Transportable Digital Dome

SUMMARY: This design science solution offers an innovative method for projecting data on a half-sphere (full-dome) Geoscope. The intent is to realize the Geoscope vision of R. Buckminster Fuller as stated in his book Critical Path, “With the Geoscope humanity would be able to recognize formerly invisible patterns and thereby to forecast and plan in vastly greater magnitude than heretofore.” Fuller correctly anticipated trends in science supporting the need to visualize complex information for the resolution of critical globe spanning issues. However, Fuller’s Geoscope design for a suspended, computer-controlled, globe for large audiences remains mostly unfulfilled.

PROBLEM SPACE: Recent technology advancements include virtual globes (for example Google Earth) and digital dome projection systems. There are more than 250 digital dome planetariums in the US alone. Their inside-out viewing capabilities are inspiring. Complete digital dome systems cost a fraction of what Fuller estimated for a large-scale Geoscope in 1962. However, an outside-in viewable, suspended Geoscope awaits a first-time practical implementation in the solution presented here.

Proven and low-cost components required to implement a Geoscope on the scale of a high-school basketball court are now available. An integrated display using nine LCD screens controlled by a single powerful desktop computer is operating at the Intel Rio Grande Innovation Centre, where I am Director. Similar computer hardware can be adapted to create a small scale Geoscope.

SOLUTION: In my solution a Geoscope is implemented in accordance with holistic systems thinking using a full-dome projection system mounted on a fully-transportable, light-weight self-deploying frame. Small, powerful projectors are arranged symmetrically around the outside of a translucent dome to enable a high-resolution, dynamic display of complex, Earth spanning, data sets.

Attached images show the Geoscope deployed on an indoor high-school basketball court. A large audience is capable of viewing hemispherical projections of the Earth nearly unobstructed. Because projectors are outside of the dome projecting inward, the interior of the dome is completely unobstructed for a small number of occupants to participate in a 360-degree immersive experience.

Complimenting the holistic systems approach, a novel spherical metaphor for multi-dimensional data visualization on the Geoscope shall be developed using PROCESSING open source programming language ( A spherical metaphor, or to coin a term “Spheriphor,” addresses the need for displaying data that is not necessarily geo-referenced.

Visualizing geo-referenced data overlaid on virtual Earth globes has enormous benefit. However, the Spheriphor software application running on the Geoscope offers an additional opportunity to visualize high-density, multi-dimensional data with non-GIS metaphors.

A 3D animation on YouTube demonstrates the solution (see The animation and attached images illustrate the meta-physical Spheriphor design implemented on a physical Geoscope thus creating a cognitively empowering environment. In this way, a full-dome, outside-in, projection system enhances humans’ ability to interface with multi-dimensional data sets.

The Spheriphor improves upon spreadsheet charts that use mostly rectangular, flat display formats. The Geoscope alleviates inside-the-box, constrained thinking using a Cartesian framework to visualize data. The Spheriphor opens a door to a new world of rich visual metaphors based on spherical geodesic geometry and a Whole Systems Framework.

The Spheriphor application empowers the Design Science Revolution and the Design Science Planning Process by making visible heretofore non-visible patterns of rapidly advancing technology in multi-person, collaborative and educational environments.

The Spheriphor uses spherical coordinates to visualize multi-dimensional BFI Project Library data on the Geoscope. Phi φ (zenith angle or latitude) represents the Design Science Planning phase. The Define Problem phase is close to zenith and the Develop Artifacts phase is close to the horizon. Theta θ (azimuth angle or longitude) represents the macro-to-micro scale of the design artifact.

Anticipating the recent trend in digital projection and computer-controlled, servo technology, a design solution for a fully-transportable, self-deploying, outside-in viewable, digital dome for large audiences is now obtainable with commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components. The plan is to implement a system configuration of COTS components wherever possible to reduce cost, enable easy replication and encourage broad adoption.

The solution uses multiple high-resolution, compact, high-intensity projectors controlled by a desktop computer. Combined image resolution with current off-the-shelf technology is approximately 8-10 megapixels.

The plan uses low-cost COTS computer-controlled servos. A fully-articulated framework of light weight aluminum extrusion has hinged and sliding joints that are manipulated using these servos. The servos enable the framework to assume a variety of geometries.

One configuration arranges the projectors symmetrically around the exterior of a translucent dome suspended at the volumetric center of the framework. The dome, approximately 3.4 meters in diameter, is hung from the same framework.

Another configuration positions the projectors at a uniform height pointing downward onto a large Fuller Dymaxion map. In this way, the Geoscope adds value to the BFI Design Science Lab which already uses such a map in its educational program. The large Dymaxion map will gain an interactive, dynamic data set projected onto its surface.

The entire framework when deployed to support full-dome projection is 10.6 meters in diameter. A wheeled base enables the framework to roll and self-deploy on a smooth floor. In the folded state it encompasses a small volume which is easily shipped.

Sliding joints provide a method of adjusting the dome height. Adjustment of the dome height accommodates a variety of different venues; from an intimate, fully-immersive venue with viewers situated beneath the dome, to venues with large audiences viewing the dome from the outside.

Framework geometry locates projectors omni-symmetrically at a carefully calculated minimum radial distance from the dome surface. This geometry optimizes projection characteristics for a dome of this size.

Projection areas based on geodesic spherical polyhedron offer several benefits including simplified UV mapping, minimal projection area overlap feathering, and optimized pixel resolution.

Financing And Economic Viability

I am Director of the Intel Innovation Centre in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The objective of the centre is to encourage and support the introduction of leading-edge solutions and usage models. The centre is expected to reach out to the community and 50% of all projects are ideally in collaboration with external entities. I have also built a visualization lab whose mission aligns perfectly with this project.

Matching funds are possible from various Intel R&D sources. An Intel colleague, Luciano Oviedo is currently exploring funding options with Intel Capital and the University of New Mexico Science & Technology Corporation.

Intel Information Technology employees are encouraged to volunteer time and talent to implement out-of-the-box thinking and solutions through a Risk Taking and Innovation (RTI) program. Funds are available to employees supporting their RTI initiatives. RTI program participants may volunteer to help with design, development and implementation of this solution.

Hardware and software design shall be completely open source thereby facilitating critical assessment and rigorous testing by subject matter experts, and will further long-term evolution and viability of the design.

Strategic Partners

Eric Whitmore, Program Coordinator, University of New Mexico, Art Research Technology Science (ARTS) Laboratory. New media strategic development leader. Nominated by the New Mexico Information Technology and Software Association (NMITSA) as a 2007 IT Excellence Award Finalist. ARTS Lab owns an experimental 15 foot diameter Sky Skan digital dome Tim Castillo, Assistant Professor, University of New Mexico, College of Architecture and Planning. Won the Association of Collegiate Schools of
Architecture (ACSA) 2006-2007 New Faculty Teaching Award. UNM College of Architecture is a resource to hire students with access to a CNC milling machine and Laser Cutter for rapid prototyping.
Luciano Oviedo, CIP, Program Manager, Intel Corporation. Founder of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs New Mexico chapter. Partnering with to train entrepreneurs on taking an idea to venture with a structured methodical process.