The Galaxy Map Project

by Joe Kohlmann on March 30, 2011



Our team will create a three-dimensional “galaxy map” system. This zooming user interface will allow users to navigate the Milky Way from the furthest level, the galaxy itself, all the way down to an individual planet. The user will direct the system by selecting nodes on the map, as well as zoom in and out, using arm gestures. The system will also feature interactive music that will change based on the zoom level and other variables in the environment.
We want to do this project to explore the practicality of a gesture-based, immersive user interface.

Hardware & Software

We will use the Mechdyne API, Xbox Kinect for gesture recording, and FAAST, NITE, and the rest of the FAAST gesture detection stack to interpret user input. We may investigate audio systems such as FMOD to build the interactive audio component of the project.

End-of-Semester Plan

We expect to have a full map with at least several nebula-level areas, and at least one full solar system with several planets. Once we build one full set of levels, it seems reasonable to continue building more as time permits.


If we cannot integrate Xbox Kinect with the Mechdyne API, we will default to wand- and button-based input.


  • Investigate & Prototype Further Gesture Options
  • Investigate & Prototype Level Artwork Ideas
  • Draft Gesture Vocabulary & Implementation
  • Draft Initial Level Designs
  • Attempt Initial Interaction Test with Levels & Gestures
  • Draft Interactive Music System
  • Refine Gesture Vocabulary
  • Add Level Information Content (About This Planet, etc.)
  • Test Project in CAVE
  • Revise Project Based on CAVE Experience Feedback

    Overall Goals

    • Explore arm and hand gesture interaction Build a zooming user interface
    • Exhibit the beauty of space on a deservingly grand scale
    • Make something visually striking and awesome
    • Add contextual music based on zoom level and distance

      Zoom Levels

      • Galaxy Level
      • Local Groups / Nebula Level
      • Solar System Level
      • Planet Level

        Gesture Ideas

        • Hold out one hand and move it around to target a map node.
        • Hold two arms forward and spread them out to zoom inward.
        • Spread two arms out and bring them forward to zoom outward.

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