CityVerve Manchester immersive lab

When the government-backed CityVerve project needed to showcase the ways that smart technology will truly transform our daily lives, Visavvi was called upon to help deliver an immersive, interactive installation on a grand scale. Working in partnership with Cisco, we designed and installed a huge ‘immersive lab’ using NEC display technology to show off otherwise invisible smart connections. Our successful input was hailed as a ‘world-first’ and ‘trailblazing’.

Challenge

Manchester was chosen as the UK city to pilot CityVerve, an initiative designed to harness the Internet of Things (IoT) and create the smart city of the future. The idea was to show how this amazing technology will improve society in four key areas: healthcare, transport, energy and environment, and culture and community.

The city council joined forces with 21 organisations, including Manchester Science Partnerships and the University of Manchester. Powering the IoT concept was Cisco International, who turned to Visavvi to design and install a vast interactive ‘lab’ using NEC display technology. Rapidly approaching deadlines left us with just one week to complete the installation in the Bright Building at Manchester Science Park, the nerve centre for the region’s digital technology sector.

Unicol brackets

Solution

We stepped up to the plate and successfully delivered a vast 5x3 interactive NEC video wall of 55” screens ready to display live, real-time data and visualise live feeds from across the city – including virtual maps, traffic updates, bus and train locations and even information from the local bee wildlife project. Visitors were able to manipulate information on this immersive lab for an overview or dive deeper for more detailed data.

The Bright Building is a place where blue chip corporates sit alongside pioneering start-up enterprises. So the installation was designed to make a big impression. The video wall is now perfectly positioned to allow collaboration, enable innovative ideas to develop and to ensure valuable partnerships are formed. It is the perfect example of the way Visavvi drives such benefits for our clients by harnessing the power of the IoT.

The video wall is now a vast and impressive real-time visual interface in an immersive video conferencing space. The 15-screen wall is configured with 55” NEC MultiSync® X555UNS-PG displays featuring special vandal proof glass. The 2mm glass with anti-glare coating not only protects against damage, but also provides crisp and clear images from different viewing angles and distances. It also provides a smooth touch surface for users.

The solution includes:

  • An ultra-narrow bezel minimising image interruption (at just 3.7mm where frames join it is virtually invisible)
  • Content displayed without any interruption – one stunning image with synchronized content across the wall.
  • Brightness of 700cd/m2 to ensure high visibility
  • Consistently accurate image rendering with 10-bit colour performance at extreme viewing angles
5x3 interactive NEC video wall

ShadowSense

The interactive touch screen uses versatile ‘ShadowSense’ frames located around the screens to map users’ touch points. The touch system is simple to configure with no single huge glass overlay to handle. The modules are separate elements and scalable to achieve any size of interactive surface. Each can be swapped out independently for easy maintenance. This avoids the traditionally difficult servicing problem with touch-overlay where protective glass is built into one solid frame - which makes the whole system inoperable during maintenance.

ShadowSense frames

Bespoke surround

The screens are mounted on Unicol pop-out wall mounts and framed by a bespoke crafted wooden surround supplied by Visavvi. Exceptional sound reproduction is provided via an Extron DSP Matrix Processor and amplifier plus eight JBL Control pendant loudspeakers. The wall is driven by a TVone CORIOmaster system, fed from the CISCO cloud-based service.

To ensure user-friendly and intuitive operation, we designed a bespoke control system to centrally manage all elements of the video wall operation, controlling input of multiple sources and live feeds. To reduce unnecessary power use, the video wall is scheduled to power up and power down at the beginning and end of each day. The highly energy-efficient LED backlit displays ensure low power consumption. It is very much an installation designed with the future of the environment in mind.

Grand opening

Outcome

On opening night, the immersive lab was by far the most popular attraction as visitors experienced intuitive finger touch control, clicking on landmarks and location icons to access the information they really wanted to see.

Nick Chrissos, Head of Strategy and Innovation, Cisco UKI enthused: “This project could not have happened without Visavvi who were trailblazers willing to co-create with Cisco’s forward-looking engineers by using our technology to launch the first public installation of an immersive lab. Together, we created something new, an interactive wall that did not exist anywhere in the world - and now, from this experience, we can deploy this technology anywhere in the world.”

Ian Kennedy, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Chartered Engineer, Chartered IT Practitioner, member of the IET, BCS & IEEE, and BCS Certified IS Consultant added: “Visualisation is a critical success factor in the dissemination of complex ideas and developments. The impact of the immersive screens to highlight the ongoing smart city developments across Manchester cannot be overstated.”

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