“Its much more than a toque, it has ear flaps!”

Friday morning kicked off around 8am when myself and Kaleena (or as ROM security referred to her, “friend of Jeff”) headed to the Clarkson Go Station. We were planning to catch the 8:38 train and meet up with the class whom mostly got onboard at the previous stop. However, we arrived early and got on the 8:30 super-fast-express to union train, which made us super-early at Union station, where we stood around in the subway station for about 20 minutes. We were afraid that somehow we missed the group, so we got aboard the subway and rushed to the Royal Ontario Museum.

Of course, it turns out we didn’t miss them, and once again were super-early. So we waited with some of the class, until the big group all arrived.

We were lead into the ROM Digital Gallery by Brian Porter, the sr. Director of New Media. He oversees everything from catalog publishing to 2D/3D imaging. The digital gallery is a classroom-sized room with touch screen kiosks at every desk and a giant projector unit at the front. The idea is that for a premium fee, class trips to the ROM can include a multimedia experience. Currently they have two programs: Ancient Egypt & Canadian Heritage, but they plan to add more over time. The kiosks allow visitors to get a “virtual hands on experience” by manipulation 3D representations of Museum artifacts that users would never be allowed to touch in real life. Meanwhile, a video experience plays on the projector, developed in Final Cut Pro and Watchout.

The ROM is also working with the Virtual Museum of Canada to allow groups from far away destinations who cannot afford or make it to the ROM to connect to the Digital Gallery. Over the internet, groups can watch and experience the presentations and virtual kiosks.

Part of Brian’s job is to find funding for all of these projecs, as the Royal Ontario Museum is a non-profit group. Due to this, alot of the new media utilized by the ROM are proven technologies such as touch-screens. While not quite the coolest and advanced touch screens ever, they get the job done. Apparently they are nothing more than a touch screen laptop running Internet Explorer Web plugins. Somewhere down the line, they intend to expand by utilizing broadcast media of current events to allow speakers to link Museum exhibits with stories ripped from the headlines. I find this goal exciting, because it is the convergence of new media, current events, and museum history.

Brian then told us about their newest goal: to digitally archive all 6 million specimens in the ROM. This includes 3D photographing every article, and linking it to their database of information. They plan to eventually put all these high resolution photographs online. Their business model is to allow licensing of these photographs and videos, similar to a Stock Photography company.

A brief tour was involved, where we witnessed a ROM touch screen from Gesturetek, and a practical application of touch screen kiosks at the Dinosaur exhibit. The kiosks appeared to be built in flash, and worked similarly to youtube. We were then given some time to “view the kiosks” ie look at the Dinosaurs.

When the tour was over, we were given some time for lunch. Originally, we were to disperse to find somewhere to eat, and then meet up across the street to visit Steve Mann at U of T. Turns out, it was a good half-hour walk through downtown Slush and Snow. Luckily, Heather had brought along a GPS device. Barbara and Dwight chose to drive. They were smarter than us.

When we arrived, we discovered there was a Subway station just down the street. It would have been a 2 minute hop on the train. Oh well, it was good to get some air.

We were hoping to get some insight on Steve’s cyborgism, however it appears that for the most part he is no longer as interested in it. He wishes to “return to the womb” and visit more primordial concepts such as water and the inner child. Thus, he created Nesse. Nesse is what he calls his hydraulophone, which is a flute-like instrument that blows water out of a pump instead of air through your lungs. It is played like a piano. Currently the largest one is outside of the Ontario Science Centre. One thing I found interesting was his creation of a new form of MIDI, to allow hydraulophones to communicate to one another. He cited the example of having a water fight between two people over the internet; where you would push down on one key and water would shoot out of the same key on the other side of the planet. That blows my mind.

Dwight then drove Heather, Kaleena and I to union station, after a quick visit to the comic book store so Heather could stock up on some new toys for her collection. We then heard about the Sheridan lockdown, and were relieved that Dan the Man had “rescued” us due to his well planned field trip that day. Eventually we met up with Dan the Man and headed home on the busy Go Train, where Kaleena bumped into the father of some children that she baby-sits for. Small talk ensued.

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