UALR announces data visualization center: UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

UALR announces data visualization center: UPDATE

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Dr. Tudoreanu, equipped with special glasses and a device to alter the projection on the screen, moves about the interior of a virtual Falcon jet.
  • Dr. Tudoreanu, equipped with special glasses and a device to alter the projection on the screen, moves about the interior of a virtual Falcon jet. (Photo by Brian Chilson.)

This morning, UALR announced what we reported over the weekend: It has created a new center focused on data visualization. The George W. Donaghey Emerging Analytics Center (EAC) will be headed by Dr. Mary Good, Leslie Newell Peacock reports from the press conference announcing the center.

Big data is the focus of the EAC. UPDATE: You can go here to watch the live demonstrations of the virtual environment that are happening this afternoon.

“The EAC and its potential to positively impact on large and small businesses in Arkansas are critical to our state’s economic growth,” Good said in a news release. “It will give all of us a competitive edge and position us for a bright future in the era of big data.”

The new center is funded by a $5 million grant from the George W. Donaghey Foundation. It's housed on the fourth floor of UALR's Engineering and Information Technology (EIT) building. Good is the founding dean of the EIT college; she retired in June 2011.

According to a release (which is on the jump in full), the EAC features data visualization systems, the EmergiFLEX room-sized, touch-panel virtual reality environment that can wrap around the user and a smaller mobile version, "that are among the first of their kind in the world."

Some of the bells and whistles:

Linked through fiber optics to UALR’s Computational Research Center, the facility includes 35 screens and monitors with more than 50 million pixels offering high definition resolution for both 2D and 3D applications.

Unique features include a massive, 24 screen reconfigurable video wall providing 3D data immersion with additional 3D floor projection; the latest haptic interface technology to “touch” the data with force feedback sensations; and advanced video collaboration tools that include new robotic “telepresence” equipment.

The center aims to partner with a diverse group, including, obviously, businesses. Among those mentioned this morning were HP and Today's Office, who are working on promoting the new technology. Members of the EAC's board of advisors come from several segments of industry and science that could take advantage of the technology, including Michael Armistead of HP; CEO Nick Brown of Southwest Power Pool; Mike Hodapp, director of ecommerce for Dillard's; Debbie Gracio of Battelle's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; CEO David Hollenbach of DSoft Technology, which works on military, civil and space-related projects; President Charlie Lambert of SkySentry LLC, an aeronautics company, transmission planner Dr. Melinda Montgomery of Entergy, Dr. Phil Mui of Acxiom and others.

At the press conference Gov. Mike Beebe said, "The easy way to understand the technology, which is unique worldwide, is 'a picture is worth a thousand words.' "

From Leslie:

After the press conference of Dr. Edi Tudoreanu, a professor in information science at UALR, demonstrated what he called the Seven Degrees of Freedom Haptic Device that interfaces with the virtual three-dimensional environment provided by the video wall. The device is fitted with an handle that lets the user direct a virtual object multidirectionally while also simulating the weight and feel of the action — for example, what it would feel like to drill into a brain, he said. (Or practice a golf swing, the governor joked.) T. Glenn Pait, a neurosurgeon at UAMS who is also on the EAC advisory board, said students would get valuable training from the use of the device in the virtual room. Dr. Good said later that Pait is working with UALR to develop a proposal for research funding using the EmergiFLEX, and said having such technology will help researchers win grants they otherwise might not have.

UALR has had "state of the art" virtual technology, Good said. "The leap [in technology] here," she explained, "is the resolution" and the systems' ability "to handle huge data sets." She gave architecture as an example of another one of the uses; she said architects, who already work digitally, could input data that would allow them to visualize three dimensionally their designs, saving them time and money by detecting needed changes quickly.

Dassault Falcon was the first to use the technology, using it to design a hanger, Good said. She said the EmergiFLEX will be available for use for both students, professors and private business (the latter of which will be charged a fee).
The grant also pays for staff: a full-time post-doctoral student, two graduate students and support personnel.

UALR Announces Opening of ‘Game Changing’ Data Visualization Center

Little Rock, Ark. (June 3, 2013)—University of Arkansas at Little Rock Chancellor Joel E. Anderson was joined by Gov. Mike Beebe today as the university announced an economic and higher education “game changer” − the opening of the new UALR George W. Donaghey Emerging Analytics Center™ (EAC).

The EAC, located on the fourth floor of UALR’s Engineering and Information Technology building, features data visualization systems that are among the first of their kind in the world.

These systems, including the EmergiFLEX™ and the Mobile EmergiFLEX™ systems, were custom designed and built for UALR by Mechdyne Corp, a leading provider of visual information technologies headquartered in Marshalltown, Iowa.

A number of technologies are integrated for the EAC to serve a diverse group, including partners in business, sciences, healthcare, education, and engineering.

Linked through fiber optics to UALR’s Computational Research Center, the facility includes 35 screens and monitors with more than 50 million pixels offering high definition resolution for both 2D and 3D applications.

Unique features include a massive, 24 screen reconfigurable video wall providing 3D data immersion with additional 3D floor projection; the latest haptic interface technology to “touch” the data with force feedback sensations; and advanced video collaboration tools that include new robotic “telepresence” equipment.

Made possible by a grant of more than $5 million from the George W. Donaghey Foundation, the EAC is led by Dr. Mary L. Good, UALR special advisor to the chancellor for economic development.

The grant provides funding for a full-time, post-doctoral staff member working in data science, two specialized graduate students, and technical and operational support personnel.

The EAC’s goal is to provide competitive, visionary data solutions for the region and state in an academic environment.

Good said that Donaghey Foundation board members understand that advanced data analysis and data visualization are the tools needed now to solve critical problems in all fields.

“The EAC and its potential to positively impact on large and small businesses in Arkansas are critical to our state’s economic growth,” she said. “It will give all of us a competitive edge and position us for a bright future in the era of big data.”

According to Good, big data provides the next frontier in discovery, business and society, as more data is produced, stored and analyzed. New U.S. federal research programs at the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are aimed at analyzing and using the flood of available information.

“I want to thank the Donaghey Foundation for their continued support of UALR’s efforts to promote economic development in Arkansas,” said Chancellor Anderson.

“The George W. Donaghey Emerging Analytics Center™ (EAC) positions UALR and our community partners to conduct cutting-edge research in data-intensive areas, in addition to providing outreach and educational opportunities for students and researchers.”

“The Emerging Analytics Center is a visionary initiative to capitalize on the growing demand for data-driven solutions in both the public and private sectors,” Governor Beebe said. “The center will also be an important tool for economic development by helping us target new and expanding industries as we work to create Arkansas jobs.”

The center will build on the faculty expertise and resources of UALR’s diverse academic offerings and research in advanced data science and data analytics, which already include Advanced Computational Research, Information Quality, and Virtual Reality (3-D immersive environments). In addition, there will be a statewide set of activities for education and economic development.

Also on Monday, Grant Tennille, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, introduced the center’s new Data Science Advisory Board. The board is comprised of regional and national leaders from academia, industry, and government working to provide ongoing input for the center.

The EAC has three development and promotional partnerships, Mechdyne Corporation, HP, and Today’s Office.

A series of corporate and organizational data previews followed the announcement, which was streamed live over the internet.

The AEDC, Acxiom, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Southwest Power Pool, and Nabholz Construction Services were among those demonstrating how data visualization can be used to boost businesses in Arkansas.

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