Data Visualization Lab opens “New Frontier” for Bryant

Bryant’s new Data Visualization (DV) Lab is equipped with state-of-the-art virtual reality (VR) and data visualization technology and provides access to fully-immersive experiences for students and faculty across the University. After opening in April 2019 through a generous gift from HP, the DV Lab’s innovative, multidisciplinary technology is helping prepare the next generation of leaders to take their place at the forefront of a technology-driven future.

“The DV Lab is forging a “new frontier” for Bryant, one that takes a lot of collaboration and teamwork to explore and use to its potential,” says Philip Lombardi, Director of Academic Computing and Media Services.

Bryant’s innovative academic programs and transformative learning experiences – including the DV Lab – are among the reasons why the University was recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the No. 8 Most Innovative School in the 2020 College Rankings.


Exploring the nearly infinite possibilities

The possibilities for how the DV Lab’s technologies and capabilities can be used are as boundless as the imaginations of the interdisciplinary faculty and students who are using the space.

“Our new Data Visualization Lab will enhance learning for all of Bryant’s students—and we are only beginning to imagine the myriad ways that we can use this technology in our College of Business, our College of Arts and Sciences, and our Physician Assistant program.”

“Our new Data Visualization Lab will enhance learning for all of Bryant’s students—and we are only beginning to imagine the myriad ways that we can use this technology in our College of Business, our College of Arts and Sciences, and our Physician Assistant program,” says Provost and Chief Academic Officer Glenn Sulmasy, J.D., LL.M. “The possibilities are as exciting as they are numerous.”

Sulmasy appointed a Provost Technology Advisory Group in 2018 to anticipate future technology trends and determine how to best incorporate them on campus. The group includes co-chairs Ed Kairiss, Ph.D., Director of Faculty Development and Innovation and Director of the new Center for Teaching Excellence, and Philip Lombardi, in addition to faculty representatives from both the College of Business and College of Arts and Sciences.

Sulmasy, Kairiss, and Lombardi meet with Chuck LoCurto, Vice President for Information Services and Chief Information Officer, and David Gannon, Director of Campus Technology Services, on a monthly basis to discuss high-level strategic technology planning for Academic Affairs.

“If you wait until you have all the answers, you’ll never do it, because as fast as you add it in, the technology is changing.”

Bryant also partners with industry leaders to stay ahead of the latest trends, but the key is to act fast. “If you wait until you have all the answers, you’ll never do it, because as fast as you add it in, the technology is changing,” states LoCurto.


From time travel to 3D prototyping

The DV Lab offers a range of technology with diverse applications, from examining human anatomy and chemical structure in a three-dimensional space, to analyzing complex, high-dimensional data sets, to exploring digital storytelling, public speaking, and sales training scenarios.

Bryant faculty recognize the potential of the lab’s immersive, multidisciplinary experiences and are exploring paths to integrate the technology into their classroom. Some programs and applications are well underway.

Ryan Marnane, Ph.D., English and Cultural Studies Lecturer, uses the DV Lab’s technology to enable time travel for his Introduction to Literary Studies students. Using Windows Mixed Reality headsets and controllers, students travel back to Abraham Lincoln’s time, though a VR adaptation of George Saunders’ novel, “Lincoln in the Bardo.”

Allison Butler, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Director of the IDEA (Innovation and Design Experience for All) Program, and Lori Coakley, Ph.D., Professor of Management, secured a Faculty Innovation Grant that will fund intensive training using VR technology in the DV Lab. This will enable students in the “Psychology/Management 440: The Design Thinking Process” class to develop and iterate concepts using 3D prototyping in addition to the traditional manual prototype building methods.

David Louton, Ph.D., Professor of Finance, is currently experimenting in the DV Lab with Virtualitics, a state-of-the-art data analytics platform, to investigate market data – and discover patterns – that are not easily recognizable in 2D formats.


“More innovative, more practical, and more efficient”

“We try to help [the Bryant community] apply the new technology, so that they can be more innovative, more practical, and more efficient in what they do,” says Lombardi.

Bryant’s DV Lab will be applied to nearly every course of study, creating access to technology that can spark innovation for both students and faculty. “Other campuses are excited about our multidisciplinary approach because it goes beyond data sciences to encompass a broad range of fields such as Biology, Chemistry, Communications, and Applied Psychology,” adds Lombardi. “What makes us different is our variety of uses.”

“The DV Lab also offers interdisciplinary possibilities for faculty to work together,” says Kairiss. “For example, in Marketing a lot depends on how humans focus their attention and respond to stimuli such as product placement – which is also a concern of Psychology.” This technology has a world of potential in empowering students to examine subject matter in a new and exciting way.


Additional upgrades to academic technology on campus

Bryant’s “new frontier” of technology innovations goes beyond the DV Lab. The University is committed to anticipating and adapting to future technology trends and continues to upgrade and integrate new academic technology across its campus. Some of the latest innovations include:

  • added/upgraded technologies in the TV Studio to accommodate new program offerings
  • upgraded the Psychology Lab, now called the Behavioral Lab, with technology to assistant with interviews and analysis
  • purchased NAO, the humanoid robot, for in-classroom use
  • added wireless projection in many classrooms and conference spaces
  • upgraded the Virtual Desktop infrastructure to support high-performance computing needs for Data Sciences
  • added two new large video walls in the Quinlan/Brown Academic Innovation Center Forum
  • upgraded the technologies in Janikies Theatre, the Rotunda, athletic spaces, and some residence halls
  • upgraded incoming freshmen and junior laptops to higher performance devices
  • in the process of adding web conferencing in student group study rooms

Through the DV Lab, Bryant continues to evolve and innovate to ensure its students are prepared for the world and workplaces they will encounter when they graduate.

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