Christchurch firm builds Japan Expo touchscreen

'Immersive' environment will entertain several hands-on users at once

Christchurch’s Human Interface Technology Lab (HITlab) is building a novel multi-user touchscreen interface into one of the exhibits organised for the New Zealand pavilion at this year’s International Expo, in Aichi, Japan.

The display in the downstairs area of the pavilion features five 80-inch-diagonal (205 cm) screens arranged in a semicircle, showing a continuous moving panorama of various New Zealand scenes, rural and urban.

Across the screens float icons like bubbles, “each about the size of a compact disc”, says HITlab general manage Richard Bishop. They are labelled with identifying themes and can be “grabbed” by any observer placing a hand on the icon and dragging it down to one of three “hotspots” at the bottom of each screen.

When placed on the hotspot, the icon triggers a brief slideshow or video on the theme in question.

Several users can use the array at once; three sequences available to play on each of five screens provides for about the limit of physical space in front of the screens, says Bishop 15 people using it at once is about as crowded as the site is likely to get and remain comfortable.

“Five screens arranged like that produces quite an immersive experience,” he says.

Other less interactive video material, including a fly-through of New Zealand “from the Bluff to Cape Reinga” are shown in other parts of the pavilion, along with more static exhibits.

HITlab is producing the touchscreens to a design by Story, under contract to NZ Trade and Enterprise. Design company Oktobor is also involved in the development.

The Expo runs from March 25 to September 25, at Aichi in Japan’s central region.

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