Transforming a Tate Modern poster with touch
Tate Modern shows how by adding touch to its displays it enhances visitors’ experiences
As we become more screen-centric, and are instinctively drawn to displays within our environment, they provide the likes of art galleries and museums with the opportunity to enhance their exhibits, as well as the overall visitor experience (through wayfinding, multi-lingual descriptions, and more).
“Tate Modern has a top-selling poster called the Tate Artist Timeline, and it has all the artist and movements from the last 100 years,” explains Jonny Dixon, executive producer. “And they wanted a digital version that you could interact with on a huge screen.”
Providing the ability to interact with screens is a great way to increase engagement, but when you have a heavily trafficked area such as a gallery, having a screen monopolised by just one person isn’t ideal. So Framestore Labs had to come up with a way for multiple people to be able to interact with the screen in unison.
“We developed the project to the point where you could register 10 touches at once,” explains Grace Diggens, production assistant. “So that’s 10 people using it, with one finger touches. There was an infrared frame around the 60 tiles, which is basically a shadow-sensing kit that picks up when someone touches it, breaks the sensors, and then registers that person’s touch.”
Big screen, multi touch
The screen is composed of 60 Christie Microtiles, built in native resolution, providing a 10,000 by 2000 pixel display, that stretches to around 20 feet. At this size, and given the space an individual needs to interact with the display, it’s unlikely that 10 screen touches will be exceeded on a regular basis (not accounting for the wandering hands of sticky-fingered school outings).
“We want the visitors to the Tate to be able to access all of the approximately 3,500 pieces of art that they have in their collection, in a way that’s accessible to everyone,” says Tom Schwarz, lead developer.
“The audience is everyone that attends the Tate; five million customers every year. We want a way of showing all the pieces as they appear in time, so using dots was a nice visual mechanism of doing that.”
Users can interact with elements within Tate Modern’s Artist Timeline, which then reveals further information on artists or movements, whilst also employing visualisations to provide the timeline with more aesthetic interest. And the result is a display that captures the imagination of Tate Modern’s visitors, providing key information, but doing it in such a way that fits with the remit of gallery: to promote public understanding and enjoyment of British, modern and contemporary art.
“It was great using touch interactivity, and from a design point of view, the images that were being created by Tom and the team were very relaxing, and slightly hypnotic,” explains Dixon. “We’re very happy with the outcome. It looks great, and we’re very proud of it as a piece of work.”