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Description: As one of the world's major natural systems, the Mississippi River is a rich subject for multi-disciplinary exploration. The beauty and complexity of ecological principles and the laws of physics can be discovered in its flow. The transforming power of technology and engineering can be seen in human-made structures that regulate and control its movement. It is now part of a vast commercial network of global proportions. Reflecting its vast and varied watershed, it is home to a wealth of biological diversity, despite a highly industrialized society that has greatly altered it along with its basin.

Stretches of the Upper Mississippi River system will soon be "contained" within the confines of digital museum displays. Funded by a major grant from the National Science Foundation, NCSA, in partnership with three Midwestern science museums is developing a series of simulations that will employ state of the art visualization and virtual reality technologies to demonstrate to adults, families and school students how the Mississippi behaves as a complex, dynamic, integrated river system. The interactive displays to be prototyped and installed during the project will enable visitors to explore the subtle dynamics of the river basin over varying scales of time and space, past, present and future.

At NCSA, a team of environmental scientists, visualization experts, interaction designers, display technologists, programmers and education researchers are prototyping the Digital River Basin, a modular software and data architecture that will support dynamic, extensible visitor explorations of selected characteristics of the river and its watershed. The NCSA team is also evaluating a number of interactive display technologies and input devices through which visitors will interact with the exhibits individually or as groups. In addition, NCSA will be collaborating with its museum partners in developing web-based learning resources to complement the museum exhibits.

My Role: I was the creative architect for the RiverWeb project. My duties included designing the installation artistically and technically, prototyping and developing iterations of each application and installation, creating the dynamic sound environment using VSS (a virtual sound server/scheduler), and guide programmers and designers in their individual efforts. I interacted directly with the grant's principle investigator (David Curtis, dcurtis@ncsa.uiuc.edu). Previous duties included lead application designer for the 1997 National Endowment for Humanities funded CDROM.

Alpha Prototype Mockups describing the museum-based installation. Presented at the Museum Consortium Meeting, March 1999.
Concept, images, and composites by Juhan Sonin.

Installation Mockup

Levee Station

Turbulence Station
Cycle Description Rainfall Station  

The Alpha Prototype website can be accessed at this address:

Beta Prototype version/iteration 1.0. Entire re-design of the concept - physical interfaces are moved towards touch screens, 'water-less' and all digitial interfaces, etc. Presented to grant partners in October 1999.
Concept, images, and composites by Juhan Sonin

Narrative Breakdown A

Narrative Breakdown B
Narrative Breakdown C


The Beta Prototype Mockups can be accessed at this address:

Beta Prototype iteration 1.1. Expanded documentation and concept development (on Beta v.1.0) which includes three remote workstations (interfaces into the Digital River Basin), filter control by users, and basic product breakdown. Presented at Museum Consortium Meeting in Feb 2000.
Concept, images, and composites by Juhan Sonin.

Beta Prototype Installation

Tool Station GUI A

Virtual Camera POVs

Camera Filter Schematic B

Tool Station GUI B

Navigation Chart

Camera Filter Schematic

Tool Station GUI C

The Beta Prototype v1.1 website can be accessed at this address:




• RiverWeb
• Machinechild
• Ring Disc
• Animation
• Web Applications
• Web Spaces
• Extraneous Design

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    http://www.mit.edu/~juhan    Copyright 2004 © Juhan P. Sonin. All rights reserved.