The Mathenaeum

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The Mathenaeum is a polyhedron builder exhibit at the Museum of Mathematics in New York City where visitors are able to model complex virtual shapes in three dimensions. The hardware component of the Mathenaeum is striking. The Mathenaeum area contains three work stations with large flat screens and a steam-punk styled control system composed of a large trackball (made from a bowling ball without any holes), a button, gear shift and a throttle. With these controls it’s possible to rotate the onscreen object and control the character and magnitude of many stylizations and manipulations. The variety of functions available to the user allows for an almost limitless variety of forms and complexities that can be created against an ethereal black background.

Client:
Museum of Mathematics

Scope:
Software, AV, Hardware

The motivation behind the user interface design was to make the manipulation of a virtual object on a computer screen feel as concrete and direct as manipulating a physical object in real life. The exhibit allows users the power to mold a unique piece of art using the tools of mathematics and geometric manipulation in a medium that feels natural and intuitive.

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Functionally, the Mathenaeum exposes the following list of geometric manipulations:

These manipulations are applied to the object as a whole or to individual faces and vertices or to group of faces or vertices that share a symmetry property in common. Careful application of these functions offers limitless potential complexity and creativity and artistic creation.

The Mathenaeum also allows users to stylize their creations by affecting the color and texture of faces edges and vertices and the diameter of vertices and faces. With the “framework edge” manipulation, faces can be opened up to make the object porous and reveal the internal geometry of the object.

Visitors to the museum are identified by an RFID tag and are able to submit their creations to a digital leaderboard under their name. Visitors to the museum can browse and explore all the creations produced in the Matheaneum that day on the digital leaderboard and vote on the creations that they would like to see printed in 3D.

Immediately adjacent to the Mathenaeum is a 3D printer which prints out the most popular Mathenaeum creations which are then encased in the wooden walls enclosing the Mathenaeum area. 

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The Mathenaeum software is a highly-optimized multi-threaded computer graphics application written in C++ with the Cinder framework and OpenGL.