Milwaukee firm shows off star power at White House

[From The Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel]

Milwaukee firm shows off star power at White House

Posted: Oct. 10, 2009

The Milwaukee Eluminati helped the White House host a “star party” last week out on the lawn using two of its GeoDome Theaters, which are portable, inflatable projection chambers that surround viewers in virtual environments.

While more than 100 middle school students showed up with telescopes to gaze at the heavens, D’nardo Colucci, a light plumber with the Milwaukee-based Eluminati, was on location to help NASA run the GeoDomes and give the youngsters a different celestial view inside the portable planetarium.

“The purpose of the event is to emphasize science and math education,” said Colucci. “The White House obviously wanted NASA there, and NASA uses our GeoDome Theater as part of their outreach.”

Using a videogame controller similar to those used on game systems like PlayStation 3, Colucci executed what he casually calls “a typical fly-through of the solar system” where he guides the audience past different planets, narrating along the way. Colucci said the students were impressed with the presentation, noting that the simulation gave them a true sense of the vast universe.

“You can wow them in a heartbeat when you fly them to Mars,” he said. “We started at Earth, flew through our solar system, but then we went out into other galaxies.”

The GeoDome systems are inflatable, spherical enclosures in which the Eluminati technology beams virtual reality using a laptop and a 3-D projection system. The GeoDome ran a simulation program called Uniview, designed by Sciss of Stockholm.

“We are going to look at the latest data that satellites have taken of the moon and Mercury and show the capability of this real-time update of the digital universe,” Colucci said. “First, they will be looking at Jupiter in real time, and then we will take them there digitally.”

President Barack Obama launched the star party Wednesday with the speech but visited “the other” GeoDome, Colucci said. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin dropped in and took the controls for a while.

“He was flying us around with the game pad, and he did really well when he stopped pushing the buttons,” Colucci said, chuckling. “He did a great job.”

Stanley A. Miller II covers personal technology for the Journal Sentinel.

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