The University of Kentucky Center for Visualization & Virtual Environments

Vis Center Student Receives Award at Twin Cities IEEE Paper Competition

Jonathan Soli, an undergraduate who worked at the University of Kentucky’s Vis Center in the summer of 2011, recently won the Twin Cities IEEE Paper Competition and will move on to the IEEE Region 4 Student Paper Competition. Soli is a student at Hamline University. UK professor Kevin Donohue advised Soli on Soli’s Electrical and Computer Engineering REU project, “Verification of Simulated Acoustic Environments Utilizing Cross-Correlation and Power Spectral Density,”

“Imagine a noisy room full of people conversing and, with a hidden microphone array, having the ability to covertly focus on a specific conversation of interest,” Soli pointed out. Professor Donohue researches how to block extraneous sound and allow focused listening using microphone arrays.

Soli compared a computer simulated acoustic environment to a real acoustic environment. Propagation delays, secondary echo timing, and the sound decay as the sound reverberates through the room were the metrics most relevant for Soli’s project.

His project helps researchers know how to improve the computer simulation of acoustic environments. Soli established the current performance of the computer simulation software, so that now researchers can focus on improving the software quality. The simulator simplifies research on acoustic environments by simplifying optimization studies and avoiding the hassle of setting up a multitude of physical microphones.

At the Twin Cities competition, Soli won a cash prize and a spot in the IEEE Region 4 Student Paper Competition. He will travel to Indianapolis, IN for the competition on May 5th; the IEEE competition will be held in tandem with the 2012 Electro/Information Technology (EIT) Conference through IUPUI.

Puerto Rican Undergraduates Experience Research At UK

Dr. Seales presents to a group of students at the University of Puerto Rico

While the days are still winter gray in Kentucky during February, in Puerto Rico the sun is shining and a soft wind blows off the Atlantic over the capital city of San Juan. On the campus of the University of Puerto Rico near the center of the city, a group of computer science students are meeting with two members of the Vis Center to learn about internship opportunities at the University of Kentucky.

For the past ten years, computer science students from the University of Puerto Rico have spent summers on the campus of the University of Kentucky gaining valuable research skills as well as cross-cultural experience. Vis Center Director and Computer Science Professor, Dr. Brent Seales first visited the island of Puerto Rico in 2000 to begin recruiting students for summer undergraduate research opportunities. Since then about thirty computer science students from the University of Puerto Rico have done research in visualization, networking and other computer science research areas at UK.

In the summer of 2010, the Vis Center launched its VisU program, a summer undergraduate research opportunity for Kentucky and Puerto Rico students. Six students participated in the program completing research projects that ranged from medical imaging and digital humanities applications to iPad app development.

Students at the University of Puerto Rico

This summer, the VisU program is expected to have between six and eight students working on summer research projects. These students will gain both valuable experiences for themselves as well as contributing meaningful work to the research team. Carla Lopez Narváez, one of the University of Puerto Rico students involved in the 2010 VisU program explained her experience this way: “This experience helped me learn how to work together with new people in order to manage and solve the problems we found during the process of our research. We learned how to apply the things we learned to our lives as well as to keep learning new things in order to accomplish our research and become more professional. I would love to do more research in the future!”

For more information on the VisU program please visit

Innovative Technology Goes on Stage with UK Opera

The Vis Center’s new innovative high-definition projection technology, originally developed for non-theatrical use, will be used for the first time in a theatrical setting for the UK production, followed by the Atlanta Opera production.

The technology was originally developed at the Vis Center through a partnership with Fort Knox. Its initial application was for the military with the goal of building rapidly deployable, high resolution screens to be used in training or battle. Other potential uses include any environment that needs the mobility and convenience of a display from schools to museums and medical applications.

The projectors are mounted to the scaffolding in a system that also frames the screen.

While front and rear projected backdrops are nothing new to theatre, they can cause problems for the set design and for the performers. Normal front projectors can cast shadows and images onto the performers, and most rear projectors must be placed very far distances behind the screens to create a large enough image of scenery, which can limit the stage space. With the Vis Center’s new rear projection system, only four and a half feet separate the 54 projector units from their attached movable fabric screen units, which are an impressive 24×30′ and 24×15′.

The technology, coined by the Vis Center as SCRIBE (self-contained rapidly integratable background environment), utilizes a software system that blends the projections into one image, which will include still images and video related to the various scenes in the production.

This project grew out of the synergy that is possible through multi-disciplinary research collaboration. The Director of the Vis Center, Dr. Brent Seales came into contact with UK Opera Director, Everett McCorvey, through a chance meeting when they were both speaking at a luncheon hosted by Mrs. Patsy Todd. Both quickly grasped the possibilities of collaboration and over the next year the idea of using this technology as part of the opera production emerged.

A model for the screen stage design.

Dr. Seales states that this type of multi-disciplinary research is the goal of the Vis Center. “We plan to see more of these type of real applications of our technology continue to take place as we work with other researchers across the University in the future. The possibilities are amazing if you consider what research can do when people step outside of their regular environments to interact with those with a distinctly different background.”

Bill Gregory, lead engineer for the Vis Center, reflected on the value of applying his technical ability to the theatre production, “It’s been fascinating to work with the theatre crew. Being an engineer I am focused on the practical results and never look at the artistic aspect while they didn’t realize the technology that could be used to achieve their artistic ends. We didn’t know what problems existed for them and they didn’t know what to ask for until we collaborated.”

The images will depict real locations in Charleston, SC and the islands off the coast of North Carolina that were taken and edited by the Vis Center team. Actual hurricane footage from The Weather Channel will be used as well. Combining these projected images with a minimal amount of three-dimensional pieces of scenery will create a vibrant and exciting production.

A scene from the UK production of "Porgy and Bess"

The use of this projection system has already been drawing interest from other opera and theatre companies from around the country.

Read more about the production:

UK Opera
Herald Leader
UK Now

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