'WOW Technology' Found Among the Many Exhibitors at the ESRI User's Conference


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In any large trade show, such as the ESRI User's Conference, it is easy to get numbed by the variety of vendors, the repeat technology, and even some of the eye candy that vendors use to get you to saunter by their booth.In spite of the size and sheer overwhelming number of exhibitors at a show where there are over 12,000 attendees, Editor-in-chief Joe Francica, and Senior Contributing Editor Hal Reid, found five technologies that stood out and easily passed the WOW Factor test.

WOW Product #1
Touch Table
Northrop-Grumman Mission Systems
14330 Sullyfield circle
Chantilly, VA 20151

The Northrop Grumman Touch Table is a table-mounted, large format, touch-screen display that is driven by a 1600 x 1200 resolution LCD projector.The screen itself is matte, white powder-coated, 1/2-inch think honeycomb aluminum surface. Its' function is to provide real-time Collaborative GIS. It comes with the following controls (on the table):

Select and display data
Zoom, pan and rotate
Single-touch data query
History recall
Turn layers on and off
Zoom to a predefined location
Screen Lock
Set classification level

On board are drawing tools that let the user(s) create a redline, or fill an area of interest.The table can be used with ESRI's ArcGlobe with zoom, pan and rotate controls on the table.Because a computer drives the table, motion can be displayed as data becomes available.One of the really fascinating things to watch was ho the operators would press firmly on an image feature and retrieve information on that feature to a separate screen display.

Touch Table showing Menu Items

Touch Table - (Graphic provided by Northrup Grumman)

Watch a short video of the table in action...
click on graphic

WOW Product #2
XenoVision Mark III

898 Airport Park Rd.
Glen Burnie, MD 21061

The XenoVision Mark III is a table that is three feet by four feet, 29 inches high and consists of a number of aluminum rods that lift a latex sheet to form a three-dimensional model of a physical landscape.Their vision, as stated in their brochure, is to provide the same tools, as in the movie "X-Men" for mission planning and visualization.Overhead is a projector displaying a computer image on the table itself.Because it is electronic it takes just minutes for the table to reconfigure the topography to reflect the image from the projector.The latex on the table is pure white, allowing for an accurate reflection of the image projected upon it.A vacuum beneath the table, pulls the aluminum rods down based on the input from the terrain data.

This makes a true "situation" display possible and can show motion, imagery and maps, and can be used for military, homeland security and as well as site selection and market penetration.It also allows for a realistic viewshed projection, which can be used for the defense of motorcades, line-of-sight, or signage and location visibility.

Display Type: LCD Projector
Resolution: XGA 1024x768
Refresh Rate: 72 Hz
Screen Size: 3' x 4'
Elevation Range: 6"
LAN Connector: RJ-45 (10BaseT)
Protocol TCP/IP over Ethernet
Data Rate 10/100 Mbps

Below are three images of the table mechanism and the terrain it can display.Very cool.

Click for larger image

Table Configuration - Courtesy of Xenotran

Terrain Data Projected with latex cover over aluminum rods - Courtesy of Xenotran

WOW Product #3
3D Printer
Z Corporation
20 North Ave.
Burlington, MA 01803

Z Corporation has taken a traditionally non-GIS tool and made and very short leap into persistent 3D rendering. Their product is a 3D printer that is normally used in the modeling of parts and assemblies.It can provide tangible output from traditional products that do 3D design for manufacturing as well as 3D GIS output.

For GIS, it works like this:
It looks like a flat bed plotter except instead of merely placing ink on paper, this device places a powder that is infused with colored ink and a liquid to effect hardening (binding) of the powder.Each pass over the flatbed produces a layer of powder.Where there would normally be print on paper, ink infused powered is placed in layers.Up to 90 layers are used to create a plot of any of several sizes.The demo device was producing approximately 12" by 18".When the plot has finished, compressed air removes the un-infused powder and the 3D contours, in color appear.What is especially cool is that the output is not limited to a solid object.It can be a true representation of a part.
Also see the propeller demo at by clicking here.

Printer in action

Example of the output - Courtesy of Z Corporation

WOW Product #4
Holographic Displays
Zebra Imaging, Inc

P.O.Box 81247
Austin, TX 78708
512-251-5100 ex 128

Zebra imaging does holographic displays for the following functions;
  • Mapping and the "common operating picture" (COP)
  • Battle-space visualization
  • Mission/rescue/evasion/logistics planning
  • Intelligence and reconnaissance
  • Homeland defense planning
  • Anti-urban terrorism prevention planning
  • Weapon and vehicle design & development
  • Simulation of terrorist activity
  • Line of sight for sniper activity evacuation and recovery planning
  • Damage assessment and damage estimation
  • Security Ids/non-counterfeit-able 3D images with embedded covert data
  • Visualization of design data for manufacture of weapons and vehicles
The imagery is extremely real and allows for motion.Their example was an Urban Warfare simulation with armored cars and tanks, all moving and taking fire.These are not tiny images either, as the ones on display were around three Feet Square or more.

For years, I have wanted real-time holographic displays instead of huge heavy CRTs or LCD monitors.Perhaps, we are getting close.

Image courtesy of Zebra Imaging, Inc.

Image courtesy of Zebra Imaging, Inc.

WOW Product #5
Thales Navigation

471 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95050

Thales introduced MobileMapper(TM) CE, a handheld GPS receiver for GIS and many other data collection applications.It is extremely affordability and the "ruggedized", waterproof casing a nice touch. Priced lower than competing systems, the MobileMapper CE GPS receiver offers an impressive array of high-performance features, including real-time, sub-meter GPS positioning, embedded Microsoft(R) Windows(R) CE .NET, Bluetooth(R) wireless technology, removable SD card memory and an all-day removable battery that make it attractive for a wide variety of demanding GIS data collection and mapping applications. Read more.
In summary...
What does this all mean to the average GIS professional? It means that these technologies are the forerunner of the war room concepts businesses may seek in competitive analysis as well as an ability to create tangible models for urban planning visualization.


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