Welcome to the Science On a Sphere Network!

Science On a Sphere (SOS)® is a spherical display system approximately 6 feet in diameter which shows "movies" of animated Earth system dynamics (http://www.sos.noaa.gov/). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) supports the use of spherical display systems, such as SOS, in public exhibits as part of a focused effort to increase environmental literacy. The institutions that currently have NOAA's Science On a Sphere, as well as other partners who are creating content and educational programming for these systems, have formed the The SOS Users Collaborative Network.

Members of the Network are defined as those institutions that have received funding from NOAA related to spherical display systems or have purchased NOAA's SOS system for the purpose of display in a public education setting. The institutions from around the world that comprise the Network serve millions ofvisitors every year.

The Network is supported by NOAA's Office of Education (OEd) and the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL). NOAA supports the Network to aid in informing investment and development decisions related to the SOS system and to provide a mechanism for member institutions to work together to maximize the effectiveness of SOS as an Earth system science education platform. OEd provides funding to support the use of spherical display systems to promote environmental literacy. OEd also supports workshops and meetings of the Network. ESRL developed the SOS system and supports and continues to developed the technology. ESRL also maintains the SOS Dataset Catalog.

The Network shares information on the creation of new content, management of playlists, technical improvements, and different ways to use the sphere. A recent focus of the network has been the establishment of guidelines for creating effective content for spherical display systems. The network has also been heavily focused on evaluation of the effectiveness of content delivery via the SOS system. The network is currently focused on the formation of working groups to focus on specific topics.

The SOS system is utilized in a wide variety of exhibit formats in the institutions in which it is currently being displayed. Auto-play mode, where content and accompanied audio tracks are delivered via a pre-programmed playlist, is a popular form of operation and is utilized on some level by most of the SOS installations. Some exhibits augment this auto-play mode with complimentary material displayed through accompanying flat panel screens or projectors. In addition to auto-play mode, most installations also utilize docents to help deliver content to viewers during set times throughout the day. There is also some work being done to allow visitors to interactively control the content shown on the sphere. The development of interactive kiosks allows visitors to select and rotate SOS content. One of the latest innovations with Science On a Sphere involves the ability to SphereCast. A SphereCast is a presentation given at one lead site that can be viewed remotely at any SOS installation.  In real time, Science On a Sphere systems at the remote locations are controlled by the lead site so that all sites see the same data and movements on the sphere.  In addition to the control of the SOS systems, remote sites receive a video feed of the live presenter.

A paper describing NOAA's support for spherical display systems in greater detail was published as part of the proceedings of the 5th International Symposium on Digital Earth. An overview of the Network is provided in the following two-page pdf handout. Information about the spherical display system exhibits maintained by the Network was collected before the summer 2008 workshop and is summarized in the following pdf table.

The products developed by the SOS Users Collaborative Network include:

  • Guidelines for Content Development
  • Reports from Workshops
  • Shared technologies, such as kiosks

Further Information

If you have any questions about the network you can email sos.workshop@noaa.gov.