Powerhouse Museum, New South Wales
The Powerhouse Museum has had on exhibit over the last year a multimedia database on Australian Industrial Innovations. This database is presently being expanded to a CD-ROM based application with both instructional and reference capabilities. This application is designed to complement the teaching of the Design and Technology syllabi for secondary schools in NSW. This application will provide the student with case studies of specific innovations. It will also facilitate an appreciation of the 'cycle of innovation' by way of a computer game incorporated into the application. Interactive instruction will assist the student in identifying specific aspects of the innovation. Students and instructors can also use the database aspects of the application to find information or to learn by browsing.
The project involves a large scale cross platform development effort. To gain the widest distribution, the CD-ROM will be produced in two versions: a Macintosh Version developed by the Powerhouse Museum and a PC DOS version developed by University of Technology, Sydney. The Mac version uses off the shelf development tools, while the PC version additionally uses a model based video player, SDDV, developed in house at UTS to provide video playback. The application is structured such that navigation is assisted by real life metaphors to select areas of interest.
The application is designed to complement the teaching of the Design and Technology syllabi for secondary schools in NSW. It will also support a more general statement of national guidelines in technology education in all Australian schools. These syllabi specify that students will undertake several design projects to develop skills in designing, making, evaluating, communicating, marketing and managing technology.
The new CD-ROM will have details on research, design, manufacturing and marketing of over 400 significant Australian industrial innovations. They will be presented using a combination of text, sound, images and video. Additionally over 80 case studies are provided giving detailed analyses of key processes that are central to an innovation.
This hypermedia application is being developed to run on both Apple Macintosh and PC platforms to maximise the penetration into potential user markets. The Powerhouse Museum is developing the Macintosh based version, while the University of Technology, Sydney is developing the application for PC compatibles. The Mac version uses off the shelf development tools including HyperCard for the database front end, Photoshop and QuickTime to show video segments. The DOS based version also uses off the shelf development tools such as Linkway Live, Photostyler and CorelDraw. For video presentation in the DOS based version we are using a model based video coding scheme developed in house at UTS.
At the highest level the application consists of 3 modules:
Innovation cycle: This section contains detailed accounts of selected 'case studies' that illustrate the industrial innovation process. They will be shown using text, graphics, animation, audio, and video. These case studies provide a basis for understanding the six kinds of skills; designing, making, evaluating, communicating, marketing, and managing, listed in the NSW Design and Technology (D&T) Syllabus.
Issues of innovation: This section contains an investigation of issues involved in the development and applications of innovations such as social and environmental impact, ownership, and standards. It will also demonstrate how issues cited in the Prescribed Dimensions of the NSW D&T Syllabus have been addressed by others through selected case studies.
Resources: Case studies in this section highlight essential resources such as materials, skills, and finance required for successful innovation.
Communicating ideas: examples of the various methods of graphical and three dimensional representation of ideas, products, and processes are illustrated in this section.
The PC platform version will incorporate a Software Decodable Digital Video (SDDV) (Ginige & Gonzalez, 1993) scheme developed in house by the Multimedia Systems group at UTS's School of Electrical Engineering. The concept behind the player is that all the hard work should be performed by the compressor, ie, the compiler. This allows the decoding, or execution to be simple and quick. A similar principle is used in RISC based computer architectures.
SDDV utilises a model based compression scheme that involves turning video into graphic animation. Existing software only players are generally low definition, have low frame rates, and have inadequate compression. Other schemes have fixed colour maps which mean that the image scene is not allowed to change. This results in images that are low quality and require a lot of storage for relatively short video segments. SDDV can obtain better than 40 to 1 compression ratios with frame rates at 100 frames per second on a 486 based IBM using 256 colours on a standard VGA card. No additional hardware is required. This system has now been ported to Windows and QuickTime on the Apple Macintosh. This codec allows considerably higher compression rate while remaining nearly lossless when compared to JPEG and MPEG schemes.
On the PC platform, the authoring system used for the front end (user interface) is Linkway Live 1.0 produced by IBM for its Ultimedia platform of products. It is a DOS based hypermedia system similar to HyperCard complete with a scripting language similar to HyperTalk. Linkway Live has general multimedia support such as text boxes, sound, animation, and a host of video features. It is also possible to build custom features by incorporating C code in its script language. One of the most useful features is the hypermedia support making it possible to link different screens in any order. Its navigational tools include an array of geometric shapes such as boxes, rectangles, and arrows. It is also possible to create custom buttons as the look and feel of the application require.
