Synthetic Biology Is Easier to Learn Thanks to The Tech Museum of Innovation and Draper

A 65 inch by 20 foot wide curved Draper double-sided projection screen plays a role in helping San Jose’s The Tech Museum of Innovation explain synthetic biology in its Bio Design Studio.

CI Staff Leave a Comment
Synthetic Biology Is Easier to Learn Thanks to The Tech Museum of Innovation and Draper

In the Creative Creation Station in the BioDesign Studio at The Tech Museum of Innovation visitors use DNA to create new organisms, release their creations into an ecosystem with others’ creations and watch as survival of the fittest plays out on large curved, double-sided Drape projection screen. Photo: The Tech

Make synthetic biology compelling to the masses. That was a tall order for The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose as it built its interactive Bio Design Studio. One exhibit in the Bio Design Studio is the Creative Creation Station where visitors use DNA to create new organisms, release their creations into an ecosystem with others’ creations and watch as survival of the fittest plays out on large curved, double-sided Draper projection screen.

What could be more compelling to the masses than a survival of the fittest battle? So mission accomplished.

The Tech even won an award for its creative exhibit, taking home Silver for Interpretive Interactive Installation at the Media and Technology MUSE Wards, presented by the American Alliance of Museums.

The 65 inch by 20 foot wide curved Draper projection screen plays a significant role at The Tech Museum of Innovation.

“From the outside we wanted to create an aquarium-like feel, reminiscent of real living creatures, enhanced by the fluid-like flow of the visuals,” says Romie Littrell, The Tech’s curator and exhibit developer.

“By walking around and seeing the inside, it’s revealed that all the creatures in the aquarium are created by visitors, and it becomes an interactive space where they can become immersed in the unique scale and possibilities of the exhibit. This is particularly important because biology behaves differently than the more familiar mechanical and even robotic objects we see every day.”

More on the Projection Used by The Tech from a Draper Press Release:
Draper, synthetic biology, The Tech Museum of Innovation

The Tech Museum of Innovation’s Bio Design Studio engages visitors in synthetic biology. Photo: The Tech

  • Draper recommended the unique Infinite Resolution Uniformity Screen (IRUS) VersaRoll rear screen. Draper’s exclusive IRUS coating is specifically designed for blending and wide viewing applications, and its unique antiglare finish was a must in the high ambient light of the Bio Design Studio. This 65 inch by 20 foot wide curved screen needed to produce a vivid, uniform image in a fully lit environment. The IRUS coating was chosen specifically to yield the best results for this challenging 11 projector blend.
  • Christie DUV555-GS Laser Projectors projecting in portrait mode were selected for the job.
  • The VersaRoll semi-rigid substrate ships rolled on a core, and once unrolled can be installed to meet a large number of curved specifications. This solves the key problem that is faced with large rigid screens: access to the facility. Often, installers must resort to knocking out windows and craning in materials too big for a service elevator. Not so with VersaRoll. The screen and frame were assembled over a large flat area, so the screen could be stood up during the frame assembly process.
  • Once assembled, additional supports were added vertically to hold everything together until the screen was installed in the hole opening. When it came time to install the screen and frame in the wall, the sheer size of the unit meant steps had to be taken to keep the screen from warping while it was maneuvered into position. Fortunately, Draper offers installation support on projects like this.
Installing a 20-Foot Wide Screen Isn’t Easy

“It took 6-8 people to lift the screen into the hole opening and then once anchored remove the vertical supports,” Jim Hoodlebrink, Draper’s rental products manager who was on site to assist in the installation.

“The curve was tight enough you were pushing the limits of its capabilities but it worked out in the end with a unique, fantastic look.” Littrell agrees. “We are very happy with the end result. It was a gamble as it was an “off-label” use of this type of screen,” he says, “Yet it paid off and the seamless, double sided curve is something unique to our museum and is a great example of how fusing digital and physical architectures can create a new immersive reality.”

“You can definitely tell who the AV people are when they look up and stare,” says The Tech’s Romie Littrell.

There were initial concerns that, in an interactive environment, the IRUS coating might eventually wear away. To mitigate this possibility, images are projected onto the opposite, coated side of the screen to protect it from the millions of tiny hands it will need to resist. So far it’s working great, according to the Draper press release.

“The screen performs very well under some significant abuse,” Littrell says. “Projecting directly on the film creates a slight haze as seen from the inside, but the large scale, motion, and distance of the viewer to the visuals more than compensates. The corresponding sharp detail on the outside gives those visitors a high quality image from even inches away.”

The overall project was designed by the The Tech Museum of Innovation and Local Project, an exhibit consultant out of New York City. Draper dealer BBI sold the IRUS VersaRoll screen, while Audio Visual Design Group (AVDG) from San Jose handled the system integration.

All of the various elements and exhibits come together not only as an impressive interactive learning experience but also as a purely beautiful AV installation. “It’s a work of art on its own,” Littrell says. “You can definitely tell who the AV people are when they look up and stare.”