Digital Economy USRG

£1.7m for Multi-disciplinary Design of Effective Research Spaces

February 1, 2010
by Graeme Earl

University of Southampton researchers from Electronics and Computer Science and Archaeology form part of a multi-disciplinary team from six institutions awarded a grant of £1.7m. The project aiming to revolutionise the design of technologies for supporting research has been awarded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through the RCUK Digital Economy programme. The University of Southampton library will provide one of the test environments and also direct input from the Academic Liaison Librarian for Archaeology.

The project, entitled PATINA (Personal Architectonics of Interfaces to Artefacts) will be led by the University of Bristol in collaboration with the Universities of Brighton, Greenwich, Newcastle, Southampton and Swansea. The project includes involvement from Microsoft Research, Nokia Research and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Dr Graeme Earl of the Archaeological Computing Research Group in the School of Humanities said: “The project is designed to be transformative in terms of research practice. In archaeological terms it will break down the divide between the physical interactions between researchers and objects, and digital information. The technologies used will be trialled ‘in the wild’ on a series of extremely important archaeological sites, and in our labs and libraries. This project further builds on the strong research links between the School of Humanities and School of Electronics and Computer Science.”

Professor Luc Moreau of the Intelligence, Agent, Multimedia group in the School of Electronics and Computer Science said: “Being able to relate your discoveries and their provenance with the ones of famous researchers will offer tremendous opportunities to the research community and beyond”.

Current digital research support systems take attention away from the material that they describe. PATINA will provide researchers with new opportunities to create research spaces that emphasise the primacy of research material, and support the sharing of research activities as well as results.

The consortium will build wearable prototypes that can enhance research objects by projecting related information back into their research space. These technologies will also provide the means to capture, record, and replay the researcher’s activities to support intuitive archiving, sharing and publication of interactions with research objects. The design of the technologies will draw on theoretical frameworks of space developed from studies of research spaces as diverse as libraries, museums, homes and archaeological fieldwork sites.

Dr. Mike Fraser of the Bristol Interaction and Graphics group in the Department of Computer Science said: “Imagine walking in the footsteps of famous researchers and seeing how the provenance of your developing ideas links with theirs through shared objects that exist both online and in the real world. This grant demonstrates just how important it is to explore substantive design dialogues between arts and engineering disciplines to our mutual benefit. We expect this project to have immediate and lasting impact on the ways in which research is conducted.”

The project begins in June 2010 and will run for three years.

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