Digital Discovery and Architectural Interface Design: Prototyping Architectural-Scale Interfaces for Discovery Across Digital and Tangible Collections

  • Sorensen Partners | Architects + Planners, Inc.
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How do researchers search for knowledge? What are their behaviors and habits, and what technologies do they use? This article proposes that three design shifts – involving more human senses, enabling comparative and simultaneous viewing, and allowing immediate access to full content – will create a more fruitful research process for scholars who conduct a literature review, learn about a new topic in a related discipline, or catch up on advances in their field. The three proposed designed shifts were tested with prototyping. The systematic prototyping procedure is a method that can be employed by others to advance this field.

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1 CompleXcope VR System There have been great advances in virtual reality (VR) technology in these several years. Everyone who experience recent VR systems would be surprised for its high quality of reality. It is a natural idea to apply the modern VR technology to the visualization of plasma simulation, since researchers of plasma simulation have always been challenged by the difficulty of visualization of very complicated three-dimensional (3D) structures that is beyond the power of the graphics workstations. We have developed a virtual reality system named CompleXcope to analyze complex data obtained by supercomputer simulations. CompleXcope is a cubic room (10 feet side length) surrounded by white walls and a floor. Stereo images are projected onto two walls (front and right) and the floor by three projectors. The three large stereo screens (10 feet × 10 feet) guarantee large range of view angle which is important for reality production. The refresh rate of the image is sufficiently high (96 Hz). The images on the boundaries between the walls and the floor are so smoothly connected that viewers easily forget the existence of the boundaries. Simulation data are modeled and visualized by the standard graphics library OpenGL. People wearing stereo glasses stand in the room and observe the virtual objects in 3D from any position and direction. They look 3D objects in the 3D space. As their viewpoint moves (by walking or head rotation), the objects are properly re-rendered in real time. The scene is, therefore, very natural for viewers. They can easily interact with the VR world, too. 2 Virtual LHD As a first application of CompleXcope, we have developed Virtual LHD pro-gram. The LHD (Large Helical Device) is a fusion experiment device under construction at National Institute for Fusion Science, Japan (in the real world). As in the real LHD, Virtual LHD has toroidal and poloidal coils and vacuum 1 vessel. People see and walk through the virtual LHD in stereo in the real size or scaled size. The reality is so high that many people experienced CompleXcope for the first time stretched their arms trying to touch the coils. Virtual LHD program reads MHD equilibrium data calculated by the HINT code which is one of the standard codes for the MHD equilibrium of helical sys-tems. One sees magnetic surfaces, field lines, particle orbits, pressure isosurfaces in CompleXcope. Wonderful thing about Virtual LHD in CompleXcope is that everything appears in 3D with very high reality, and with flexible interaction. For example, one can interactively change the isosurface level by "touching" a virtual level bar in the CompleXcope. Construction of CompleXcope was completed in September 1997. Virtual LHD program has been used as a powerful research tool from just after that time. CompleXcope is an application of one of the most well known and successful VR systems called CAVE which is developed at Electric Visualization Laboratory (EVL), University of Illinois. Refer to EVL's WWW page 2 for the details of the CAVE hardware and software.
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