John Smale Visualization Lab and Center

A student using the SMALE machine.

Thanks to a pair of very generous donations from alums John Smale and Michael Armstrong, AIMS has been able to found a research and innovation center devoted to visualization and virtual reality. The Smale Interactive Visualization Center is partnering with another of Miami’s research facilities – the HIVE (Huge Immersive Virtual Environment) – to provide a breadth of world-class visualization tools for faculty, students, and industry partners.

The Center currently boasts a 16’ x 9’ HD 3D active stereoscopic projection system (often called a powerwall); a smaller, portable 3D projection system that can be used in classrooms or off-campus sites; and an immersive, 3D, 40” desktop display system. The HIVE features a state-of-the-art position tracking system and over 1,000 m2 of tracking space in which users can walk freely while wearing a head-mounted display. It is currently the world’s largest virtual reality system of its kind by a wide margin.

Both of these facilities will be undergoing growth and expansion over the next several months. The HIVE has recently been awarded a pair of grants from the National Science Foundation that will enable support for multiple concurrent users and portable, outdoor simulations. The Smale Interactive Visualization Center is in the process of acquiring several new types of display systems, including a 4-wall, reconfigurable display system (similar to a CAVE display), in which a user can stand and be surrounded by three 3D back-projected walls and a projected 3D floor – a truly immersive visual experience.

The Center’s mission is multifaceted, and reaches far beyond bringing "cool displays" to Miami’s campus. We seek to (a) be an asset to classroom education, (b) support faculty research and development, (c) partner with local, national, and international industries, and (d) fulfill the AIMS mission of reaching across traditional academic boundaries to serve all academic divisions at Miami. Heading up these efforts is the Center’s new director, Dr. Eric Hodgson, who is a Miami Alum and member of the HIVE research team. The Center has also entered into an agreement with EON Reality, Inc. to provide software, hardware, development assistance, and support. We will work with EON to generate real-world industry projects for our students, and to provide state-of-the-art visualization tools for the Center.