, to allow them to have a sense of control, and to give them the opportunity to be creative and innovative.”
The Falwell Library installation isn’t the first university media wall, but it’s certainly one of the most technologically advanced. The staff surveyed other university installations but wanted to do something bigger and better. When they asked InfoStrat how to make a richer media wall experience, the obvious answer was to make it interactive with Kinect for Windows. The payoff was substantial, as Joshua Blake, technical director of InfoStrat’s Advanced Technology Group, describes. “When students first visit the library, they may not know that the video wall is interactive. As they walk through the space, or they see someone else interacting, it’s a bit of a surprise—this huge video wall responds to them, thanks to the Kinect sensors.”
As Blake explains, Kinect for Windows is the key to this interactive experience. The arrangement of the three sensors creates a continuous interactive space in front of the entire video wall. These sensors are connected to a single computer via USB extenders, and a Windows Service processes and combines the data from each sensor.
The media wall visualization is driven by a Unity application, which gets social media and configuration data from a custom web service on a server located elsewhere, and the Kinect interaction data from the local Windows Service through shared memory. The web server ingests the social media posts and images and hosts a management website that allows administrators to moderate posts and remotely configure what is displayed on media wall through the Unity application.
All that technical wizardry makes the media wall work seamlessly for the visitors who stand in front of it, excitedly waving their arms to move images around and gesturing to access additional information. In the process, they become more deeply connected to the university’s worldwide student body and its many outreach programs. Who knew that the library could be such a potent social force?