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Turning the Hayden Planetarium Into a Giant Videogame 80

Posted by samzenpus
from the biggest-screen dept.
pigrabbitbear writes "Remember your first visit to the planetarium? Neil DeGrasse Tyson does — it was what inspired him to become an astrophysicist in the first place. That same planetarium, now under Tyson's direction, is currently undergoing a transformation the likes of which Neil's young self couldn't have possibly imagined: It's becoming a giant videogame."
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Turning the Hayden Planetarium Into a Giant Videogame

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  • More like Neil Awesome.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      More like Neil ThirtyYearsLate.
      Back when I worked for a laser show company back in the late '80s to early '90s we hooked up a Tempest machine to the scanners once. Playing tempest on a 30 foot screen is amazing. Quite flickery because we had to slow down the scan rate a bit but awesome none the less. If we had brought the cabinet up to the Hayden (we did shows at the Hayden back then before they got all 'serious' and kicked us out) we could have done full dome Tempest. I bet you could sell single plays

    • by frovingslosh (582462) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @06:00PM (#38822897)
      Awesome? There is a movement to get Neil DeGrasse Tyson downgraded from Astronomer to Dwarf Astronomer.
      • by Sockatume (732728)

        (1) An "astronomer" is a scientist that: (a) is in an astronomy department, (b) has sufficient publication output for his/her stature to overcome peer review so that he/she assumes an academic equilibrium, and (c) has completely filled the neighbourhood around his/her desk.

        (2) A "dwarf astronomer" is a scientist that: (a) is in an astronomy department, (b) has sufficient publication output for his/her stature to overcome peer review so that he/she assumes an academic equilibrium, (c) has not completely fill

  • You too can do this (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @04:45PM (#38822095)

    Depending on your local planetarium, most rent out for $500 a night. You'd have to fiddle with the digital projector, and because most games aren't programmed assuming they'll be projected out onto a dome you'll have to deal with massive visual distortion, but you can pull this off too. For those of you that want to play at home, a digital projector and a 5-meter dome will run you about $25k.

    • by ntd101 (2560947)
      Or just get one of these http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1439004669/toob-immersive-dome-display [kickstarter.com]. I've used one of these and it was very impressive, can highly recommend it if you enjoy gaming or even just watching movies. Was FAR superior to a flat screen of any size.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      When you say "you'd have to fiddle with the digital projector", you missed a plural, and oversimplified "fiddling" -- from TFA, it's a 6-projector array, with six computers each driving one projector. Since they said it's a 4500x4500 array, I assume each projector is at 2560x1600 or similar, with a few pixels overlap for 2250x1500 effective. I doubt most people, or even most serioius gamers, have a machine capable of chunking that many pixels around (at acceptable quality settings, on modern games), and eve

      • There would also be some difficulty in getting each of the computers to run the same game engine simultaneously, taking in the same input and outputting its appropriate piece of the dome image, in real time and all synchronized. It's certainly possible, but I doubt with some unmodified, off-the-shelf game.
    • most games aren't programmed assuming they'll be projected out onto a dome

      Theoretically, if the game at lesst allows for a very wide-angle camera, you should be able to project the viewport onto a significant portion of the sphere quite acceptably. (You'd lose some resolution in the corners, of course.)

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        The best bet would be to take a PC and use console commands to set a very wide FOV. 180 degrees, I suppose, given the dome's shape.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      I've played one of my video games in an Imax dome [cac.es]. It's awesome...

  • Imagine one of their space battles. The trick would be individual stations monitors for each pilot but spectators and the strategists(callers) for the battles watching the large screen.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      You really don't need a monitor that large to play around with spreadsheets.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      no because then your playing eve online a truly terrible game

    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      My 30" display is quite capable of drawing all the rows on the spreadsheet for modestly large battles in Eve online.

      While a planetarium-sized Excel spreadsheet would be impressive, you'd probably have trouble reading all the important bits of text in it.

  • by tedgyz (515156) * on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @04:48PM (#38822137) Homepage

    How about quake 1/2/3/4? How cool would it be to have a 360 view?

