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A new way to experience travel

Children with a Space Signpost installation

Children with a Space Signpost installation













Screen-shot: above the Earth

Space Signpost™ products use patent pending technology to give users a sense of their location in space, or indeed, on earth. Users on a cruise ship can select almost any location they can think of: their home postcode, their next port of call, the North Pole, the moon, the Andromeda Galaxy, the International Space Station… anything. A signpost with a moving arm points directly at the object (or, in the case of objects on earth, indicates the location’s heading) and an electronic display shows, and continually updates, the distance. A computer display gives the user a 3D view of the object or location as it looks at that moment (e.g. whether it is in darkness or sunlight). The user can interact with the display to obtain a different view (e.g. more close up).

At home in the world
To fully experience the adventure of travel, passengers must know where they are and where they have come from. Space Signpost products allow people to locate themselves with reference to places that really mean something:

  • A home postcode
  • The next port of call
  • The poles and equator
  • Other ships in the fleet
  • The International Space Station

At home in the universe (even if most of it is hard to get to)
The combination of dark, clear skies and travel to new latitudes ignites passengers’ latent interest in astronomy. Cruise operators have been keen to cater to this interest. Astronomers are popular speakers on cruises and larger ships can now offer their customers planetarium shows. Space Signpost products can add value to these shows by letting passengers experience space directly for themselves. Passengers can locate themselves in space with reference to any objects that grab their imagination

  • The moon, sun and planets
  • Stars, galaxies or any other astronomical objects
  • Interplanetary spacecraft (e.g. Cassini or Voyager 1)
  • Satellites in orbit

On dry land
Space Signpost products can help prospective customers to choose to cruise. In a travel agent's shop or other point of sale, a signpost can point directly at the cruise ship and track its progress. This transforms the ship (and the ship's location) in the minds of customers from an abstract idea to a concrete reality. The impact of brochures, webcams, videos, and other marketing material is massively increased by the simple presence of the signpost. (This effect has been studied in educational context as part of the development of Space Signpost products.)

How it works
A passenger uses a touchscreen to select an object for the signpost to point to. (Much of the development effort has focussed on making the interface as friendly as possible.) The system needs just three pieces of information: the ship’s location, the ship’s heading and the time of day. With these data, it can accurately calculate the distance and direction of any object in the universe.

To find locations on earth, passengers enter postcodes. In addition, a list of ports, cities and notable features such as mountains is also maintained. Passengers can also select locations from a map. To track satellites, the system uses a set of ‘keplerian elements’ for each satellite (basic information about its orbit). These elements need updating (automatically over the Internet) every few days.

The name of the selected object and its distance are displayed on an electronic display that slews round to show the user where the selected object really is, right now. The object is tracked and the distance updated every second.







Children with signpost interface



What Space Signpost products look like
Space Signpost products are engineered to be flexible. Both the moving parts and the computer interface are easily customised to meet the precise requirements of the cruise ship designer. A Space Signpost installation could involve a small table top device or a large sculptural attraction in the centre of a public area. The basic elements are some sort of electronic display on each side (usually an LED or LCD display) and a central housing for the moving parts. Passengers can use a touchscreen or a mouse and keyboard to interact with the installation. Clever programming means that almost all aspects of the user experience can be controlled without detailed technical knowledge. This way, the branding and graphic design of the interface is under your control.

Other Applications: Signage
Cruise ships themselves present passengers with problems of orientation. Space Signpost products can help passengers locate themselves on the ship as well as locating themselves in space. A location (e.g. a restaurant) can be selected from a touchscreen interface and the sign points directly at it, indicating its distance, whilst directions appear on the screen.

Additional Features

  • For locations on earth, there are two modes of use:
    • Great Circle View: The signpost displays the distance and heading over the surface of the earth
    • Direct View: The signpost points straight at the selected location, even if it is on the other side of the world and so the direct path passes through the earth’s interior.
  • Where aerial photography is available (e.g. for most of Europe and the US) passengers can view the selected location (e.g. their home) in high detail, illuminated correctly for the time of day.
  • Clouds can be displayed on the globe, updated every 3 hours and animated, so passengers can use the installation to watch the weather also.
  • In tidal water, Space Signpost products can reveal the relation between the sun, moon and ocean.


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Signpost pointing to Mars

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