Norman, OK. The University of Oklahoma Libraries is among a team of three universities, led by Nathan Hall, associate director of digital imaging and preservation services at Virginia Tech University Libraries, that has been awarded an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) National Leadership Grant in support of 3D visualization and virtual reality (VR) technologies.
The $95,024 grant will allow for a series of three national forums on different themes: Content Creation and Publishing (at Virginia Tech's Executive Briefing Center in Arlington, VA), Visualization and Analysis (at the University of Oklahoma), and Repository Practice and Standards (at the Big Ten Center in Chicago, IL).
A team of approximately 60 researchers, practitioners, and other leaders in imaging science and engineering, digital preservation, and digital libraries will participate in the forums. The forums and team will aid with the creation of a roadmap and white paper for library adoption of 3D and VR services to pioneer new ways of interacting with digital content.
"3D visualization and VR technologies show great promise for a range of scholarly fields as they offer new potential for interactive engagement with and analysis of spatially complex artifacts, spaces, and data," says Hall. "Scientists can make more inferences from 3D digital models than from photos, while humanists can visually represent texts, images, and material artifacts in virtual reality spaces for detailed analysis.
New infrastructures are required to effectively introduce 3D and VR into research and pedagogy. "While many libraries have developed archives and policies for preserving and managing other forms of research data, there is a notable absence of standards and best practices for producing, managing, and preserving 3D content and virtual reality environments," says Hall.
"Our collaborative team led by the libraries at Virginia Tech is at the forefront of digital libraries and we see 3D and VR content objects as one of the next frontiers in supporting our researchers and research centers," says Robert H. McDonald, associate dean of libraries at Indiana University and co-principal investigator (PI) on the project. "Enabling research, publication, teaching, and re-use of the 3D models can and will lead to the creation of new knowledge for our research teams that are actively creating this content."
OU Libraries' Innovation @ the Edge, under the direction of Matt Cook, Co-PI on the project, won an Education Futurist Award from Campus Technology this year. "This recognition was due in part to the work of Matt's team in getting 3D visualization and VR woven into the very fabric of the research and pedagogy of the university," says Carl Grant, associate dean of libraries and chief technology officer at OU Libraries. "We're enabling the future today and we look forward to collaborating with these other leading universities in order to take this technology to the next level."
The OU Libraries, and the other universities involved in this grant are at the forefront of emerging 3D/VR technologies. By addressing transdisciplinary challenges that cross, arts, sciences, humanities, and engineering, this grant will further the global potential for these three universities to help researchers and developers create 3D objects and virtual environments in a way that ensures long term usability and re-use.
The University of Oklahoma Libraries is the largest research library in Oklahoma, containing more than 6 million volumes and over 4 million other digital and physical resources. The library system consists of the Bizzell Memorial Library, the Library Service Center, and branch libraries for fine arts, architecture, engineering and geology. OU Libraries is the intellectual crossroads of the university, representing the collective knowledge of the university and providing research and study assistance to facilitate knowledge creation.