There were two main factors which made Linkway Live applicable to this project: its hyperlinking facilities and its speed of operation under DOS. Linkway Live offers to a 386 PC the type of multimedia and database support that a windows authoring package offer to a 486 PC. This makes Linkway Live ideal for the type of PC hardware that are installed in secondary schools.
One limitation of Linkway Live 1.0 is that it offers 256 colours in 640 by 480 resolution only with its XGA card. With other cards it only offers 16 colours at 640 by 480 pixel resolution. It can have 256 colours at lower resolutions (360 by 480) but this presents problems in matching cross platform screen characteristics. To overcome this problem we had to use an external routine to display graphics in the 640 by 480 resolution in 256 colours.
On the Mac platform the database front end is being developed using HyperCard. In the original kiosk installation SuperCard was used for this purpose. Due to system overheads in SuperCard it was felt that the data acquisition requirements for a CD-ROM might compromise the response time required for interactivity. Off the shelf applications are used for the graphics, as are similar applications used in the PC version. QuickTime is used for the playback of digitised video in 256 colours. The frame rate is presently around twenty frames per second, but as the colour depth is presently greater that 256 it is hoped that a trade off can be met to boost the playback rate.
The choice of the various development tools, and in particular the authoring systems required a careful survey of requirements of the application versus tools available. This application contains three main modules. The first module is a highly interactive game designed to engage the user. The 'Case Study' module contains specific interactive instructional sequences. The third module; the museum catalogue is a flat file database with a capability to allow information exploration by way of hypermedia links. Such requirements make most cross platform development environments, eg, Authorware or Director inadequate in one or more of the capabilities. Hence the choice of Linkway Live and HyperCard was made due to their ability to address all of the above requirements. As well both authoring systems are inexpensive, and do not require a run time license.
The curatorial efforts in the application are considerable. Source material has to be researched, and copyright obtained for all photos, video, etc. Furthermore, about half of the material requires copyright release from not only the owner or proprietor of the innovation, but also from the photographer who did the promotional work from which the source material was obtained. Additionally, much of the source material came from a wide ranging scope, ie., many innovations had arts and craft, textile, home and family oriented subject matter. This was to fulfil part of the curriculum mandate to provide an overall gender neutral "flavour" to the application.
Testing of the system is in the nature of validation testing on a functional level, with integration testing being performed at the completion of modules. Such testing is being carried out by the development staff and in particular by UTS as their expertise in software validation and testing will facilitate the optimisation of system performance. Evaluation of the application will be performed by the testing of the prototype by school students, while on display at the Powerhouse Museum.
UTS has a very large base of diverse expertise from content experts in the humanities, to information technology specialists, graphic designers, instructional designers, and specialists in computer systems. Research activities that are undertaken at UTS in these fields can provide solutions to technical or logistic problems that might otherwise be compromised in the final production. For example, Computer Systems Engineering at UTS has developed through research efforts unique capabilities in the delivery of full motion video that was used for this CD-ROM. Additionally the Faculty of Design has recently participated in an international consortium project to develop user centred graphical user interface (GUI) design methods and standards to enhance human-computer interaction (HCI).
The collaborative effort between the Museum and UTS has provided several advantages for the production of this application. The combining of the curatorial resources and audiovisual production facilities of the museum with the technical expertise of the university has allowed for more rapid development than either institution could accomplish alone. Additionally the separate organisations provide expertise in the different platforms, thus making the development of a cross platform application more straightforward than could be done by either institution separately. It is hoped that this effort will establish what will be an on going facility to utilise the strengths of diverse expertise in different organisations to provide efficient solutions for the production of multimedia instructional courseware.
Renew, R. (1992). Making it. Sydney: Powerhouse Museum.
Ginige, A. & Gonzalez, R. (1993). Software decodable video coding scheme. Images and Vision Computing. New Zealand, IVCNZ 93, Auckland.
|Authors: Athula Ginige, Phil Gorbett and Robert Renew, School of Electrical Engineering, University of Technology Sydney, PO Box 123, Broadway NSW 2007. Tel: 02 330 1990 Fax: 02 330 2435
Please cite as: Ginige, A., Gorbett, P. and Renew, R. (1994). Ideas to innovations: Aspects of a cross platform hypermedia project. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Second International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 159-163. Perth, Western Australia, 23-28 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1994/dg/ginige.html