Monday, April 6, 2015

UMD MMAD Lab - Media in Motion Across Disciplines Lab



Updated: 04/03/2015 7:14 PM
Created: 04/03/2015 7:07 PM WDIO.com
By: Heidi Enninga



UMD is now home to technologies that seem almost like science fiction, but the university said students and faculty will use creative technology in a new Motion and Media Across the Disciplines or MMAD Lab to solve the 21st century's most complex problems.

The new state-of-the-art MMAD Lab is designed to be a crossover space where faculty, students and even community members can collaborate for creative and innovative research across areas of study from dance to exercise science.

Students and faculty showcased the MMAD Lab at a ribbon cutting Friday morning.

A ballerina performed a choreographed number in sync with a digital version of herself to showcase motion capture technology and a collaboration between the theatre and exercise science departments.

The technology uses data from sensors attached to a person's joints. As the person moves, motion capture cameras use infrared light reflecting from the cameras to the sensors to detect and plot movement in a computer system. The coordinated data then can show where the plot points are in a -D model.

Those same cameras and infrared lights can be a transport to virtual reality. Pete Willemson teaches computer science at UMD. His students programmed a virtual environment that people can actually explore and interact with.

"It's like taking Skype to the next level, of 3-D Skype where you are in a space with someone. You are in that social experience with someone," Willemson said. "I think it's pretty spectacular."

The virtual reality technology is often used for 3-D movies and games. Willemson said it can also be used for when a theatre group wants to design and build a set. They can build a virtual model and actors can actually walk and interact in the virtual set before a physical set is ever created.

UMD graduate students Logan Sales is studying computer science and working in the lab, and he said the effectiveness of virtual reality don't stop with entertainment.

"A lot of other uses are in therapy dealing with phobias or PTSD, things that people can be trained to deal with better without actually having to experience it physically," Sales said.

The addition of the MMAD lab, Sales said, has helped him experience what he's building on the computer, and he said it's made limitations on creativity and innovation because of systems a thing of the past.

"Whatever you want to experience, with enough time, we can make it happen," Sales said.

Funds for this lab came from a grant prepared by faculty from five different disciplines at UMD.

"We can explore the future here," Willemson said."It's a support of for doing the types of research that we want to do at this university."

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