“Augmented Reality” techniques enliven new OMSI exhibit

Looking for a cool spot to take the family? Head to air-conditioned OMSI and check out this new display that uses cutting-edge technology to show how new cars are engineered and built …

At OMSI’s new “Autovation” exhibit, parts of this car’s body frame are revealed on request by digital tablets.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When viewing the new exhibit from afar, visitors examining a new presentation at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) may think it looks like a stripped unibody car frame.

But, if you move up and point at one of several computer tablets nearby, you’ll be shown in detail just how various parts of the car function — in the new display, called “Autovation”.

OSMI Marketing Director Mark Patel stands with President Nancy Stueber and Exhibits Design Manager Chad Jacobson.

As unique as the display is, remarked OMSI Vice President of Marketing Mark Patel at the it’s recent unveiling, “Just as unique is the partnership involved with this, that brings together academia and a local business.”

Visitors can point built-in iPad viewers – or even their own smart phones – at key areas of the car, to bring it to life, Patel explained. Pointing to the tablet at the hood, for example, launches an animated, 3-D engine graphic. Touching the prompts on the screen reveals other views, and accesses information on topics like advances in fuel injection or in transmission design.

Dick Hanna Dealerships Director of Marketing Kent VanArnam says that, while it may look like a piece of static artwork, the Autovation exhibit can be expanded, changed, and updated.

OMSI President Nancy Stueber added, “We’re really excited about this collaboration with Dick Hanna Dealerships and Washington State University. We’ve set out to look for partners to present things that are new, and to use the latest technologies. In this case, we’re presenting automotive technology.”

During the opening ceremony, Autovation’s genesis was detailed by Dene Grigar, Director of WSU Vancouver’s Creative Media and Digital Culture program.

Students dedicated hundreds of hours developing the Autovation exhibit, says Dene Grigar, Director of WSU Vancouver’s Creative Media and Digital Culture program.

“It started with people at Dick Hanna Dealerships asking our students to provide software for their business,” Grigar said. “Ten students worked on the project – which generated about 500 pages of research.”

The company asked if their students would also consider creating an exhibit, and they readily agreed, Grigar added.

Budding engineer Quinn Sweeney is the first to step up and use Autovation’s augmented reality display.

“We started this project in November; students worked during the Christmas holiday, [and also] spring break. Even though many of them have now graduated, they’re still working on this project. I’ve never seen such dedicated people.”

“Autovation” is a permanent feature at OMSI, situated in the museum’s engineering-themed Turbine Hall.

OMSI is located at 1945 SE Water Avenue. For general information, see their website: CLICK HERE.

Tablets, pointed at markers around the car frame, reveal detailed information upon request.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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