The Department of Arts and Entertainment Technologies (AET) is thrilled to announce the opening of its newest space for innovation and creativity, the Lab for Immersive Media (LIM). The LIM is an interactive and immersive media laboratory that enables novel research and entertainment experiences in virtual and physical spaces.
In summer 2023, AET Department Chair Michael Baker and Professor Kyle Evans, with support from College of Fine Arts IT and Facilities Management, rolled up their sleeves to install a versatile, cutting-edge laboratory space for curricular and research advancements that is unlike anywhere else on UT campus. “It was a real passion project,“ says Professor Baker, who reunited to design the space with immersive media pioneer Professor Alan Price, Baker’s graduate school mentor and Director of the Center for Immersive Media at the University of the Arts.
While the Lab for Immersive Media takes its nickname (the LIM) from its acronym, the name is also a nod to the concept of liminality, which refers to a state of fluidity and transition. It comes to us, in true cross-disciplinary form, by way of anthropology, folklore, and aesthetics. According to Professor Baker, this concept speaks to the sense of wonder and discovery the LIM affords: “In a space like this, inside a single experience, we can traverse the physical world, a synthetic world, or a virtual world, so it’s very much about crossing thresholds into different modes of presence.” This breadth of experience wouldn’t be possible without the LIM’s impressive technical capabilities.
The central technology of the LIM is a real-time motion capture space, paired with a ten-channel spatial audio system and large-scale video projection. This tech is powered by two dedicated computer workstations–one for spatial processing and the other for driving audio, video, and lighting. This enables the creation of truly uncommon immersive experiences that, according to Professors Baker and Evans, almost transcend description. “It’s difficult to even frame [the possibilities] in regular language,” according to Professor Baker. “This is a room that responds to you, so in a sense, the experiences it affords and the joy in discovering the possibilities are what make it special.”
This sense of discovery speaks to the LIM’s research capabilities. The Lab, while equipped for arts and entertainment formats, presents unprecedented opportunities for students and faculty to extend the boundaries of their work to include high-level research suitable for industrial applications. The scientific-grade equipment enables research in visualization and simulation, and its interactive systems combine to create what Professor Baker calls “a possibility space” large enough to conduct human-scale research.
Professor Baker looks forward to the LIM being utilized by students and faculty to innovate in their work. “This Lab brings truly distinctive capabilities to the College, alongside the base knowledge to engage in partnerships and research at a very high level. It’s an exciting time and very aligned with the direction of creative technology,” says Professor Baker who, since its completion, can often be found alongside Professor Evans fine-tuning and experimenting in the Lab.
Professor Evans, who is teaching the first course offered in the Lab next spring, is inspired by what The LIM represents for the AET program, now in its 7th year. He says, “In the past, this level of technology was proprietary and somewhat guarded. Now we are afforded the space to work with physical presence and digital creation on a larger scale. Students can bring all their prior course experiences and interests–the lighting, the sound, the projection, the motion-capture, all these things can intersect in real time.” In addition to Professor Evans’ audio courses, this space allows for more robust experiences for faculty and students working in interactive environments, VR for Games, advanced creative coding, and other soon-to-be developed special topics courses focused on visualization, motion and animation, dance collaborations, brain computer interface research, and sports analysis. "We are writing the next chapter of AET and underscoring our commitment to leadership in immersive media on campus and beyond,” says Professor Baker.
The LIM will celebrate its official launch this December with a reception where Professors Baker and Evans will demonstrate some of the space’s capabilities. According to Professor Baker, The LIM “gets us closer to the essence of creative technologies, which are about exploring a unique medium to discover possibilities not available via other expressive forms,” as well as creates new opportunities for “provocative and innovative storytelling.” No doubt, this is a new chapter in the story of Arts and Entertainment Technologies, one that can only be described by the words: joy, wonder, and discovery.
The Lab for Immersive Media (The LIM) is located in the heart of the Department of Arts and Entertainment Technologies. For more information on the Bachelor of Science in Arts and Entertainment Technologies, click here.