A central goal of Alaska NSF EPSCoR's current research project is to provide Alaskans with the tools to make informed decisions to help adapt to changing environments. To that end, EPSCoR took the lead in constructing Vis Space, a visualization facility on the UAF campus designed to facilitate dialogue and decision-making by agencies, industry, communities and academia.
Vis Space consists of a bank of high-definition monitors providing upwards of 60 million pixels of resolution, connected directly to UAF high-performance computing and storage. In addition to the seven 75-inch screens ringing its conference table, it also features audio, a videoconference system, high-speed wi-fi, dedicated memory and a 10-gig link to UAF, and is configurable to serve as either a conference room or as a theater. Users can display the dynamics of a problem, and the effects of policy options, in a clear and compelling manner – thus helping people to develop the best approaches and solutions.
The versatile space opened in 2016 and has been used for dozens of seminars, webinars, trainings, meetings and thesis defenses. It was on display at Arctic Science Summit Week in 2016 and Week of the Arctic a year later, and in May it displayed the winners of an EPSCoR-sponsored visualization contest at its first-ever First Friday. The Federal Emergency Management Agency brought in 35 people from different agencies to the theater for a disaster simulation, and the American Red Cross has used it for four “Mapathons” in which participants contribute content to the Open Street Maps database to aid humanitarian responders.
The space also hosted a tsunami simulation run in collaboration with Sandia National Laboratories, which demonstrated the potential of merging Sandia software and UAF data to aid in emergency response. More recently, EPSCoR researchers held a workshop with the Board of Directors of Kuukpik, the corporation of the North Slope village of Nuiqsut, to share EPSCoR work in the area and to identify common research interests.
The space is maintained and operated by EPSCoR with assistance from the Geographic Information Network of Alaska and the UAF Office of Information Technology. It’s also spurred the creation of a developmental room across the hall, which began life as a place to program content for the space, but has grown to include new technology for visualizing and sharing data, including a 360-degree camera, virtual reality gear and a 3-D printer.
Vis Space is located in the West Ridge Research Building on the UAF campus and is available for use by UA affiliates and external organizations.