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 IU Trident Indiana University

UITS Research Technologies

Cyberinfrastructure enabling research and creative activities



Meet the Puffersphere: IU’s newest spherical display. It features a smaller footprint allowing it to be moved between campuses, buildings, and events and exhibitions. The Puffersphere affords collaboration and interactive exploration through its multi-touch interface. Datasets and visualizations are generally interoperable between the Puffersphere and Science on a Sphere, making the Puffersphere a natural complement to IU’s existing interests and workflows involving spherical displays. 

Technical details

IU’s Puffersphere consists of two components: (1) the display globe and (2) the base. The base of the system houses a single computer (running Windows) as well as a high quality projector (2560x1600). The projector illuminates the display globe from within the base. Touch inputs are accommodated using an LED array and camera assembly (mounted inside the display globe) in combination with sophisticated computer vision algorithms and software. IU has two rigid display globes: one 24” diameter; one 36” diameter. The globes can easily be swapped to accommodate the location, but with only base, only one globe can be illuminated at any time. The Puffersphere accepts media from either azimuthal or equirectangular projections. Applications are controlled using a combination of a remote device (e.g. laptop, tablet, or phone) and the touch input.


There are two primary workflows for using the Puffersphere: (1) Put your data and/or media into one of the pre-existing applications. XML files afford easy configuration, and we have tools for properly creating spherical media. (2) Create your own application or experience using Unity and the provided spherical warping techniques/code. This provides the ultimate freedom and creativity albeit with some additional complexity.

Suggested user communities and use cases

Interactive visualizations and exhibitions. IU’s 24” Puffersphere made its first public appearance on the SC14 exhibit showfloor in New Orleans, LA. For this exhibition, we created an interactive visualization that highlighted the Top500 list. Users were able to rotate the globe and then select a country to see an aggregated visual summary of its statistics related to high performance computing.

Puffersphere on exhibit

Alternative display. IU’s 36” Puffersphere was used to provide an interesting alternative to traditional 2D monitors. This application features an architectural walkthrough of a proposed space. Navigation is achieved using a wireless controller.

Innovative use of spherical display


If you use IU's Puffersphere, please acknowledge and reference the help of the Indiana University Advanced Visualization Lab. The Advanced Visualization Lab is a unit of the Research Technologies division of University Information Technologies Service and is affiliated with the Pervasive Technology Institute at Indiana University.