The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) has launched a new Data Arena in its facility, aiming to take research discovery using Big Data into new realms of possibility. Operating on the ground-floor of UTS’ engineering and IT building on Broadway, it provides a full sensory immersion and sense-defying and augmenting capabilities.
The Data Arena interplays computer and AV technologies, giving analysts in many sectors the ability to visualise and manipulate data. If required, temperature variations, smell and other sensory effects could also be added to enhance the facility’s immersive and multi-dimensional experience.
It is a 360-degree interactive data visualisation facility where viewers stand in the middle of a large cylindrical screen, four metres high and 10 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 by 1200 pixels.
The user experience is made 3D with special active-shutter glasses that present separate left and right views to achieve a stereo-visual effect. A 16-channel audio system with speakers behind the 360-degree enclosing screen creates surround sound to enhance the visual effects.
UTS vice-chancellor, Attila Brungs, said the arena is unique to Australia and promises to simplify attempts to understand and benefit from a vast amount of complex and diverse data collected every day.
“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. This facility is breaking ground both in terms of data visualisation, manipulation comprehension as well as fundamental human computer and data interactions,” he said.
Brungs claimed the technology is so new that the university doesn’t know what the limits of its potential may be, whether for research, adding new knowledge to teaching or how it 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.”
Data Arena lead developer, Ben Simons, said the facility literally turns numbers into pictures.
“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. 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,” he added.