About Ocean Today

Ocean Today at the Sant Ocean Hall

This Web site provides access to current and archived videos of the Ocean Today kiosk exhibit. Ocean Today was designed to be a highly dynamic, visitor-friendly experience at the Sant Ocean Hall in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. Opened in September 2008, the Sant Ocean Hall spans more than 26,000 square feet and is the most prominent hall in the museum.

As visitors enter the hall, they discover two Ocean Today kiosks located to their immediate right. Each kiosk is comprised of an independently operated 32-inch touch-screen display and, directly above it, a 42-inch echo monitor. This arrangement allows multiple groups to simultaneously interact with the content. Each kiosk also includes a specially designed sound system that envelops visitors and allows for a group experience.

At the time of its debut at the Sant Ocean Hall, Ocean Today launched simultaneously in five other museums and aquaria as part of the Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center network. Since then, the kiosk has continued to expand. Visit the 'Locations' section of this website to find out where these kiosks are located, and if one is near you.

Content

Ocean Today enhances museumgoers' understanding of the ocean realm through an enticing multi-media experience that illustrates both the ocean's influence on them and their influence upon the ocean. This enhanced understanding is called "ocean literacy." Through the kiosk and this website, NOAA and its partners provide timely and diverse content that complements current and fundamental topics in the Sant Ocean Hall. Through user testing and evaluation, we will ensure that Ocean Today remains user-friendly.

The kiosk's dynamic interface, comprised of ocean imagery, sounds, and video clips, invites visitors to explore several content areas. When a visitor touches the screen, the content areas are revealed to show the most recent information. The main content themes are Ocean News, Ocean Life, Science & Technology, and Discoveries (see below).

Ocean News
Provides access to the latest ocean information and weather around the United States. Visitors can view up-to-date (near real-time) imagery (e.g., sea surface temperatures, sea ice concentration, wave heights, wind direction, sustained wind speed).

Ocean Life
Features spectacular imagery and video of life beneath the ocean surface (e.g., Sounds from the Sea, Whale Rescue, Coral Forests of the Deep).

Science & Technology
Includes timely reports on recent ocean-related happenings in a video format (e.g., Taking the Ocean's Pulse, Predicting Harmful Algal Blooms, Protecting Coral Reefs).

Recent Discoveries
Contains somewhat longer multimedia stories produced with high-definition video (e.g., Mystery Mardi Gras Shipwreck, Sea Lion Sickness, Medicines from the Sea, Ocean Science Robots).

Bringing the Kiosk to Life

Stories for each of the content areas are developed and placed on a central server. Every morning, the Ocean Today kiosks receive automatic updates. Once the download is complete, the new content becomes available immediately to the kiosk. In case of communication problems, the kiosk continues to play all content available, whether or not there is an update.

Reaching Multiple Horizons

Although Ocean Today was developed specifically for the Sant Ocean Hall, the same content is being shared with other museums and aquaria across the United States and Mexico and provides an opportunity for relevant, contributor-based content. As part of the development of Smithsonian and NOAA developed an editorial review process to ensure accuracy and timeliness of the content. The technology for the Ocean Today kiosks, described below, is very flexible and can fit into any area that can house a computer and display.

Technology

The Ocean Today kiosks use enVision and enLighten, two software products developed by Content Interface Corporation of Toronto, Canada. Updates are made using Kiosk Manager developed by IBM®. A touch screen (which is optional) is used to provide visitor access to the content areas. Videos are produced in QuickTime™ and presented using Windows Media™ format for incorporation into the enVision software. Minimum hardware and operating system software requirements are nominal given today's standards. Recommended technical requirements for the kiosk are:

  • 2.6 Ghz or better CPU, running Windows 7 (32-bit only) or XP
  • 4 Gb of RAM
  • Graphics card with 512 Mbs of video memory
  • Display supporting 1280x720 pixel screen resolution at 32 bit depth (millions of colors)
  • Stereo sound card
  • Parallel or USB port
  • DSL or Cable Internet connection
Estimated cost for the computer hardware is $1,500. A touch-screen is optional, but highly recommended. A display size of 42" or larger is also recommended, but not required. Estimated cost for a 42" display with touch-screen capability is $1,800.

We are interested in expanding the Ocean Today network to additional appropriate locations. Please contact us to learn more about bringing a kiosk to your institution or venue.

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