The University of Kentucky Center for Visualization & Virtual Environments

Though FoLIO will end, we’ll always have Paris


The Googleplex in Paris

Since medieval times, people have made pilgrimages as a form of spiritual adventure. Researchers from the Vis Center completed their own secular pilgrimage through England, Spain, and finally France for the FoLIO project. This project will develop a structure for organizing images of antiquities that allows the specific types of relationships between those images to be represented, manipulated, highlighted, enhanced, and studied.


Looking back at Notre Dame

Led by Dr. Brent Seales of UK and Dr. Chris Blackwell of Furman, researchers first journeyed to the Lichfield Cathedral in England in 2010 to digitally preserve the St. Chad Gospels and the Wycliffe Bible. They also traveled to El Escorial Library in Spain to digitize two manuscripts of the Iliad, known as E-3 and E-4. The FoLIO project attempts to create a framework to longitudinally organize these images. The work focuses on three relationships between images: multi-modal, diachronic, and multi-instance. Multi-modal imagery varies based on conditions, such as the spectrum of light.


Working on FoLIO at Google

imagery relates pictures of the same scene taken at different times. Multi-instance imagery is connected semantically, like images of the pages of a story written by two different scribes. Organizing longitudinally across these various axes allows people of various disciplines to explore the datasets and use the digital archive for their own research.


Dr. Seales discusses FoLIO

After four years of research, FoLIO ends this August. To wrap up the project, a group from the Vis Center made the last leg of the voyage with a trip to Paris, France. They crossed the Atlantic to have a workshop at the Google Paris offices with Dr. Brent Seales, who is on sabbatical as a visiting scientist at Google in Paris. Though the project will end this August, Dr. Seales will not be back in Kentucky in time to plan for the project’s final steps. Therefore, a meeting in Paris was in order. After meeting in Paris, the team returned to UK with a plan of attack to finish the task. We streamlined our goals and created a plan for action with the help from experts at Google.


Dr. Seales on sabbatical at Google Paris

While the trip focused on the FoLIO project, the Vis Center team managed to fit in sightseeing. A typical day in Paris meant meeting at Google for breakfast, then working until lunch. After lunch at Google, the group explored Paris. Meeting in the Google offices was a spectacle in itself, but the team also hit the Parisian highlights of Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre. After walking through the cathedral of Notre Dame, the group decided to continue exploring the Île de la Cité, one of two islands in the Seine.

Group Photo at Notre Dame

Group Photo at Notre Dame

It was only a short walk from Notre Dame to Berthillon, a renowned ice cream shop in Paris. While enjoying Berthillon’s unique flavors such as pear and pineapple, the team enjoyed a walk through the Latin Quarter. To encourage team bonding, Dr. Seales invited the entire Kentucky group to a picnic on the Champs de Mars, a green space in front of the Eiffel Tower. In the evening, the Eiffel Tower’s lights sparkle every hour for just five minutes. The group had a great time that night.

In Western culture, Paris is a city of symbols, perhaps best represented by the Eiffel Tower. However, the glass pyramids in front of the Louvre are an equally powerful symbol of Paris. The Vis Center group visited the highlights of the Louvre – including the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, and Venus de Milo. It is impossible to see the entire Louvre in an afternoon, and as the team learned, it is impossible to experience all of Paris in a week; this trip whetted their appetite to visit Paris beyond the most popular attractions.


Dr. Seales with the Vis Center students

As the FoLIO project comes to a close this summer, a final trip to Paris provided the opportunity to reflect on the years of research for the project and develop a plan to tie up loose ends. The team needed Dr. Seales’s input before finishing the project, and going to Paris was important in bringing everyone together before the end of the project.

Google’s Cultural Institute Launches New Way to Visualize History

Vis Center faculty member Dr. Brent Seales is currently on sabbatical working at Google’s Cultural Institute. He has provided us with a first hand account of the development of Google’s new on-line exhibit of important historical events.

Dr. Seales’ update from Paris, France:

For the past year, the engineering team at the Google Cultural Institute has been working steadfastly and intensely to prepare for today:  the new launch of 42 online exhibitions at  As Visiting Scientist with the engineering team I have had a first-hand view of the process and a chance to get to know the engineers and some of the technology behind the code that is driving the launch.

When you visit the digital exhibitions and work your way through the stories being told over the “assets” (images, video, text, tags) I hope you are gently and artfully pulled in to the appeal of those exhibits and the powerful stories they tell.  When you come up for air after some exploration, remember that behind those stories is an enormous engineering effort, striving to hide, so that an experience can be created that transcends the nuts and bolts of coding.

And trust me, there are plenty of moving parts – when you are hosting digital exhibits over an archive of more than six million images, supporting thousands of queries per second, being viewed on myriad devices and browsers – you have to work very hard to get it right.  This team understands that.

When it comes to interdisciplinary collaboration this launch has really led with passion and creativity.  From the excellent exhibits, the content partners, the user experience experts, to the engineering specialists, there has been enormous effort in working toward the very challenging goal of creating an impressive user experience over a huge digital repository.

Take a look at the exhibits at the Google Cultural Institute platform and let me know what you think.  I hope you enjoy the time you spend looking at it, and maybe it will inspire some of your own ideas about stories that need to be told – maybe some that only you can tell best.

Power UP: Teaching Students About Energy

Have you ever wondered where the electricity that powers your lights, computers and air conditioning comes from? Understanding basic principles of energy production and conservation is vital information for all of us. The Vis Center Media for Research Team has recently completed a joint project with the Center for Applied Energy Research that provides high school teachers around the state with high quality energy education materials.

Entitled Power UP!, the project includes a mobile app, website and seven shorts videos that teach fundamental elements of energy production, use, conservation and water impact. The project is aimed at high school teachers who often use iPads in the classroom and are able to use short videos on seven topics to supplement their lessons.

To learn more about the project visit:

The videos and other information are available on the website as well as on a mobile iPad app available through iTunes.

To read more about the collaboration with CAER and the State Cabinet for Energy and Environment visit UKNOW.



NOTICE: Some websites to which these materials provide links for the convenience of users are not managed by the University of Kentucky. The University does not review, control, or take responsibility for the contents of those sites. Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.