CCC @ RPI

Center for Cognition,
Communication & Culture

Rensselaer to launch new Center

Posted on November 3, 2012 in News

Rensselaer will launch the Center for Cognition, Communication, and Culture (CCC) on Tuesday, Nov. 13, with multimedia presentations on the initial core research areas and an open house. Jonas Braasch, associate professor of architecture and chair of the CCC Planning Group, has been named center director.

The CCC is Rensselaer’s 10th Institute-wide research center and will focus on the intersections and interdependency of cognition, communication, and culture in the context of contemporary research, technology, and society. Interdisciplinary research activities will draw on the arts, design, engineering, humanities, science, and social science.

“The Rensselaer Plan is bringing a continued expansion of interdisciplinary research, and the launch of the Rensselaer Center for Cognition, Communication, and Culture is an important milestone in support of that priority,” said President Jackson. “This new center represents a new frontier of both research and pedagogy, and their intersection. The center will bring together researchers the arts, computer science, cognitive science, and game design to forge new tools at the intersections of the cognitive, cyber, and physical worlds. By making it possible for us to interact with and manipulate vast quantities of data on a human scale, their work will help us to meet our social and technological challenges.”

The initial core research areas are: Cross-modal Displays—which seek to employ all human sense in understanding and exploring data; Mixed Reality—in which data overlaid on the real world enriches learning and research environments; and Synthetic Characters—computer programs intended to simulate an independent individual.

“Through the CCC we hope to tackle some of the emerging challenges and opportunities that life in our growing parallel digital universe has brought up,” said Braasch. “Initially, the center will focus on virtual reality-based narrative and game playing to develop better ways to learn languages in a more natural and entertaining way, work on the design of next-generation synthetic intelligent characters that can interact with us and enrich our social life, and on cross-modal scientific displays that take into account how humans integrate all their senses to explore and understand big data sets produced by the supercomputers like the CCNI, our supercomputing center.”

“The center will bring together researchers from the arts, computer science, cognitive science, and game design to forge new tools at the intersections of the cognitive, cyber, and physical worlds. By making it possible for us to interact with and manipulate vast quantities of data on a human scale, their work will help us to meet our social and technological challenges.” —President Jackson

To support this work, the CCC will host a new Emergent Reality Lab—a large-scale CAVE Virtual Reality System. The system, now under construction, will be located in the Rensselaer Technology Park and support immersive video and audio projection.

The launch will begin at 11 a.m. in the Theater of the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center. The presentations will include:

  • Cogito—Selmer Bringsjord, professor and head of cognitive science, will discuss his work in the creation of a “self-conscious” synthetic character: one that has a genuine personality, knows that it has it, can come to know “your” personality, and can interact with you as a genuine individual.
  • Augmented Reality & Data Visualization—Barb Cutler, associate professor of computer science, has assembled a series of applications that demonstrate how augmented reality and data visualization can aid collaborative processes. In one such application, multiple users armed with laser pointers work together to assemble the pieces of a puzzle projected onto a large screen. As Cutler will explain, the same technology offers tremendous promise in any collaborative process from engineering and design to emergency response.
  • Emergent Reality: The Lost Manuscript—Ben Chang, associate professor of arts and co-director of the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences Program, will review a pilot project in which researchers use a mixture of narrative, game design, and augmented and virtual reality to teach Mandarin Chinese.
  • Embodied Conversational Agents—Mei Si, assistant professor of cognitive science, will introduce embod ied conversational agents: what they are, what they can do, and the challenges and fun in creating them. Si will give brief demonstrations of such agents in three different forms: 3-D human realistic digital characters, 2-D cartoon-styled digital characters, and robotic characters created by combining a robot lower body with a digital upper body. Si will also briefly present two different AI approaches for modeling the mind and the behaviors of the characters.

Article originally published in Inside Rensselaer, Volume 6, No. 16, October 26, 2012 | Used here with permission.