ISL Planning to Take Advantage of Move

Workers attach one of the Cube's walls to a crane
Workers attach one of the Cube's walls to a crane

The Integrated Systems Laboratory (ISL) will be able to take advantage of its virtual reality immersive environments in new ways with the move of the ISL facilities to the south end of campus.

The Integrated Systems Laboratory (ISL) is now preparing for life in the current Biomedical Imaging Center (BIC) building on the south campus. ISL Director Hank Kaczmarski said the move from spaces in Beckman to a new building presents both challenges and opportunities. Kaczmarski said he is already looking to take advantage of one opportunity involving ISL’s virtual reality environments, the CAVE and the Cube.

“It’s a fresh start and the researchers see it as that too,” he said. “So they are going to think of projects that maybe grow beyond what were our limitations downstairs. We are going to be starting CAVE-to-Cube projects now where there are subjects in both spaces interacting. That’s something we didn’t envision doing in the basement of Beckman for various reasons.

“Now we’re actually designing the spaces down there to allow that. We have the flexibility to design it for the work that is definitely committed to happen over the next couple of years, and that we foresee we can convince researchers to do over the next few years.”

"We are going to be starting CAVE-to-Cube projects now where there are subjects in both spaces interacting. That’s something we didn’t envision doing in the basement of Beckman for various reasons."
– Hank Kaczmarski

One challenge was that the CAVE and Cube weren’t available for research projects for a few weeks during the move.

“The hardest part is delaying opportunities that we would have liked to jump on right away,” Kaczmarksi said. “Toward the middle of the first semester of this year we would start telling professors that we can’t actually implement your research in our environments. We will start developing it and then start subject runs next semester.

“We have to start projects at a level that lets us do the development work without actually getting them into the spaces because we really can’t transition from our old location to the new one and expect the data to be totally synchronous, which is the only problem for the researchers. Our minor annoyances are irrelevant compared to keeping research flowing smoothly; that’s really why we are here.”

Both the CAVE and the Cube have been moved to the BIC facility. A team from the German company TAN Projektionstechnologie that built the Cube reassembled the rare, six-sided immersive virtual reality environment, and Kaczmarksi said he expects to have one Cube and two CAVEs fully functional for researchers to start their work at the beginning of the second semester.

The last piece of ISL equipment to make the trek down south to a new permanent home will be the driving simulator. That move will take place when the 3-T whole-body scanner is delivered to Beckman in July, where it will occupy the space now housing the driving simulator.

One of the biggest moves that had to be made was removing the six large Cube walls and massive front-surface mirrors from the basement by crane and then depositing them in the BIC building. Kaczmarski said that removing the large but delicate screens and mirrors from their home in the Beckman basement was not the biggest challenge involving the move of the Cube.

 “Getting them out was easy,” he said. “Getting everything actually working afterwards, that’s the scary part. If they’re pulling something out with a crane and it accidentally bumps a wall, it may not go together so well afterwards.”

But so far, and with many more such moves planned in the upcoming year, everything has gone according to plan. Kaczmarksi said the people from the facilities, as well as those working for Beckman Associate Director for Operations Mike Smith, have done a good job collaborating on the project.

“Now we have to work together much more as a team – the people at BIC and Mike’s crew and the whole ISL staff – because everything involves both facilities and an overseeing group of facilities and services people,” Kaczmarski said. “So it requires much more synchronization than we’ve had to do before. It’s been going well.”

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