Data Visualization and Virtual Reality Lab

Project Title: Data Visualization and Virtual Reality Lab

Project Lead's Name: Lori Chapin

Project Lead's Email:

Project Lead's Phone: 513-529-1708

Project Lead's Division: ULB

Other Team Members and their emails:

  • Lindsey Masters:
  • John Williams:
  • Elias Tzoc:

List Departments Benefiting or Affected by this proposal:

  • Center for Analytics and Data Science
  • Statistics Department
  • Visualization and Virtual Reality Lab in the Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies
  • Office of Research for Undergraduate

Estimated Number of Under-Graduate students affected per year (should be number who will actually use solution, not just who is it available to): 235

Estimated Number of Graduate students affected per year (should be number who will actually use solution, not just who is it available to): 20

Describe the problem you are attempting to solve and your approach for solving that problem:

  1. Problem description: The amount of data being generated every day continues to grow in ways and amounts that have never been seen before. 2D and 3D visualization technologies are also growing and becoming useful tools for exploring and making sense of different types of data, from simple infographics to complex and interactive forms of visual data analysis. Some of the visualization technologies highlighted in the 2018 Horizon Report include: GIS/Mapping, Information Visualization, Mixed Reality, Video Walls, and Virtual Reality. We recently met and discussed the potential usage/applications/benefits of a Data Visualization and Virtual Reality (DV/VR) lab in the libraries with three professors: Dr. John Bailer, Professor and Chair of the Statistics Department; Dr. Karsten Maurer, Assistant Professor in Statistics and Interactive Media Studies; and Dr. Eric Hodgson, Assistant Professor in Interactive Media Studies. During those meetings, we have identified applications for the DV/VR lab including: interactive data visualization for existing Miami content such as the DataViz project in Statistics, illustration of data science concepts, visual storytelling, presentation of student projects (e.g. DataFest, Undergraduate Research Forum), visual arts theses, 3D sculpting using VR for video game design, 3D printing, VR demonstrations/learning opportunities for classes of a variety of disciplines, etc.
  2. Approach to solving problem: The DV/VR lab can be developed to meet a wide variety of needs: large scale visualization of data, teleconferencing, presentations, and collaborative work. The nature of the libraries allow students from all disciplines to access this space and our hours will allow for a wide range of availability. In collaborating with faculty on this topic, we have assessed the need for interdisciplinary resources that will allow students to work/create/explore 2D and 3D visualization technologies that are increasingly on demand for the workforce and/or graduate school.

How would you describe the innovation and/or the significance of your project: A data visualization and virtual reality lab that meets such a wide variety of student needs would be an innovative and new service to the university. The DV/DR lab would be unique to the libraries and one of the first data-ready innovative spaces available to everyone on campus. This interdisciplinary space would support wider university initiatives such as those to be created under the Boldly Creative initiative. Based on feedback from current faculty, the new lab would provide a complimentary service to other visualization spaces on campus. The intention is to create an inviting space for students to direct the use of the room, by using the technology provided to further their work. By building an immersive, surrounding display, including a high-definition touch screen display, we can allow students to visualize their work in an interactive experience. Our goal is to dedicate the space to allow students to use it in a variety of ways including: viewing a visual representation of large data sets; interacting with large data sets and visualizations through the touch screen display; viewing materials which when blown up for visibility are too large for a conventional monitor; providing video conference sessions with other sites or institutions; or displaying multiple large images side by side. By including technology such as a 360 degree camera and a VR headset, we can work with students to begin building VR content and be able to view that content as it is designed. The DV/VR lab will benefit data-driven initiatives that will spark creativity and innovation for many undergraduate programs.

How will you assess the success of the project: The assessment of success will start with quantitative data; we plan to track class, student, and faculty usage and requests. Anecdotal evidence will also be used to provide qualitative data. Usage and stats can be used to determine how the project advanced departmental goals and increased partnerships with other university departments, center or institutes. Another metric of success will include discussion and planning for external grants that will further support/fund data visualization and virtual reality initiatives at a larger scale.

Total Amount Requested: $35,990

Is this a multi-year request: No

Please address how, if at all, this project impacts any of Miami's BCSAE, 2020, or divisional plans: The University Library will play a key role in many Boldly Creative initiatives, whether that is providing access to scholarly resources or implementing new spaces that will support creativity and innovation to equip Miami students with the skills they need to succeed. At President's Crawford Annual Address, we learned that they have received 36 Boldly Creative pre-proposals from faculty teams, and that they are planning investments in key areas such as health care, advanced data and analytics, and post-graduate education. The Data Visualization and Virtual Reality Lab, which is being developed in close consultation with centers like the Center for Analytics and Data Science, will have great potential for innovative services for advanced data and analytics. Starting a virtual reality lab in the library can also become an excellent service support for healthcare initiatives, healthcare is one of the biggest adopters of virtual reality which encompasses surgery simulation, phobia treatment, robotic surgery and skills training. Additionally, this data-oriented proposal will support the unifying goal of the Miami 2020 Plan "to promote a vibrant learning and discovery environment that produces extraordinary student and scholarly outcomes."