Sep 6, 2009

Interactive Memorabilia at the Hard Rock Cafe: Microsoft's Multi-touch Rock Wall, Companion Surface Installations, and Awesome Touch-Responsive Interactive Memorabilia Website.

UPDATE: Video of Hard Rock Cafe's Memorabilia Multi-touch Wall

I came across the updated Hard Rock Cafe website and found that it provides an awesome interactive experience!  Visitors can explore the extensive Memorabilia collection in detail. This site is almost ready for inclusion in my UX/Interactive Hall of Fame!

According an article posted on the Hospitality Technology website, ""Tech, Love, and Rock 'n' Roll,  the website was built using Silverlight, and is part of an initiative to expand the reach of the Hard Rock Cafe's extensive memorabilia collection.

"It all started last year with what we call 'Memo 2.0,'" [for memorabilia 2.0] and the rollout of Microsoft's new Silverlight ( technology, explains Joe Tenczar, senior director of technology and CIO for Hard Rock International. Silverlight is a web application framework, similar in scope to Adobe flash, that lets companies build custom apps. Hard Rock partnered with its brand agency Duncan/Channon ( and software developer Vertigo ( to create a custom Silverlight application for"

Below is a video of the website when it was still under development, unveiled during a MIX08 keynote:

The website is a companion project that is part of a bigger vision that includes an 18-foot interactive multi-touch wall that mirrors the Memorabilia website.  The article goes on to mention that the "Rock Wall can be used by one person to blow up a piece of memorabilia as large as the screen, or optimized for six different user experiences at one time, though the technology has been tested for responsiveness to hundreds of simultaneous touches. "Imagine seeing Bob Dylan's Harley at more than life size; big impact," says Tenczar....Rock Wall uses a single piece of Stewart projection glass, custom-made at the factory for Hard Rock, along with three Christie projectors, numerous lasers, and multiple IR cameras to create a unified projection and touch experience. "The graphics are driven by a Nvidia Quadro Plex and there are two other dedicated servers for localized content and physics. I have seen a lot of cool technology, but this still makes my jaw drop whenever I see it in person." And the technology is smart. "If I walk up to the screen, it will blow up where I am."
According to information from the Hard Rock Cafe's press release, the interactive wall was created by Obscura Digital, a company located in San Francisco, along with Technomedia Systems was also involved in this project.  Here's a quote from the press release:

"We were excited to work with Hard Rock on this revolutionary project," said Obscura Digital CEO Patrick Connolly. "This is the longest, largest and most technologically sophisticated multi-touch wall we’ve built. It utilizes our newest Fireframe technology, and the result is the highest resolution, seamless multi-touch display we have ever seen. We are delivering a 6000 x 1000 pixel display, so that multiple users at a time can enjoy the vast Hard Rock Memorabilia collection in stunningly high resolution. With this display, customers can literally zoom so deep into the images, that things like a scratch on Buddy Holly's glasses can be seen 3 feet wide. The graphic quality of this system is something the public has never seen, and the impact on the customers is something they will not soon forget." 
Hard Rock Cafe Multi-Touch
In addition to the website and Rock Wall, booths at the Hard Rock Cafe provide customers with access to music videos from a video distribution server, or VDS, created by Coleman Technologies.  Each booth's touch screen display terminal has its own computer, and this allows guest control over the music videos that are played at the cafe.  Content from the memorabilia system can be explored by customers right from the booth, from what I understand.

Microsoft's Surface tables were installed in the cafe, running a custom application created by Vertigo. that allows customers to interact with a spinning globe to locate and explore other Hard Rock Cafe's around the world.

Memorabilia Website UX:

Unfortunately, I am not in Las Vegas, so I haven't had a chance to interact with the Hard Rock Cafe's Rock Wall or any of the Microsoft Surface installations, which are the centerpiece of this project.

Not to worry. The companion Hard Rock Cafe Memorabilia website, experienced from the comfort of my home on an HP TouchSmart PC, provides a great user experience, even thought it is not fully optimized for touch navigation.

One of the things that I like about the site is that it uses Microsoft's Deep Zoom feature. When you zoom in, you can explore each photo without sacrificing resolution, and explore everything in minute detail.

If you want to try your hand at touch navigation, you will be pleasantly surprised, even though you will have to rely on your mouse at times. To zoom in, tap the initial presentation screen, and use your fingertips to pan around. What you touch and release won't go flying about the screen, which is a good thing.

If you lightly tap an item of interest, you will get a translucent information box on the right side of the screen. The information box might include video clip of an interview with a musician, a story, and a means to share the experience through embedding a widget on your website or blog, posting a link, or emailing a link.

After poking around the site using Firefox, I switched to Internet Explorer, turned the zoom setting to 125%, and had no difficulty using my right index finger to navigate through the information box. (It was more difficult to do this using Firefox.)

The directions for traditional navigation are simple:

"Turn on, zoom in, zoom out. Use your mouse wheel to zoom in and out. You can also zoom in by clicking and zoom out by shift-clicking. To pan, click and drag."

Featured artists on the Memorabilia site include The Who, The Beatles, James Brown, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Guns N'Roses, Buddy Holly, Madonna, Motley Crue, Elvis Presley, Queen, and The Rolling Stones. You can sort the main presentation page by artist or year, and explore the collection by artist, type of item, genre of music, decade, and location.

This website provides an interactive, user-friendly means of exploring the history of rock music. (It would be cool if the site offered some form of interactive sound track.)

I'm impressed.

I embedded the widgets below from the Memorabilia site. I wasn't sure exactly what might turn up. The interactive widgets, created with Silverlight, went beyond my expectations.  You can explore the content right from this post, if you have Silverlight installed:

I shot some HD video of my touch interaction of the website and will post the videos as soon as I can. For now, take a look at some of the screen shots:

Main portal:

Eric Clapton's Guitar and Backstory:

Screen shot of memorabilia sorted by type - instruments:

Zooming in:

Screenshot of Gibby Hayne's art:

Detail of one of Madonna's decorative costumes:

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