On February 17, American Village held a ceremony for the public dedication of their new Shrine building. For those that aren’t familiar with American Village, it is located just north of Montevallo, AL and is an educational facility to recreate periods in American history and bring them to life. When you tour through the new shrine and get to gallery 2, you’ll find a number of kiosks. CTS worked with American Village to implement the Veteran’s Living Legacy kiosks and it’s a system that I found to be particularly interesting for a number of reasons. In this article, I will give an overview of the various components, technologies, and ideas behind the system.
The Veterans Living Legacy is rather unique in that the honoree information is, for the most part, submitted by the public. There’s a SharePoint site that allows the public to submit information about an honoree – demographic information, service locations, awards received, and even personal photos or videos. And in case you want to register an honoree, that SharePoint site is: https://www.veteransregisterofhonor.com/Pages/Home.aspx
After a user submits the honoree, the submission is reviewed by personnel at American Village for approval. This enables American Village to serve in the role of a curator rather than a content creator, and it also creates a sense of ownership with the person who submitted the content.
On a nightly basis, an ETL job runs that retrieves any new or updated information (honoree records, photos, or videos) that is approved by American Village and loads it into the kiosk database. We used the SharePoint adapter for querying the SharePoint lists and had some custom code that downloads the images and videos, but the rest of it was pretty standard for SSIS.
Once the information is in the Kiosk database, it is available to be viewed at a kiosk. There are eight kiosks in the gallery and each kiosk is comprised on a Windows 8 tablet for honoree selection and a workstation with a 42″ monitor for viewing the presentation.
Below is a screenshot of the application that appears on the Windows 8 tablet. The idea is that a visitor will come to a kiosk, enter a few letters of the honoree’s name, and the system will display any matches with image thumbnails.
The presentation can include the following sections, based on the information that the submitter entered when registering the honoree through SharePoint:
Default Loop – video that is shown while the kiosk desktop is idle
Honoree biography – hometown, birth, and burial information, as well as awards received
Service videos – one for each war in which the honoree served
Personal Narrative – a user submitted description of the honoree’s life
In Their Own Words – quote from the honoree
Map – Hometown/Service/Burial locations
User videos – User videos that respond to any of the three questions:
- What do you want young people to know about serving our country?
- Tell us about your joining the military. How did you join? Where did you join? Why did you join?
- What was your most memorable experience while serving in the military and why was it memorable?
Though I’m unable to rebroadcast the content of the presentation, I encourage you to travel down to American Village and take the tour through the shrine and experience it for yourself. To accommodate all of the styling and media elements of the presentation (videos, pictures, and maps), both the kiosk and tablet applications were written in WPF.
The map portion of the presentation was a piece that took some consideration. We weren’t assured of any bandwidth at the Shrine, so we evaluated different mapping tools that were available in an offline environment and decided to go with Google Earth Portable. Luckily we also had the expertise of Dr. Steve McKinney of SICS Consultants to assist us with this piece. Dr. McKinney provided us with the Google Earth Portable executable, the globe file, and code samples for working with Google Earth. I’ll do a separate blog post in the future to discuss this piece in more depth. Below is a video of the Google Earth portion of the presentation as it shows the honoree’s hometown (in this case, he was born in Ireland) and the countries in which the honoree served. I recommend viewing the video in full screen if you want to see the labels for the map markers.
I think this project’s been a very unique experience for all involved. Some of my colleagues attended the public dedication ceremony and said that many of the attendees were touched emotionally by the presentations – none of the other systems I’ve worked on during my tenure at CTS have had that same effect on the users.