Allosphere at UC-Santa Barbara

Imagine diagnosing a neurological disease by flying through the cortex of a human brain, examining brain activity through data presented beautifully with color and sound.

Imagine creating transparent solar cells to power mobile devices by expanding our understanding of the multicenter hydrogen bond, using different hues and sounds to identify the various atoms.

These are among the cutting-edge research projects the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation supports at the University of California, Santa Barbara to explore the intersection of engineering, science, technology and art.

The Foundation funds five graduate fellowships in the Media Arts and Technology program to pursue work conducted between the university's Experimental Visualization Lab and the AlloSphere Research Facility. The former, led by Professor George Legrady, focuses on data visualization, computational photography and arts-engineering collaboration; the latter is a 30-foot diameter immersive sphere built within a three-story cube, which allows for analysis of large data sets in a virtual simulation of full sensorial perception.

Media artists have a natural role in advancing research and discovery, says Professor JoAnn Kuchera-Morin, composer and founder/director of the AlloSphere. The computer is their palette, their paper and pencil, but the computer goes beyond text and numbers to digest visual and audio data.

Graham Wakefield, the Deutsch Foundation's first postdoctoral fellow, is helping to extend the full-dome surround display for other researchers using the facility as well as creating unique artwork based on a fluid, interactive artificial ecosystem in the AlloSphere.

This is . . . presenting data in a very visceral way that gives you an opportunity to see things that are incomprehensible in traditional ways, to use the full capacity of your senses, Wakefield says. What we're doing is much more than computational art. It's experiential art.

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