About the AlloSphere
Intersecting Science, Engineering, and New Media
Inside the AlloSphere. Photo by Kevin Steele
Since 1997, a team of digital media researchers at UCSB has been fostering a cross-disciplinary field that unites science and engineering through the use of new media (see www.mat.ucsb.edu). New discoveries in science will be facilitated by research collaborations that bring together art, science, engineering and the cognitive sciences in a unique environment that allows interactive visual and aural representation of mathematical/scientific data, in a large-scale immersive scientific laboratory. In general, an increasing number of scientific problems that were approached analytically are now being tackled computationally, and the "answers" are represented visually.
The AlloSphere is a Large-scale Immersive Laboratory
The AlloSphere, a 30-foot diameter sphere built inside a 3-story near-to-anechoic (echo free) cube, allows for synthesis, manipulation, exploration and analysis of large-scale data sets in an environment that can simulate virtually real sensorial perception. It is a physical place designed to facilitate creativity and incubate ideas via collaboration. Researchers find a multitude of interactive interfaces for research into: scientific visualization, numerical simulations, data mining, visual/aural abstract data representations, knowledge discovery, systems integration, human perception, and many other areas of inquiry.
The main research/presentation space consists of a three-story, near-to-anechoic room containing a custom-built close-to-spherical screen, ten meters in diameter. The sphere environment integrates visual, sonic, sensory, and interactive components.
The space surrounding the spherical screen is close to cubical, with an extra control/machine room in the outside corner. The space is painted black so as to minimize any distracting light reflections. Room air handling has been designed to minimize background noise. The whole outer space is treated with sound absorption material (4-foot wedges on almost all inner surfaces), forming a quasi-anechoic chamber of large proportion. Mounted inside this chamber are two 5-meter-radius hemispheres, constructed of perforated aluminum that is designed to be optically opaque (with low optical scatter) and acoustically transparent.
The AlloSphere is an instrument similar to the telescope, in that it will enable scientists to see data in new ways that provoke insight. It is also like a violin or a symphony orchestra - an instrument to compose for and to play.
We are often asked, "What exactly is the AlloSphere useful for?".
Scientifically, it is an instrument for gaining insight and developing bodily intuition about environments into which the body cannot venture: abstract, higher-dimensional information spaces, the worlds of the very small or very large, and the realms of the very fast or very slow, in fields ranging from nanotechnology to theoretical physics, from proteomics to cosmology, from neurophysiology to the spaces of consciousness, and from new materials to new media.
Artistically, the AlloSphere is an instrument for the creation and performance of avant-garde new works and the development of entirely new modes and genres of expression and forms of immersion-based entertainment, fusing future art, architecture, music, media, games, cinema, and more.
The AlloSphere is an Educational Facility that Encourages Creativity
The AlloSphere fulfills a significant educational component in that it is a physical environment that encourages creativity.
- The AlloSphere stimulates university faculty and corporate/industry partners to look at their research methodologies and data afresh in ways that provoke insight.
- The AlloSphere is an instrument for the creation of new modes and genres of expression (e.g., electronic art, truly abstract art, computer music, audio simulation) and forms of immersion-based entertainment and education (e.g., immersive theatre, 360 degree 3D filmmaking, digital planetariums, large-scale outdoor digital arts, distance learning, and video and internet gaming).
- The AlloSphere fosters non-traditional research partnerships that intersect the fields of science, engineering, and new media.
- The AlloSphere provides highly qualified advanced undergraduate and graduate students with opportunities to collaborate with faculty and corporate/industry partners on innovative, scientific/technical/artistic research in a unique, fully immersive environment.
- The AlloSphere attracts grade 7-14 students to education programs that involve them in scientific projects and science exploration encouraging academic curiosity and scientific literacy.
- The AlloSphere serves to inform members of the general public about some of the new thinking and tools that are being used for research and exploration in molecular dynamics, brain imaging, nanomaterials, Earth science, quantum computing, virtual medicine and disability studies - fields of great interest and relevance to all.