Touching encouraged (an ongoing story)

A recurring theme at KB Labs is to show a lot of pixels. By chance we got our hands on a 4K touch-sensitive display, capable of showing a non-trivial amount of said pixels on a non-trivial surface area. Our cunning plan is to

  • Adapt some of the labs products to work on the display
  • Put the display somewhere in the public area of the library
  • Watch people swoon when they delve into beautiful cultural heritage data

This post is intended to be a diary of sorts, journaling what we learn.

Coincidental activation (2019-10-10)

We have talked about experimenting with interactive large displays for years. With emphasis on talked.

It took someone with youthful initiative to actually do something: Max Odsbjerg Pedersen discovered a usable & unused display and promptly sent us a video showing him using a labs product on the display. 4 days later he brokered a loan agreement and 10 days later we verified that no one questions two people removing a large display, as long as it is transported in a cardboard box.

Adding heavy box moving to résumé

Fair warning (2019-10-23)

The software development department has a – not entirely undeserved – reputation of being loose cannons that tend to muck about in ways that unexpectedly affects other departments.

To atone for blunders past and primarily because it really is the most constructive practice, representatives of the Cultural Heritage and the Communications departments were duly informed about the initiated process and invited to participate in discussion hereof. In other words: We met them at lunch as usual and said “Hey, we’ve got this nifty idea …”, to which they answered “Sounds good!”.

What have we got? (2019-10-24)

The display is a 55″ Samsung Flp. Its internal software seems focused on providing a digital flip-over with some connectivity possibilities? It does not have a build-in web browser, but connecting it to a Windows 10 machine is exceedingly easy. We will just have to duct tape a laptop to its back or something to that effect.

It was a pleasant surprise to discover that the excellent tool OpenSeadragon works perfectly out of the box with multi touch on desktop browsers: Tap, double tap, drag, pinch & spread. Well, as long as you are not a lazy developer that still use a pre-2017 version of OpenSeadragon where pinching is wonky *cough*.

Adapt, by which we mean “remove stuff” (2019-10-25)

Three KB Labs products, which would benefit from a large display, were selected:

At the core they are all web pages using OpenSeadragon and as such, adaptation mostly meant removing features and interface elements. A simple navigational area was added to switch between the products and the PoC Mark I alpha was born: Best viewed on a 55″ tablet or larger.

Secure, by which we mean “fail” (2019-10-25)

Since the whole thing is intended for public display & interaction, we want to make sure the users stay on the designated pages.

A developer navigating one of the designated pages

Pressing F11 switches to full screen with no navigational bar in Chrome and the end users does not have access to the keyboard, so problem solved? Our boss Bjarne Andersen passed by, stopped and played with the presentations. It took him 2 minutes to somehow activate right-click and presto, the box was cracked. Thanks boss!

Well, Chrome has a designated kiosk mode: Simply add -kiosk as an argument and all is taken care off. At least until co-worker Kim Christensen discovers that there is a handy swipe-from-a-vertical-edge gesture that opens the Windows menu and other elements. Cracked again. Thanks Kim!

Disabling swipe gestures did not seem possible without admin rights, which we do not have on the current computer. There seems to be a Windows kiosk mode that also requires admin rights. Oh well, maybe Monday? Weekend calls.

Broken Windows and tweaks (2019-10-28)

Colleague Thomas Egense brought a private windows laptop to work (no worries, we only connect those to the eduroam network).

  • It would not connect to the large display. Reboot.
  • It did connect to the display in 4K, but not to WiFi. Reboot.
  • It did connect to WiFi, but would no longer connect to the display. Reboot.
  • Same. Reboot.
  • Same. Give up.
  • Actively avoid defenestrating the laptop. Drink coffee.

At least it went a little better when colleague Gry Vindelev Elstrøm stopped by. She suggested adding some sort of map overlay, so that the users would not get lost in the big collages? And of course OpenSeadragon delivers again: 90 seconds and a reload later the wish were granted:

OpenSeadragon with Navigator overlay

Gry’s other wish: To have visual-similarity spatial grouping of the maps collection is both valid and entirely possible to fulfill. Buuut it is not a 90 second job and the touch screen project is a side project, so that idea was filed under when We Find The Time.

And then they were two (2019-10-29)

Heroic display digger Max Odsbjerg Pedersen phoned in and said he had found a twin display lying around. He’ll put it up somewhere at AU Library, Nobel Park, mirroring the display we’re working with at the Reoyal Danish Library, Aarhus. Thank you, Max. You do realize we’re at the early Proof on Concept stage, right?

Go ahead is a given (2019-10-30)

Gitte Bomholt Christensen deals with the public space at the library. She visited to take a look at the project. Her first question was if we should put the display on a movable stand or if a wall mount were better. We’ll take that as a “Yes, we’ll go forward with this experiment”.

Soon they will be five (2019-10-31)

Early in the day miniboss Katrine Hofmann Gasser asked for requirements for 3 extra touch displays. Later in the day, miniboss Katrine Hofmann Gasser had ordered 3 extra touch displays.

Damn, people! What happened to the concept of testing a minimum viable product followed by iterative improvement?

To be continued

About Toke Eskildsen

IT-Developer at statsbiblioteket.dk with a penchant for hacking Lucene/Solr.
This entry was posted in eskildsen, Visualization. Bookmark the permalink.

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