New Mexico-based Ideum and UK-based Zytronic have teamed up on several successful displays previously. (Photo courtesy of Ideum)

Featured Project: Zytronic and Ideum Upgrade Exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum


Zytronic, UK-based maker of touch-sensitive screens for a variety of self-service, industrial and public-facing applications, has supplied an 84” diagonal touch sensor to the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution.

For the exhibit, Zytronic is partnersing with Corrales, New Mexico-based Ideum, which makes multi-touch tables and walls, interactive exhibits and custom hardware. The museum wanted Ideum to update one of the museum’s most heavily used exhibits—a touch-interactive table that enables visitors to design, customize and launch space station modules of their own creation.

In its previous form, the exhibit was projection-based, and the table was outdated and was becoming harder to maintain, according to the companies.

Ideum engineered an 84” touch table with a touch sensor built by Zytronic because it could be built to Ideum’s specifications. Also, say the companies, the sensor was able to deliver the multi-touch capabilities required to support simultaneous use by up to six visitors.

Zytronic was heavily involved in the design process, and was able to produce the single, 84” touch sensor without any of the upcharges that often accompany custom work from other touchscreen manufacturers, the company says. Its ZyBrid touch sensor was designed using 6mm-thick thermally toughened Anti-Glare etched glass, providing a combination of smooth ‘finger glide’ interactivity and impact resistance. The Ideum table was manufactured in powdercoated aluminium for additional durability.

Custom-designed software by Ideum allows users complete their space station modules, then virtually “launch” their module, displaying the final product at the center of the table. Users can then email a rendering of the final product to friends or family.

“The Smithsonian was looking for an update of this proven exhibit. We made some minor improvements to the interface and improved the software itself, but the biggest upgrade was to move the exhibit from a projection-based, optical touch table to a highly reliable, hardened and responsive touch table,” says Ideum’s founder, Jim Spadaccini. “We effectively rebuilt the entire exhibit from the ground-up to withstand the rigors of nearly constant use at what is one of the busiest museums in United States.”

This is the third recent touch-table deployed by Ideum in a Smithsonian museum. Similar tables are currently in use at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. and the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City. Zytronic sensors are being used in each of those installations.

The National Air and Space museum houses the world’s largest collection of aircraft and spacecraft and welcomes 6.7 million visitors annually, making it the fifth-most-visited museum in the world.

Got a news tip? Contact Tony Kindelspire