Award Gallery

Science on a Sphere Explorer and Explorer Mobile

Award: Impact Award

Year: 2020

Award Type: National

Laboratory:
National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - Earth System Research Laboratory

An interactive educational technology that has changed the way children learn about earth science is now available in two smaller-scale versions that are already expanding the technology’s reach into schools and smartphones.  

Science On a Sphere® (SOS), developed by the Global Systems Division (GSD) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is a room-size interactive spherical display system seen by about 63 million viewers a year in more than 170 museums worldwide. The full-size SOS is visually impressive, provides distinctive educational experiences, and is extremely popular, but it is not easily portable and can be viewed only on location at a host site.  

GSD developed the SOS Explorer™ and SOS Explorer™ Mobile, which use the same expansive data catalog as SOS, to reach a far greater audience of educators, students, small museums and the public. 

SOS Explorer™, released in 2016, is a low-cost software system with museum-quality stability and usability that displays an interactive globe on a flat-panel computer or TV screen. It incorporates immersive virtual reality hardware, 3D beyond-Earth landmarks such as satellite locations and the aurora borealis, and flat mapping, which are not attainable with the room-size SOS. The SOS Explorer™ is reaching thousands of viewers per year through its 35 installations in museums and schools.  

The full-size SOS is visually impressive, provides distinctive educational experiences, and is extremely popular, but it is not easily portable and can be viewed only on location at a host site.

SOS Explorer™ Mobile is an interactive globe that can be downloaded to a mobile device. It has been downloaded more than 25,000 times for Apple iOS and Android since its release on Sept 1, 2019. GSD estimates that the app will exceed 50,000 downloads by the end of its first year. SOS Explorer™ and SOS Explorer™ Mobile include more than 150 visualizations of data curated by scientists from NOAA and other institutions. Some of the most popular are near-real-time animations of satellite imagery of clouds, sea surface temperatures and ice cover. 

SOS Explorer™ and SOS Explorer™ Mobile have clear advantages over other global display systems and the room-size SOS. Individuals can access these new technologies with their mobile devices, from almost anywhere, without having to visit a large science museum as required by the room-size SOS. These new systems can display high-resolution, interactive, dynamically moving maps, and include virtual reality add-ins as well as the ability to create educational tours. 

SOS Explorer™ and SOS Explorer™ Mobile also make exploration and investigation possible as a single-user experience, which is difficult if not impossible to achieve in a museum environment. Finally, the price point is very low to zero, making it easily accessible to most institutions, the public and students. 

Please view their press release here.

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