Center for Design Innovation awarded HoloLens developer kits from Microsoft, to add hologram augmented reality to its line of research

"Winston-Salem, NC – November 13, 2015 - The Center for Design Innovation, a multi-campus research center of the University of North Carolina system, is a finalist in the Microsoft HoloLens for Academic Research program and will receive two HoloLens developer kits and specialized training at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, WA. This award will enable CDI to advance its research by augmenting design processes with interactive holograms. The award will introduce cutting edge technology to faculty and students from CDI’s academic partners including Winston-Salem State University, UNC School of the Arts and Forsyth Technical Community College.

Microsoft HoloLens enables individuals to interact with three-dimensional holograms blended with the real world, thus going beyond augmented and virtual reality. The device is worn like glasses, which allow the user to maintain sight of their surroundings. The technology overlays high-definition holographic images onto the real world view, enabling the user to interact with the physical environment. This mixed reality can be used to create new experiences that will contribute to advances in productivity, collaboration and innovation. The technology has potential to unlock new ways to create, communicate, work and play.

One of ten organizations selected from over five-hundred research proposals nationwide, CDI will add HoloLens technology to its CONSTRUKTS line of research and development. CONSTRUKTS is an electronic construction kit of physical blocks shaped like three-dimensional Tetris pieces. They can be connected together in a large variety of creative structures using special connectors. As blocks are connected together, a virtual model of the construction is rendered on a computer screen. 
Model building is a critical component of the creative and structural planning process for many fields from architecture and stage design to civil engineering and product design. Design thinking throughout that process, from idea conception to realization, is fluid and iterative and often incorporates building physical prototypes. 

CDI Director Pamela Jennings, Ph.D., is the developer of CONSTRUKTS and principal investigator in this research project. Jennings says, “In our observation of people playing with CONSTRUKTS, the physical blocks have a strong focal pull that competes with the builders’ attention to the virtual 3D model on the computer screen.” The HoloLens is a promising platform for better mapping and layering the physical prototype to its virtual 3D computer model, according to Jennings. The designer, game player or learner could then further develop the features of their prototype for digital output using techniques such as 3D printing. 

Jennings is currently exploring this physical-virtual juxtaposition as a participant in the “Restoring Physical Intuition” working group of the 2015 National Academies Keck Futures Initiative conference “Art and Science, Engineering, and Medicine Frontier Collaborations: Ideation, Translation, Realization” in Irvine, CA. A diverse group of researchers, journalists, educators and creative practitioners from the fields of art, design, communications, science, engineering and medicine gathered to discuss transdisciplinary ideas that could help to resolve real-world problems. The group notes that individuals are increasingly interacting with the world through the primarily virtual interface of computers. Children play with iPads rather than blocks or erector sets, for example. Physical intuition, however, plays a role in invention of physical objects, architecture and engineering. No one is totally disconnected from the physical world, which is potentially a dangerous place requiring intuition and attention to navigate safely. During this conference the working group explored how physical interactive displays could be used to allow people to test their own physical intuition as they interact with the real world. Jennings believes that the HoloLens technology may be able to help answer this question.

Microsoft’s HoloLens for Academic Research program aims to engage researchers, educators and students across many disciplines to push boundaries in the state of the art at the intersection of software and hardware. The goal is to stimulate and advance academic research in mixed reality to better understand the role and possible applications for holographic computing in teaching, art, medicine, data visualization and analysis and anywhere else the imagination might go. 
Collaborating researchers who will represent CDI in the Microsoft training session along with Jennings include long-time and new collaborators David M. Castro, independent game developer from Bogota, Colombia and Xinyu Huang, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at North Carolina Central University.

About the Center for Design Innovation:
The Center for Design Innovation is a multi-campus research center of the University of North Carolina system. Located in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter in downtown Winston-Salem, NC, the CDI is part laboratory, part workshop and part convening space. The Center is a visual gateway to a newly emerging Winston-Salem and the greater Piedmont Triad Region. As a new kind of incubator engine powering people across a region long known for its innovations in manufacturing and the arts, the Center works broadly with academic, business and local community organizations along with its founding academic partners Winston-Salem State University, UNC School of the Arts and Forsyth Technical Community College.

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