If you have entered the stunning new Brody Learning Commons from the B- level entrance, you couldn’t help but notice a feature that you might not expect to find in a library. The Balaur Display Wall is a 12 ft. x 7 ft. high-resolution video display made up of 12 screens driven by a single computer. While you might see great visuals displayed at any time, this wall is much more than a decorative element—it is designed to be a research and teaching tool for interacting with images and large datasets. This project is a joint venture of the Department of Computer Science and the Sheridan Libraries and is being led by Gregory Hager and Sayeed Choudhury. And by the way, Balaur stands for Brody Active Learning and Usability Research Wall, but it is also the name of a mythological Romanian dragon with twelve heads!
In its current iteration, the wall supports three programs:
- KineBallRun (a new take on a game from the movie Tron)
- PicFlyer (images from such sources as the Roman de la Rose Digital Library and the Levy Sheet Music Collection that you can sort through and zoom in on)
- ImageStorm (lets you make multiple images mirror your movements)
Each of these programs utilizes Microsoft Kinect motion-sensing input for multi-user gestural input. Moving the body and performing gestures with arms and hands enables multiple users to fly through groups of images, zoom and pan on a single image, or control the players in a game. The developers are interested in examining “natural” gestures, that is, how a person would normally try to turn a page or move an image.
Data visualization is a growing area of research that is being reported in journals such as Information Visualization and the Journal of Visualization. Researchers are using this technology for everything from training doctors for telerobotic surgery to flash flooding research analysis. The Balaur wall is extensible in terms of handling new content, functionality and integration with other programs. The developers want to engage with students and faculty to suggest ideas for future development. Balaur is available in the BLC 24 hours per day, so drop by soon. Find out more about its development in this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.