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UALR announces new data visualization center

Andrew Demillo, Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- With virtual technology that would allow architects to show clients building plans or medical students to simulate procedures, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on Monday unveiled a new $5 million technology center that officials said would be key in drawing businesses to the state.

UALR and state economic officials announced the opening of the school's George W. Donaghey Emerging Analytics Center, located at the school's Engineering and Information Technology building. The project was funded by a $5 million grant from the George W. Donaghey Foundation.

Mary Good, who will lead the center, said it's aimed at helping students, faculty and businesses learn how to take large amount of complicated data and present them visually.

"Data analysis and data visualization are the tools needed now to solve critical problems in all fields. ... To visualize is to understand," Good said at a news conference to unveil the new center.

The facility includes 35 screens and monitors that are linked by fiber optics to UALR's computational research center. The grant will also provide funding for a full-time post-doctoral staff member working in data science, two specialized graduate students and technical and operational support.

A key part of the center is "the cave," a 10-foot tall wall of 24 video screens that can be reconfigured to surround users and provide three-dimensional images. The cave also includes a 3-D floor projection and a device that users can hold that would allow them to feel based on the images on the screens.

The center also includes a smaller, mobile version of the cave. The systems were designed by Mechdyne Corp., a visual information technology company based in Marshalltown, Iowa.

"Whether it's medicine or manufacturing or whatever it might be, there's endless applications for this technology to be able to actually see what you're going to be doing or how you're going to be building something or conducting something or constructing something," Gov. Mike Beebe told reporters as he toured the facility. "It's available in virtually every application. It's mind boggling that the technology has gone that far."


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