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Java Information Kiosks

Healthcare & Life Sciences


Visitor Information Kiosks at the State Hermitage Museum – a synthesis of art and technology

The State Hermitage Museum, one of the world's most famous museums, contains nearly three million objects, including art works by Leonardo da Vinci, Monet, Rembrandt and many other famous artists. The Hermitage now includes Visitor Information Kiosks at the entrances to the Museum and at other locations, providing visitors with dynamic multimedia navigational tools and information on the collections. The kiosks are in both English and Russian and include six pre-selected tours, special exhibition and event information, Museum highlights and news, and the option for visitors to map and print out their own tours to particular art objects, collections, or halls.

The kiosks, PCs equipped with touchscreen monitors, were installed in June to the delight of visitors. The kiosks are part of a project launched by IBM's Corporate Community Relations with the State Hermitage Museum in June 1997. The technology that makes these marvelous kiosks possible is known as JAKI (JAva KIosk). JAKI is a unique Java development tool created at the IBM Haifa Research Labs; it is being used to build sophisticated information kiosks and has far-reaching potential in Customer Access Applications.

Click to see full size image 
Click to see full size image

Screenshot from the Hermitage Museum's Visitor Information Kiosk

Noga Meshulam, a researcher key to the project at IBM Haifa reflects, "The greatest challenge in this project was to combine the great beauty of the art displayed in the Hermitage Museum exhibition with a modern technological information kiosk." The result is an elegant synthesis of art and technology.

To create high quality graphics from the Museum's fine works, IBM used Image Creation Studio, based on IBM Research's Pro/3000 Scanner with PCs and special image processing software. For flexible data-management, the KDEA (Kiosk Data Entry Application) provides the Museum kiosk administrator with an interface that makes it easy to update the kiosk's content so it reflects new exhibitions, lectures, tours or special events. The application can be used to relate specific images to text paragraphs, or link a single image to text in several languages.

One of the project's criteria was to develop a highly intuitive interface so that youngsters and adults could use the information kiosk at the outset of their very first interaction. The new users are excited by the fact that it is so easy to use. The wealth of information available from the kiosks has proven a great success. Users can plan their individual tours and receive suggested tours, see panoramic views of rooms and exhibitions, print out maps, view art collections, and more.

Gil Shapir, responsible for the Hermitage project says "We used existing JAKI objects as building blocks for the Hermitage Kiosk. Using JAKI objects gave us the advantage of an attractive, unified and user friendly 'look and feel', with minimal development efforts".

Information at your fingertips

A typical JAKI information kiosk features a rich multimedia interface supported by animated graphics, high quality images and high performance operation. Every public or private institution with large premises and large amounts of data in various formats (e.g., graphics, text, audio, video, panoramic views, etc.) can use JAKI to provide visitors, employees, students, or tourists with comprehensive access to all the services and information available at the site. The range of information that can be displayed is limited only by the kiosk developer's imagination!

Simona Cohen, the JAKI Project Leader in Haifa notes "Our main goal was to build a Java-based framework for creating kiosk applications that are faster, better, and less expensive. The framework includes the key features of any successful kiosk and is flexible enough for future extension."

Kiosks built using JAKI are highly intuitive, providing easy access to useful information such as building layout, pictures, textual information, or advertisements. The kiosk is a powerful tool that can provide dynamic digital information after just few touches to the screen. You don't need a mouse or computer skills to access information. Touch-screen technology makes the kiosks easy to use—all you have to do is touch the graphic icons on the screen, and your information is on the way. The kiosk can even be set up to provide information, animation, or advertisements when it is not in use.

Building a custom kiosk

The JAKI framework lets you create and maintain any type of kiosk with minimal time and effort. Once you have designed and built the basic kiosk frames, it's easy to add more detailed information, change the backgrounds and buttons, or alter the look of other design elements. Advanced event handling, screen flow control, screen layout templates, a library of GUI widgets, and easy to follow examples, provide faster development of better applications.

With JAKI, updating the kiosk database is almost effortless. New information or changes can be added immediately. An added advantage of using Java is cross-platform compatibility; JAKI runs on Unix, AIX, Windows, Linux, and OS2.

Other successful projects

In conjunction with Bezeq, Israel's largest telecommunications company, JAKI technology was used to successfully implement an experimental smart payphone that was introduced to the public at the "Internet World" convention in June 1998. The payphone's multimedia interface is capable of several functions on top of regular calls, such as fax, video-conferencing, and web surfing. Users pay for these services with a Smartcard. The telephones include touch-screen monitors that enable self-explanatory access to all the available services.

Simona Cohen with Bezeq Smart Public Phone

What next?

Multilingual support for French, Spanish, and German languages are now being added to the Hermitage visitor information kiosks. Negotiations are underway to enable visitors at museums around the world to see the Hermitage Museum's art collection and browse the Hermitage web site.

IBM Tel Aviv recently won the bid to provide extended computer services to the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv. They will be providing the Museum with computerized access to genealogy, music, historical information, and more. This project will include visitor information kiosks based on the JAKI technology.

Behind the scenes

JAKI was developed by the Solutions Technology group at the IBM Haifa Research Lab, managed by Haim Nelken. The Solutions Technology group focuses on providing customers with direct access to an organization's information and data via Kiosks, Internet, and Tier-0 devices.