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What’s 21 feet long, weighs nearly three tons and can accommodate 20 people at a time in Orlando, Florida? It’s not the teacup ride, it’s a massive Italian marble-clad touch table, custom-built by Ideum (Corrales, N.M.) in conjunction with an all-star team that included firms Gensler, IDEO and Second Story.
As told by Ideum’s Creative Director, Jim Spadaccini, and Exhibit Fabrication Manager, Chase Ankeny
Building a 21-foot multi-screen touch table with embedded electronics is a significant design and fabrication challenge. When the table is also covered with tens of thousands of dollars of beautiful white Italian marble, it really becomes something special. Last year, international design and consulting firm IDEO reached out to us at Ideum to bring to life a unique concept for one of its clients—a giant marble-clad touch table with three fully integrated 86-inch multitouch displays that could accommodate up to 20 users simultaneously.
Built for their corporate training center, the client wanted the table to serve as a social centerpiece inviting partners and staff to investigate and connect with the content and each other, without appearing as a conspicuous piece of technology placed into the space. The Ideum team worked with architect Gensler, IDEO and the end client to ensure that the table and its materials matched the interior design of the training center, while Second Story led the effort to create an engaging app for the table that could be personalized for the specific orientation of visitors.
The project called for stunning design with meticulous attention to detail in addition to full multitouch function, motion sensors and LED lighting—all in under six months’ time, which meant seven to 12 staff dedicated to the project’s fabrication and integration at any given time. While engineered stone was considered, a specific marble was chosen for its texture, color and feel. We work a lot with museum clients whose main concern is durability, not high-end or exotic materials so this was a bit of a departure and required working with a local partner, Rocky Mountain Stone, to understand natural stone’s unique properties and limitations—as well as have it cut and applied in enormous pattern-matched 2cm sheets. Neither us, nor the stone company had done anything quite like this.
The logistics of every step were something that had to be very carefully considered because of the enormous weight involved and the fragility of natural marble. IDEO supplied the design for the marble exterior construction; for us the next challenge lay in creating a structure that would provide both stability and accessibility to the hardware, lighting and computers inside. We built the structure in three pieces (one for each 86-inch display section) with an interior crawl space and openings on either side. Once the three sections are joined, an electronic switch with a key pops the latch on the door; to service the panels, you’d crawl in from one end.
The interior structure was cut out on the studio’s CNC, glued up, and then coated in fiberglass to provide additional strength for the heavy marble that would cover all sides of the table. It was fabricated in Ideum’s Corrales studio, where our team built a special platform to construct and test the table correcting the level of the studio floor and simulating the floor it would eventually rest on. Keeping everything level was critical, because the panels had to come together exactly, which led to another challenge: finding a hinge that would support doors weighing 300 pounds or more. The exact articulation couldn’t be found, so we designed it. These custom steel hinges had to be machined by a partner to allow each end of the table to bear the extreme weight of the interior access doors. Rigging points and feet were built in so that the pieces could be moved by forklift, or manually via straps.
In addition, our team built the three 86-inch Inline multitouch displays specifically designed to be embedded into furniture, requiring special coordination with partners and suppliers. These multitouch displays use a custom frame and have LG commercial panels and Zytronic touch technology. (This display is also the heart of Ideum’s standard Colossus touch tables.)
Ideum also designed and implemented a sensor array around the kick (or base) of the table. The array utilizes 88 sensors and nearly 1,000 LED lights. As visitors approach it, the lights intensify to acknowledge a presence. We worked closely with Second Story and developed the software for the sensor and LED system, an API and diagnostic tools, allowing it to be more easily integrated into the touch table software.
Upon final assembly with the stone and screens in place, the table weighed in at 5,500lbs—nearly three tons! This project was a tremendous challenge; it isn’t every day you are asked to build a table so large that it has its own crawl space, and so heavy that each section must be moved with a forklift.
At the same time, the project was extraordinarily rewarding as our team worked with great partners new and existing, and pushed our design, fabrication and technological skills to new levels. We are very proud to have such a diverse and skilled team of designers, engineers, fabricators, and developers to tackle such complex projects—and we look forward to the next one!
Project Name: Community Touch Table
Location: Orlando, FL
Open Date: November 2019
Project Budget: $300,000
Interactive Experience Design: IDEO, Gensler, Second Story, Ideum
Digital Integration: Ideum, Second Story
Fabrication: Ideum, Rocky Mountain Stone