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The Science Dome at experimenta in Heilbronn – innovative and award-winning technology made by LOBO

In the world’s first hybrid of planetarium and theater, LOBO puts spectators into a state of awe with its laser and multimedia system

[Translate to English:]  Lasershow Installations experimenta Science Center D20 W1 1920

For the longest time, museums had a reputation for being boring and dusty. But that is not necessarily true, as demonstrated spectacularly by the Science Center experimenta in Heilbronn. The “hands-on museum” caters to young and old alike, even more so since the reopening in 2019, and lets visitors experience science up close on 25,000 m² of exhibition space and with about 275 interactive exhibits, divided among the discovery areas StoffWechsel, KopfSachen, WeltBlick und ForscherLand. Visitors can discover nature and the environment, conduct thrilling physical and chemical experiments, and put seemingly common knowledge to the test.


In the course of realizing the expansion and remodeling, designed by the architects Sauerbruch Hutton from Berlin, the new centerpiece of the science center, which was first opened in 2009, was constructed between 2015 and 2019: The spectacular and futuristic Science Dome with its striking cupola. In addition to regular dome operation with a projection surface of 360°, this globally unique hybrid of planetarium and theater stage can also be used in event mode with a stage. For this purpose, the auditorium can be rotated by 180 degrees within a very short time, even during a show. Be it as a conventional planetarium, as a cinema to show 3D movies, as a stage for spectacular experimenta productions such as the 1 million volts show „Blitzgescheit“ with Tesla coils, or even for external events – the Science Dome offers ideal conditions.


In Aalen, about 90 minutes’ drive from Heilbronn, LOBO electronic GmbH manufactured the laser and multimedia technology to make a visit in the Science Dome an unforgettable experience for people of all ages. As one of the global market leaders, LOBO has been offering innovative complete solutions for eye-catching laser and multimedia shows, which now also have experimenta’s visitors from near and far under their spell. For this purpose, a TriDome® laser system, developed specifically for planetariums, was installed in the Science Dome. This allows for completely filling 360° all-around projections, generates seamless frame transitions and offers a significantly improved show experience for the audience.


In order to realize this, a total of six laser projectors were installed, which work in unison with another six video projectors as well as a conventional star projector and thus generate an extraordinary, immersive spectacle that will have the audience talking for a long time after. With a resolution of 8K x 8K, the image quality exceeds even cinema standards. Augmented by 3D audio technology, integrated special effects, as well as 56 laser reflectors and effect mirrors installed around the auditorium, a visually stunning spectacle for all senses is created.


Enormous technical efforts are also made behind the scenes. In a purpose-built utility room in the “backstage area”, a LOBO PowerDeck® with sparks® laser modules is in operation and reliably supplies the projectors with laser light via fiber optic cables. Due to spatial constraints in the Science Dome, particularly small fiber optic laser projectors are used, which are able to generate more than 16 million colors through intelligent mixing of the base colors red/green/blue. The PowerDeck®, characterized by its individual and easy expandability, has room for up to eight sparks® laser modules.


With LOBO’s proprietary optical signal transmission standard DDL-2 (Digital Data Link), all projectors can be controlled from a single fiber optic cable, even over large distances and – in contrast to conventional copper cables – free from electromagnetic interference or other external influences. Additionally, the built-in safety monitoring system of DDL-2® allows for an emergency shut-off within split seconds in case of a fault. Status monitoring and remote system configuration via a controller are also possible with DDL-2®.


The show and technology are controlled with the workstation LACON-5®, also developed by LOBO. LACON-5®‘s front end is based on a UNIX operating system with micro-kernel structure optimized for real-time applications, making operating failures such as the notorious “blue screens” of Windows systems a thing of the past. Furthermore, all show elements can be programmed directly on LACON-5®.


To facilitate switching between dome and stage mode, the entire auditorium with its 150 seats can be rotated by 180 degrees within 70 seconds, even during a show. Having just marveled at a virtual night sky, the audience may find themselves part of a pirate adventure on the high seas only moments later...


However, the rotatable spectator stands pose entirely new challenges for radiation protection, as the projectors are positioned significantly lower than in conventional planetariums due to the sloped dome. To account for this, LOBO has developed an innovative safety concept to combat potentially dangerous laser beams. As audience members in the lower stands may be subject to the risk of potentially harmful single laser beams, that part of the auditorium has been equipped with two LIDAR sensors. These act as laser safety scanners and emit an infrared laser fan, scanning the distance to potential obstacles and thus detecting whether a spectator comes to close to the laser beams. For example, the sensors are triggered if a spectator gets up and thus enters the effective range of single and potentially dangerous beams. Should that be the case, the projector is automatically shut off within split seconds. Furthermore, lasers are also deactivated should a spectator suddenly move towards a projector or climb on their seat. With this technical achievement, completely risk-free operation is possible in both dome as well as event mode and visitors can give their full and undivided attention to the spectacle in front of them.


However, LOBO’s groundbreaking technology is not only in use under the dome or in form of the safety measures. In a basin hidden on stage, a 20 m wide LOBO Water Screen is located, fed by about 5,000 nozzles mounted on the roof. As additional projection surface, this Water Screen augments the stage productions of experimenta. Laser graphics projected thereon seem to float in space like holograms and transform otherwise normal shows into true multimedia experiences.


Of course, these technological innovations did not go unnoticed internationally. In 2020, LOBO was awarded with a ProAV Award Germany, given out for the first time by the industry magazine Professional System, in the category “Smartest Integration” for the unique laser safety system. In the same year, LOBO also received one of the coveted ILDA Awards – the so-called “Oscars of the show laser industry” – in the category “Permanent Installation” for the TriDome® laser system installed in the Science Dome. Furthermore, the American industry magazine AV awarded the Science Dome as a whole, developed by the Austrian company KLT, with one of its prestigious AV Technology Awards in the category “Visitor Attraction of the Year” in 2020. The recognition in form of these awards once more demonstrates the monumental achievement realized with the construction and inauguration of the Science Dome.


The expanded experimenta with the Science Dome was finally put into operation in April 2019 with a spectacular reopening ceremony in front of 300 selected guests, where LOBO was once again responsible for the multimedia technology. In his keynote speech, Baden Württemberg’s Prime Minister described Heilbronn’s new crown jewel as an “extraordinary palace of science”. In subsequent years, tens of thousands of visitors were already able to convince themselves of the truth of this statement. Spectators can look forward to even more spectacular shows made by LOBO in the Science Dome.

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