With new discoveries in the scientific field happening every day, research collaborations that bring science, engineering and technology together with the arts are currently being facilitated on UCSB’s campus. This cross-disciplinary field fosters a unique environment where scientific data can present new “answers” to scientific questions when presented through interactive visuals, as opposed to other traditional forms of analysis. Since 1997, digital media professors and graduate students in the Media Arts and Technology department have united science and engineering through the use of new media.

This evening, the Media Arts and Technology (M.A.T.) graduate students are having their end-of-the-year show, “Shadows in Space,” from 6 to 9 p.m. The show will feature all kinds of interactions between art, technology and people. There will also be an event at the AlloSphere on campus, an instrument that stimulates immersive education and research, with interactive installations and live audio-visual performances and screenings.

Located in the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) in Elings Hall, the AlloSphere is a physical space designed to facilitate creativity and incite new ideas through collaboration that integrates visual, sensory, sonic and interactive elements. This one-of-a-kind research instrument acts as a large-scale digital microscope connected to a supercomputer that can examine scientific and mathematical data in new dimensions. The AlloSphere has even been featured on TED Talks!

Completed in 2007, the AlloSphere is a three-story cube that is one of the largest echo-free chambers in the world, completely designed to absorb reflections of sound or electromagnetic waves. This allows for synthesis manipulation and analysis of large-scale data in an environment that can simulate virtually real sensory perception. Inside this chamber is an aluminum sphere 30 feet in diameter that is designed to be visually opaque and acoustically transparent. With 12 high-res projectors above the entrance to the sphere and 140 individual speakers and subwoofers behind the aluminum screen, the AlloSphere features 3-D audio and 3-D videos.

This unique instrument was created by professor JoAnn Kuchera-Morin and is a culmination of over 26 years of research and innovation. She worked with architect Robert Venturi to plan its location and consulted many architects and design consultants, as the design changed many times over the course of its construction.

The AlloSphere Research Facility focuses on multiple interactive interfaces, such as scientific visualization, abstract data representations, numerical simulations and human perception. According to the facility, the AlloSphere is “Scientifically … an instrument for gaining insight and developing bodily intuition about environments into which the body cannot venture: abstract, higher-dimensional information spaces, the worlds of the very small or very large and the realms of the very fast or very slow.”

I am thrilled to get the opportunity to experience the AlloSphere and recommend it to those who have never heard of the facility. The incredible amount of research and artistic projects that the M.A.T. students have been working on use cutting-edge digital media tools. Photo documentation of the inside of the AlloSphere is incredible, yet I have heard that photographs do not it justice.

AlloSphere tours will be given every half hour starting at 6 p.m. today, and tickets will be given first-come, first-serve. It can accommodate about 20 to 30 people at a time and is a promising communal experience! Go support the M.A.T. students and gain a one-of-a-kind experience at the famous AlloSphere; it may inspire you like it did me.




A version of this article appeared on page 11 of May 23rd’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.