UTS takes big data into 3D with surround sound and vision
Full sensory immersion in the University of Technology Sydney’s new Data Arena is taking research discovery using big data into new realms of possibility.
Unique to Australia and the front runner of a limited few other facilities world-wide, UTS’s Data Arena promises to simplify our attempts to understand and benefit from a vast amount of complex and diverse data collected every day.
UTS Vice-Chancellor Attila Brungs said the Data Arena is a finelytuned masterpiece of interplaying computer and AV technologies. He said analysts in many sectors could use it to visualise and manipulate data, if not indeed touch it. If required, temperature variations, smell and other sensory effects could also be added to enhance the facility’s immersive and multidimensional experience.
“In the massive numeric data sets produced by government, industry and university research there are patterns, trends and interrelationships, with their many implications to be discovered,” Professor Brungs said. “This facility is breaking ground both in terms of data visualisation, manipulation comprehension as well as fundamental human computer/data interactions.
“UTS is crossing traditional boundaries of knowledge by harnessing new technologies such as the Data Arena. The technology is so new we don’t know what the limits of its potential may be, whether for research, adding new knowledge to what we teach or how we can work in new ways with industry.
“It’s a bit like inventing a microscope, looking into it for the first time and realising tiny life forms exist in a drop of water. Each time researchers and industry partners first experience the Data Arena’s capabilities; new ideas are born about how this new way of seeing the world can give our research maximum impact.”
The Data Arena is a 360-degree interactive data visualisation facility where viewers stand in the middle of a large cylindrical screen, four metres high and ten metres in diameter.
A high-performance computer graphics system drives six 3D-stereo video projectors, edge-blended to create a seamless three-dimensional panorama. Picture clarity is made possible from an image that’s 20,000 x 1200 pixels.
The user experience is made 3D with special active-shutter glasses that present separate left/right views to achieve a stereovisual effect. A 16-channel audio system with speakers behind the 360-degree enclosing screen creates a truly surround sound to enhance the visual effects.
Ben Simons, lead developer of the Data Arena said the facility literally turns numbers into pictures. Simons has a long history as a feature film visual effects and animation innovator, working at times with leading edge film makers the likes of Animal Logic.
“As we’re getting into bigger and bigger data, it becomes more and more important to figure out what we’ve got and what it can tell us,” Mr Simons said.
“The way to make sense of all this big data is to visualise it. The larger the data sets become, the harder it is to track changes that may be occurring.”
The UTS Data Arena was formally opened with an evening reception on 21 July. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFBIYp5Q0Jc