Interactive museum exhibits recognized by IMAT

The grass turned greener this week for two former landscape architecture professors when their interactive presentation technology company was honoured by a new media association.

Immersion Studios of Toronto, whose software

platform has been used to create displays for institutions such as Montreal’s iSci science museum and the Smithsonian museum of natural history, won the first annual innovation award from the Interactive Multimedia and Arts Technologies Association (IMAT).

Productions Immersion Studios have been involved in let viewers attack life-threatening diseases in a human body, swim with whales and explore sources of electrical power.

“”We live in a world of conflict and confusion,”” said company president and CEO Stacey Spiegel, “”and children need tools like multimedia to understand what is going on around them.””

Rodney Hoinkes, the company’s chief technology officer, said the award recognizes the value of the work the staff of 50 has put into developing its platform and content.

It was the second prize this year for the firm. Company president Stacey Spiegel was named new media visionary of the year in the spring at the Canadian New Media Awards ceremony.

The announcement was made Thursday evening in Toronto, where IMAT is hosting the jury meetings of the 11th annual international EMMA (Electronic Multimedia Awards) competition. More than 40 judges from five continents are looking at 500 entries ranging from computer games, online ads and e-learning CD-ROMs. The British-based EMMA Foundation will hand out 25 awards on Sunday.

Spiegel and Hoinkes met in the early 1990s at the University of Toronto’s school of landscape architecture, where Spiegel was lecturing about ways to express space in architectural design, while Hoinkes was teaching how to design with computers.

Both held long-time interests in interactive multimedia, and in 1996 left the university to form their own company financed by several Canadian venture funds.

Their software platform allows the synchronization of a multi-screen presentation which audience members can interact with through kiosks. Customers can either buy the platform to create shows or hire the studio, which has a library of content.

Spiegel said the company is now looking at diversifying from museums to targeting the private sector, which could use the technology for training.

IMAT has about 1,000 members, mostly in Ontario.


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