How to drive 12 interactives with one machine?
December 22, 2009 6:51 AM   Subscribe

What do I use to drive a multi head (12 displays) interactive display wall? I want to use one machine to run 12 discrete slide shows. Each show is only 2 slides. Mac/PC? Software?

The details. Looking to have 12 displays running. Currently looking at the ELO 1537L ACCUTOUCH with VGA in and USB out for the touch screen.

My boss is drawn to using a MacMini for it's very small form factor since it will be installed in the display wall as well. It looks like I can use an EVGA USB VGA Adapter to drive the video for the displays. This solution would probably also work if we switched to a Shuttle PC.

The big question I think is what software will let me run 12 discrete full screen interactive? The interactive is very simple, each display has a default image it displays constantly, until someone touches the touch screen, then it flips to a second slide with info on the graphic. After an amount of time flips back.

Is there something that will let me do that with one machine? I'm pretty sure PowerPoint would be fine if I used 12 different machines.
posted by MrBobaFett to Technology (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You could easily do this with Opera in it's kiosk mode (full screen, with no browser bits available.) The "presentation" itself would basically just be a HTML file with a link to a second HTML file that would do a JavaScript redirect to the first file after your specified time out.
posted by bigmusic at 7:05 AM on December 22, 2009

I'm no expert on multi-head systems but I'd think it would be hard to drive 12 monitors from a single computer. You'd need at least 3 four-port PCI graphics cards, and I'd assume that would make setting the thing up quite a nightmare, not to mention running both VGA and USB cables to all monitors.

I looked at the prices for he touchscreens, though, and as they're ~450$ each I'd like to recommend an alternative: look for a cheap nettop, like this one. Drawback: this means essentially one computer per display, with resulting higher power costs. Advantages: larger than the original touchscreen, more redundancy (one failed computer doesn't stop all displays) and standard hardware (in contrast with multiple-head video cards).

As for software I'd go with something like OpenOffice Impress (basically Powerpoint, only free).
posted by PontifexPrimus at 7:30 AM on December 22, 2009

I would suggest contacting a company like Matrox, which specialises in multi-monitor display systems, and asking for their advice.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 7:47 AM on December 22, 2009

Could you use two machines? They could just be old laptops with USB 2.0 ports. Then you get a USB hub and buy 5 of these for each machine.

The software side should be easy. Just put each PP or webpage on each monitor.
posted by zephyr_words at 8:13 AM on December 22, 2009

You want Matrox's 4 or 8 monitor display cards. If the touchscreen has USB out and emulates a mouse for touch functions, I have no idea how that will be handled by an OS, without some weird custom drivers... I know you can plug >1 USB mouse into a system and both will work simultaneously, at least in Windows, but both mice will be able to 'roam' onto different screens if the pointer touches the edge.
posted by thewalrus at 8:32 AM on December 22, 2009

I didn't even read that it was touch screen - sorry.
posted by zephyr_words at 8:41 AM on December 22, 2009

12 small computers is the right way to do this. If it's not a permanent installation, I'd suggest renting them.

If you have to buy them, I suggest the Fit PC2.
posted by tomierna at 8:58 AM on December 22, 2009

Response by poster: One of the reasons we want to use the ELO display is because it is an industrial standard display unit with rack mount ears. So it will be easy to mount in the wall, and if 5 years down the road one of the displays dies. It's easy to get an exact replacement. Something that is always problematic with consumer displays. (I ran into a similar problem with a smaller display wall with LCDs that were only two years old.)

The Opera suggestion is great assuming I can get the hardware to work.
posted by MrBobaFett at 9:23 AM on December 22, 2009

I'd go with 12 separate machines as well. I don't know that the ELO touch screen drivers will handle 12 displays, although documentation suggests it can handle at least two multiple monitors in Win XP.

I've done displays with ELO touchscreens inside of kiosks in the past, and we found the most cost-effective solution was to stuff a laptop in each kiosk. Don't forget to have backup machines because it sucks to have a dead screen in the middle of your display.
posted by Roger Dodger at 9:57 AM on December 22, 2009

Any OS X software that can take over the screen will work. You could use a Flash movie that responds to touch events, or Firefox, Safari, Opera, etc. in their respective "kiosk" modes. You could also use presentation software like PowerPoint or Keynote. Some even use QuickTime Player or Adobe Acrobat Reader for more static presentations.

Another nice thing about the Mac mini option is that OS X has a really nice graphics engine, so the results for illustrations and fonts in those software options will look cleaner and smoother than the jaggies that you'll get with Linux or Windows.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:49 AM on December 22, 2009

If you want to control all 12 machines, use remote desktop software, such as Apple Remote Desktop. A smaller client is built into 10.6, or you can use the larger paid version which adds some nice management features. You could also use VNC over SSH.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:37 PM on December 22, 2009

Watchout is another system that can handle what you want. Disclaimer: I used to work for a company that used Watchout extensively.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:00 PM on December 25, 2009

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