    • by i.r.id10t (595143)

      I think Descent 3d would be better... I've played some with the planetarium here at work (dumping visualizations to a file and then playing on it... greatful dead, live recordings from archive.org) and it has some weird input - 30fps, must be 1024x1024, must be mpeg-1. And what we think of as the "middle" of the image (at 512,512) is actually top dead center on the dome... Gonna build a grid map (128x128 pixel chunks) project it and take some pix, get an idea as to where the focal point should really be

    • by msauve (701917)
      Nah. Space Invaders.
  • I like the old ones (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @04:56PM (#38822225) Homepage Journal

    The planetarium in Melbourne used to have a mechanical projector which rotated in the middle of the room to move the image across the ceiling. It was fantastic to watch and I used to drop in there just to watch the machinery. The new planetarium is just a big electronic projector and the stars aren't pinpoints anymore. They are out of focus spots. And now there is all sorts of stuff projected on to the ceiling, when what you are supposed to be looking at is the sky. They should just give up and build a normal cinema. Its not a planetarium any more.

    • I hope it's not true that mechanical starfield projectors are being phased out for boring video projectors. When I heard about this a week or so ago, I imagined the game being run from such a mechanical device. Disappointed to find this is not the case. Not sure how that would actually work in retrospect, but it was an appealing notion. Making a game for a hemispherical projection would still be an interesting challenge.

      • by neBelcnU (663059) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @06:00PM (#38822901) Journal

        While the clockwork versions may still exist in small school planetariums, the digital-mechanical hybrids are all long gone. You can thank Evans and Sutherland for demoing a version back in the early 80's, using a single, b&w tube projector through a Nikon 8mm (fisheye) camera lens. In spite of limitations that you'd all laugh at, it was instantly obvious that this was the future.

        MichaelSmith is correct, the digital video projectors have yet to get close to the pinpoint-sharpness of the old electro-mechanical projectors, and those monsters were a delight to watch in motion. But having operated those old beasts (Spitz STS), the limitations far outweigh the benefits.

        With the near-perfect rendition of consistent motion across the entire field of view, a modern digital video planetarium can utterly swamp the viewer's visual cortex: "sharpness" just doesn't matter when you can fly through Saturn's rings. I can say that I can't discern the "blurry dots" once the show gets rolling, I'm pretty comfy asserting that the average viewer's just drooling while their brains leak out of their ears. Having endorsed the modern, I'll confess to a desire to sit and watch the last STS (at Eastern Kentucky University) just quietly "roll" the sky, but that's nostalgia talkin'.

        As for playing a game on a digital video dome? Innnnnteresting. I'm happy to tell you that as a witness to the history MichaelSmith elevates, get outta my way, I'm goin' to Dr. Tyson's place for game-night.

        • My dome has a GOTO Chiron hybrid system + E&S Digistar 3, that communicate together to keep digital constellation figures and other graphics aligned with the mechanical star field. The Chiron has a reasonably small profile and doesn't get in the way like some of the old beasts did. Wouldn't trade it for anything.
      • Sadly it is true that the old, mechanical Zeiss projectors are going away. The redo of the Morrison Planetarium in Golden Gate Park replaced theirs with an all digital projection unit. It's very cool though, but in a different way.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      SO the point of a planetarium is to show off the of the planetarium mechanics?

      So, what else did they have in your day? Did they have cars?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The planetarium IS the machine in the middle. The place you watch shows is a domed theater.
        The old E&S Digistar I & II series sucked for star fields. Dim and fizzy blobs instead of points of light. There is only so much that you can do with a CRT expanded to the whole dome. Ask operators how paranoid they were about burning the phosphor on the tube. Now they use augmented video projectors. Lame.
        I'm waiting for someone to put 3mm or so RGB LEDs over the entire ceiling. I think that would solve

        • You forgot about the color of the old Digistar stars, uniformly pale green. Digistar 3 is significantly better, but no substitute for a optomechanical star ball. About the best attempt at digital stars I've seen is in the newly renovated theater in Chicago, with 8K resolution, distributed over NINETEEN video projectors. Each requiring automated alignment, registration and color balance. The projectors also have an insane contrast ratio so that the stars are bright and the black in between is black (not was
      • The new video projector makes it easy to project arbitary images on to the screen. This breaks the planetarium metaphor and makes the experience less immersive. Immersion was an important part of the experience planetarium experience for me. The only presentation I went to in the new planetarium included a normal video for about 50% of the show. That video could have been shown on a normal flat screen.

