Inside Rensselaer
*  Research at the Intersection of Science and the Arts
“THERE IS STILL TIME. .BROTHER” will be shown on a 40-foot-round, 15-foot-high 360-degree screen.
Research at the Intersection of Science and the Arts
Built to exacting criteria and the highest sound, image, and motion standards required for artistic expression, the technological capabilities within EMPAC also make the building an unprecedented platform for research.

The large volume of unencumbered space and immersive sensory environments located within each of the four EMPAC venues will allow researchers to use EMPAC as a giant simulation and modeling tool, offering new ways of using the senses (e.g., visualization) to access, and understand hugely complex sets of data.

Faculty from across the Rensselaer campus already are identifying ways EMPAC will further existing research and make possible new projects — ranging from an interactive technique to improve and inform architectural design to advancing artificial intelligence to create cognitively robust synthetic characters.

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Barbara Cutler is developing modeling and simulation tools that will allow architects to design greener homes and offices. Cutler will project a visualized design environment onto movable partition video screens to create a makeshift “room” in EMPAC. Architects could then make real-time design adjustments such as moving walls, resizing or moving windows, or modifying virtual blinds or awnings to test how their alterations would affect the space’s natural lighting.

Selmer Bringsjord, professor and head of cognitive science, who recently created a virtual character that resides in “Second Life” and has the reasoning abilities of a 4-year-old human child, hopes to use EMPAC to create a “holodeck” where humans can interact with cognitively robust synthetic characters in real time. More sophisticated creations could display courage or deceive people, which would be the first step in developing technology to detect deception.

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Suvranu De is working with Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering Professor Shivkumar Kalyanaraman to develop “teletouch,” the ability to send the sensation of touch over long distances, and Ken Jansen, professor of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering, is developing a system to model blood flow data.

Beyond blood flow data, Jansen will simulate different surgery methods to unclog arteries, in order to identify which procedure will produce the most favorable result. Rather than relying on instinct and past experience when deciding to open up a patient’s clogged artery with a stent, bypass the clog, or connect the artery with another nearby artery, doctors will one day be able to use the results of the project to pair their knowledge with quantitative data.

During EMPAC’s opening weekend, audiences will be able to view an installation by the renowned collective The Wooster Group, titled “THERE IS STILL TIME..BROTHER,” which was made possible, in part, due to the work of Jonas Braasch, assistant professor in the architectural acoustics program.

The 20-minute film, directed by Elizabeth LeCompte and developed with Jeffrey Shaw for this Interactive Panoramic Cinema, will be shown on a 40-foot-round, 15-foot-high 360-degree screen that surrounds the audience, and the 360-degree environment could be likened to being in a busy cafe or office with multiple conversations taking place between people sitting and standing, entering and exiting.

With the film, Braasch takes the technology of Interactive Panoramic Cinema to a new level of sophistication. “With the screen that size, it becomes very important that the sound comes exactly from the same direction as the visual,” he says. “In theater production you record everything with microphones close to actors but your recording doesn’t have any information about their location. We designed a system that would record the sound and take the data of where it’s located.”

Braasch has written an article on his new microphone tracking system for Computer Music Journal and is working on a patent application.

Exhibitions on previous and planned scientific research projects at EMPAC will be on display throughout the three weekends of EMPAC grand opening celebrations.

“In sight/Out look,” a special presentation given by the researchers working on some of the projects listed above, will take place in the EMPAC theater at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 5.

Tickets are required. Visit to reserve a spot at the event.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 2, Number 15, September 19, 2008
©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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