Skip Navigation

Pilot Projects

Pilot Project 1: Data Materialization, Climate Change

Scientists often struggle to share the impact of their work with the greater community. Visualization is arguably a prime delivery mechanism to deliver scientific results to a broader audience. Emerging work demonstrates the power of leveraging collaboration between scientists and artists to innovate compelling new methods of data presentation, that transcend not only disciplinary boundaries but also engage the viewer beyond sight. Key to these successful recent innovations is intellectual diversity. These projects are truly collaborative endeavors harnessing the interdisciplinary capacity of a team of artists, scien­tists, engineers, and stakeholders all invested in the project from day one. The research in this pilot project will draw on inspiration from two recent approaches; the Artifact­Based Rendering processes of Johnson et. al and the Data Materialization Workflow innovation introduced by our team member, artist Courtney Starrett. Johnson et. al. applied their approach to Macroalgae in the Gulf of Mexico and MRI (Mag­netic Resonance Imaging). While Starrett used personal financial data to guide the design of a new form. Artifact­-based rendering has shown the potential of creating “complete scientifically useful multivariate VR data visualizations using a visual language derived entirely from traditional physical media…which has powerful implications for making science more understandable and engaging”. Data materialization realizes physical 3D objects built on data. While related to Data Physicalization, in data materialization the data supports and influences the design of a 3D tangible artifact. The workflow proceeds as follows, the data informs a sketch or drawing. The generated drawing serves as the basis of a form. 3D Modeling and digital fabrication and combined with traditional craft techniques to further develop the form. Research has established that presenting data in this way facilitates understanding of abstract concepts and promotes collaboration. Our pilot research would focus on demonstrating the power of embedding data in form, both virtual and physical. Our proposed pilot project will combine these techniques to illuminate the power of presenting data through tangible 3D objects and leveraging new technology in AR/VR to allow the physical artifact(s) to inform the 3D virtual model. We will begin by prototyping the design of the form virtually, using Virtual and Augmented Reality. Using the Varjo headset (available through McNamara’s existing research facility) will enable several iterations in real­time without sacrificing time or quality, and a ”digital twin” of the resulting physical object. We will explore virtual prototypes of the object, and determine how the data is best embedded to inform the form using the unreal engine as a virtual sand­box. It is important to the lab to focus on projects that will yield the greatest social and environmental impact, and address the issues of greatest importance,

Pilot Project 2: Climate Change, Risk Mitigation, Flood Awareness

Psychological Distancing is the tendency to downplay environmental risks to nearby or familiar people or places, and shift that risk to focus on future generations or distant communities. One of the primary obstacles to climate change engagement is psychological distancing. Researchers have suggested that framing climate change in terms of local impact reduces psychological distance. Cer­tain hazards related to climate change are often viewed as spatially and temporally distant, including Sea Level Rise (SLR). Audiences that view sea-level rise as a distant hazard or hold doubtful or dismis­sive beliefs about climate change in general, and may not be receptive to information about this hazard. This pilot study explores how immersive Augmented Reality (AR) may address these challenges to sea level rise communication by making visible the impacts of sea-level rise on local communities. We will build on work by Dr. David Retchless to enhance the compelling effect of presenting risk in a truly immersive man­ner. His current research on this project relies on a 2D fill of human-sized outlines to present the information. Our goal in this research pilot is to immerse the viewer in the actual hazard while emphasizing the local and familiar to minimize psychological distancing. While we have selected flooding perception as the risk in this pilot study, the framework will be extendable to address other hazards such as fire, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters. In addition to including location data, we will exploit the high­-fidelity digital-­human technology available through Unreal’s meta-humans, to populate the augmented scene with familiar (peer) humans. The meta-human technology will allow us to control for factors such as age, gender, and ethnicity. The hope is by simulating the hazard in a familiar location populated with familiar communities we can decrease psychological distancing and emotionally impact observers by exploiting their connection to their own locale, and peer group.