  • by recharged95 (782975) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @05:02PM (#38822273) Journal

    Gesture input that is....

    Put a sheet of pepper's ghost horizontally and some cool things can come out of a large space like that.

  • by pz (113803) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @05:09PM (#38822347) Journal

    The Hayden Planetarium mentioned in the article (which is in New York) is different than the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Science in Boston. They are, however, named for the same benefactor.

    • Hah, I live near Boston and got very excited when I read the headline...then got unexcited when I realized it was the 'other' one. Wonder if they could pull this off at the Mugar Omni Theater though...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Obligatory South Park reference. Somebody was going to do it...

  • ...I've always wanted to interact with the credits of "3rd Rock From the Sun".
  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @05:25PM (#38822537)

    Will it be utilizing the cloud?

    'Cause that's important, you know?

  • I think that Ms. Panettiere would make an OUTSTANDING controller [gearfuse.com] for the Hayden Planetarium.
  • Sounds like a giant version of Artemis http://www.artemis.eochu.com/ [eochu.com] with all the fun parts taken out.

  • That dude is everywhere!

  • ...but then i took an arrow to the knee
  • ... I'ld play her [google.com] all day and night.

    Probably wouldn't be nearly as educational though.

  • The last sequence in the video looked like traveling through a wormhole, like the special effects on Stargate SG1 or Dr. Who.

  • Richmond Science Museum, on the E&S DigiStar projector - we could play a space-war variant on the dome. No color, of course, but the resolution was pretty good if my memory serves me right. Plus the dials of the control panel were just about perfect for controls.

  • They should have gotten this thing to play the most killer implementation of Tempest in the galaxy.
  • Watch out guys, we're dealing with a badass over here!
  • How much cpu power does each PC have? Dual or more video cards in crossfire or SLI? How each PC linked to each other GIG-E? faster?

    What kind FPS do you get on that?

  • Mapping a Dome (Score:4, Informative)

    by malkuth23 (451489) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @02:10AM (#38825845) Homepage

    There are 2 ways that modern projector based planetariums work. The easy way is with one projector and a fish eye lens. The lenses tend to run about 100k and the single projector will have to be very bright because of how spread out it will be. The hard (but arguably better) way is by mapping multiple projectors together. This will allow for a much brighter image because the brightest projectors available today are about 40k lumens. 8 20k projectors are obviously much brighter.

    It takes quite a bit of work to map a dome like this. I spent close to 48 hours straight mapping a 90' dome for a party for Putin and I am considered very fast in the industry. Basically you project a grid and twist the points till the line up correctly allowing for about 20% overlap of the projections. You can use a modeler like Gmax or custom warping programs that most professional media servers have these days... We use Coolux - Pandoras Box.

    Ideally all the warping was already done for these guys and all they had to do was plug their system into a live input card (capture card) and route their systems through the media servers at the planetarium. More likely they had to re-map it. They did an ok job, but you can definitely see distortion as the image moves between projectors. The bigger problem they are having is with sync. This is always a really difficult issue between multiple systems and one of the main reasons to use a quality media server. You can clearly see the computers are wildly out of sync at the end of the video. Even 1-2 frames of sync loss will be clearly evident in a projector blend.

    Either way, the project is really cool. If anyone is interested there is a free open source media server out there capable of mapping domes and other 3d objects called vvvv (although it is a bitch compared to the commercial solutions). Pure Data is also worth looking at. It is an open source alternative to Max Msp which does related interactive video things.

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