RIT staff attends visualization workshop

Quinn Dombrowski with poster presenting Prof. Rita Lucarelli's 3D models of Egyption sarcophagi, at "Broadening Participation in Visualization" workshop, August 2016.

Quinn Dombrowski, Digital Humanities Coordinator in Research IT, participated earlier this month in the Broadening Participation in Visualization workshop held at Purdue University and the University of Illinois. This intensive two-day event included hands-on training for VisIt, an open source package for building visualizations, and Houdini, used for developing cinema-quality visualizations and animations.

Participants in the workshop had a wide range of backgrounds and professional identities, ranging from undergraduates to faculty, and including representatives from Intel and Scientific American. Multiple participants were staff in research computing groups (or similar), all facing questions about how to enhance or scale support for research visualization. The poster session included multiple examples of how other institutions are using immersive 3D environments and/or large display walls for researchers to interact with their visualizations. At the poster session, Quinn presented Professor Rita Lucarelli’s work using Photoscan to develop 3D models of Egyptian sarcophagi.

The workshop included tours of visualization facilities both at Purdue and the University of Illinois. At Purdue’s Envision Center, participants got to view new platforms for 3D immersion, and were given a “virtual tour” of some of the center’s projects with the assistance of 3D glasses. Researchers at Purdue’s VACCINE (Visual Analytics for Command, Control, and Interoperability Environments) center gave a demonstration of a Homeland Security funded system for threat detection using geolocated tweets. At the University of Illinois’ NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications), participants viewed examples of scientific visualizations that staff developed for use in IMAX and IMAX 3D films, as well as a number of individual research projects, such as one using the Oculus Rift to explore a reconstructed archaeological site in Cyprus.

Keynotes and panels at the workshop addressed issues of diversity and narrative in visualization, including the multiple paths that visualization professionals have taken in their own careers; the importance of narrative in visualization; and the balance between viewer engagement and scientific veracity. A keynote by Professor Sheryl Sorby of the Ohio State University described a discrepancy in spatial reasoning skills that accounted for the gender differential in math scores among incoming engineering students, and how an intervention program for developing spatial reasoning skills improved the graduation rate for female students.

Quinn will be speaking about the BPViz workshop at a Research IT reading group on Thursday September 8th, from 12-1 PM in 200C Warren Hall. If you have visualization support needs or are interested in scientific and information visualization, please join us! You can also contact Research IT anytime via our website or via e-mail at research-it@berkeley.edu.