ESA Visitor Center

Immersive insights into modern Earth observation

The European Space Research Institute (ESRIN) of the European Space Agency ESA is located south of Rome in Frascati, Italy. On behalf of Ars Electronica Solutions, Garamantis had the opportunity to participate in the realisation of a new world-class interactive visitor centre. Opened to the public in September 2018 with a festive opening ceremony on the occasion of ESRIN’s 50th anniversary, it offers an immersive insight into modern earth observation.

Three-dimensional globe with projection technology as a unique centerpiece

In several rooms, the exhibition presents different interactive areas on the topic of satellite-based Earth observation. The centrepiece of the exhibition is the “Half-Dome Globe”, a semi-spherical object with a diameter of almost 2 metres projecting into the room, onto which the image of an entire hemisphere with geospheric data is projected at 4 K. It shows selected details illustrating natural processes and their impact on the Earth. The demi-globe is controlled by means of a crystal ball designed by Ars Electronica Solutions and equipped with special touch-screen interfaces running around its circumference. Visitors can navigate either through the spheres or through time, depending on the themes they select and the direction in which they turn the globe.

A prototype of the Half-Dome Globe projection had previously been built and tested in Berlin, so the local implementation and roll-out of this unique installation was possible within a very short time.

Interactive control room with multitouch table and screen wall

In the “Control Room”, visitors are transported into the realm of satellites: from the planning process to launch and operation, all current ESA missions are shown on a multi-touch table and a number of connected presentation screens. A three-dimensional model of a satellite is used to illustrate technical details and new and innovative inventions, and even a complete satellite launch and satellite location in space can be simulated.

Designed in large part by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), which was also involved in the project, the News Room explains what kind of data ESA collects and how it can be used by scientists around the world. The room uses a haptic elevation model onto which data on temperature, tectonics, radiation, etc. are projected. Several touchscreens show clips from news footage of earthquakes, floods, melting glaciers and the like, along with the corresponding data sets.

Central exhibition control and content management

A special exhibition control system allows the presenter to activate the various installations and light and sound features at will, for example using a tablet PC. In addition, all data can be easily and flexibly managed using a web-based CMS.

Although Garamantis has worked with Ars Electronica on a number of projects for ESA over the past few years, this project was a particularly exciting challenge due to the size of the exhibition, the number of interactive installations and the number of people involved.


Ars Electronica Solutions

Project facts

  • client: Ars Electronica Solutions
  • Context: ESA Visitor Center
  • Implementation time: 6 months
  • Finishing date: September 2018
  • Projected “Half-Dome Globe”
  • Virtual control room with 3 networked installations
  • Exceptional interaction concept and its planning
ESA interactive visitor center with multitouch screens
ESA interactive visitor center with multitouch installations
Multitouch table with presentation screen shows 3D satellite data
ESA News Room with projected 3D elevation model
Multitouch table in the ESA interactive visitor center in Italy
Globe controllable via ball interface in ESA's interactive visitor center
interactive globe projection in 4K - corporate showroom ESA
Harald Moser

The ESA Φ Experience has been a top-level project we had the chance to put into collaborative action. Particularly important in this context was a mutual pre‑testing of all the target hardware’s applications in an interim review together with the client. For keeping the schedule, Garamantis’ input was of the utmost importance. During the on-site implementation, Garamantis always lent a sympathetic ear to any requests for modifications and were constantly by our side with advice and support. The outcome achieved by this amazing project team who mastered even the most difficult situations sure doesn’t have to hide!

Harald Moser, Project Manager at Ars Electronica Solutions