Magical Crystal Ball – PufferSphere Multimedia Display

Spectacular interactive sphere relies on AVT Guppy PRO camera for vision-based human interaction.

In order to deter predators, pufferfishes inflate their highly elastic stomach to blow themselves up to a near-perfect sphere. Pufferfish Ltd. of Edinburgh, UK created a novel display technology that relies on spherical projection. Although it is not meant as a hostile intimidation tactic, the PufferSphere achieves the same result: it makes a strong impression.
PufferSpheres have been seen in major events and TV broadcasts such as the Eurovision song contest or pop band Coldplay’s Viva la Vida tour. They regularly appear on major exhibition, advertising events or trade shows. These spherical displays have fascinated thousands of people worldwide with magical, glowing multimedia projections.

360° Video display, up to 4 meter diameter
The PufferSphere is a spherical screen that can display images visible from all directions both horizontally or vertically. Diameters range from 60 cm to 4 m (23.6” – 13 ft.). PufferSpheres can be used ground-standing, mounted on a vertical wall or hanging from the ceiling like planets in the sky. They can even be moved during operation, for example as part of a stage performance. This versatility opens a wide range of possible implementation, be it in museums, trade shows or theaters. The larger models are inflatable to ensure easy transportation and quick setup.

The PufferSphere relies on projection technology and is compatible with a range of high-quality installation projectors. The lens system that is used to achieve the spherical projection is a specialist proprietary lens.

Digital Image Processing for Multi-Touch Interactivity
PufferSpheres have been widely used as passive displays but Pufferfish have recently expanded the smaller PufferSphere M range to include interactive spherical surfaces: by touching the surface of the sphere, users can generate real-time visual effects and animations. The system can interact with several persons at a time.

The interactive option of the system relies on machine vision to identify and localize the touching points on the screen. A Guppy PRO F-032 digital camera from Allied Vision Technologies is positioned at the base of the sphere and monitors the whole surface thanks to appropriate optics from Lensation. The camera is fitted with an infrared-pass filter in order to better differentiate between the projected image and the reflected IR of users fingertips on the surface of the sphere. The images are analyzed by custom-made computer vision software built on top of Community Core Vision (CCV) that generates effects in real time depending on the movements of the hands on the surface.

The Guppy PRO F-032 is a VGA-resolution machine vision camera with fast FireWire interface (IEEE 1394b). Thanks to its extremely small form factor (29 x 29 x 29 mm), great resolution and frame rate it makes the perfect solution for interactive PufferSphere models.

“Our clients are world-class entertainment productions such as Coldplay, the Eurovision Song Contest, television networks or major corporations like IBM or Vodafone who use the PufferSphere as an advertising media”, explains Geoff Kell, MD of Pufferfish Ltd. “Failure is not an option and they need a solution that not only provides a unique experience to the audience but also offers a high level of reliability and stability in operation”. This is the reason why Pufferfish selected the AVT Guppy PRO as the camera of their PufferSphere: it offers not only the benefits of easy integration through its small size but also the high quality and reliability of an industrial machine vision camera from Allied Vision Technologies. In terms of service, Puffersfish can rely on the expertise of AVT’s distribution partner in the UK, Stemmer Imaging.

First-Class Technology for First-Class Events
The interactive version of the PufferSphere M premiered at the grand opening event of the Missoni Hotel in Kuwait City, Kuwait in August 2011. This spectacular happening celebrating the new luxury palace in the Gulf state featured a number of PufferSpheres of various sizes up to 3 meters, including 2 PufferSphere M 600 units with multi-touch functionality and AVT Guppy PRO camera inside.

From November 8-11, 2011, Allied Vision Technologies and Pufferfish demonstrated the technology to a professional audience on the AVT booth at VISION 2011 in Stuttgart, Germany, the world’s leading trade show for the machine vision industry.