Screens, exhibit put world within reach

Updated 11/5/2007 8:41 AM

Just lift your finger close to the life-size digital screen. Even before it touches, the map senses what you want to see.

That's what people will find when they attend the new "Maps: Finding Our Place in the World" exhibit at Chicago's Field Museum. It opened Friday and runs through Jan. 27 before heading to Baltimore.


The digital screens near the end of the exhibit were made by Itasca-based NEC Display Solutions of America, which makes plasma displays, LCD desktops, commercial large-screen LCDs and projectors.

"These screens allow you to move close to the display and it senses your hand," said NEC spokesman Tim Dryer. "It gives you a unique look at the world."

The six large-screen NEC displays have been loaned to the exhibit and are valued at about $35,000. They are 46-inch MultiSync LCD4620 flat-panel displays.

The screens allow multiple people to simultaneously explore different areas of the world. They go from the world to continent to region and even to street level.

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Three PCs help run the images so everything works in concert. That software was custom made. NEC worked with Accenture to develop the touch overlays.

The exhibit offers more than 130 maps from around the world and through the centuries, including those from ancient Rome and Babylon, cartographers Leonardo da Vinci and Mercator. Some also are from the Vatican Library and the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle.

Other highlights include mobile device applications that help users access real estate information, track fitness performance and share tourist locations.

Other NEC screens can be found at the School at the Art Institute of Chicago; the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum; the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California; Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia; the National Museum of the Marine Corp in Virginia; and the Springs Preserve Museum in Las Vegas.

You can take a virtual visit of the Field Museum's exhibit at or at

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