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dancers in motion capture suits

Current Research and Creative Activities at the MMAD Lab and Viz Lab

The Labs offer services for multi-disciplinary research where faculty, graduate and undergraduate researchers benefit from the Labs and their technologies to further their research. Current research projects focus on interactive installations and visualization of scientific research, particularly climate change.

Speed Research Presentations

“Speed Research” is an hour long presentation with question and answer period following presentations. Three presenters from different collegiate units are given 5 minutes to discuss their current research or creative project, followed by a 10 minute Q & A for each presenter. This style of presentation is meant to encourage interdisciplinary involvement, and can often be quite insightful for both the presenter and the audience. 

Manoomin Exhibit; Children's Museum

Manoomin is a permanent exhibit at Duluth's Children Museum that allows children to discover the Ojibwe language. Along with a free interactive app called Mikan,  children can learn about the wild-rice harvest from an interactive video spoken in English and Ojibwe in the exhibit. Professor Joellyn Rock from Art and Design along with grad student Logan Sales from computer science worked together in the MMAD Lab to create this interactive exhibit.

Title for the app Mikan.       A woman and her daughter sitting on a canoe in the Manoomin exhibit.

tele-present wind

Showing in Paris:

tele-present wind sculpture photograph

This installation consists of a series of 42 x/y tilting mechanical devices connected to thin dried plant stalks installed in a gallery and a dried plant stalk connected to an accelerometer installed outdoors. When the wind blows it causes the stalk outside to sway. The accelerometer detects this movement transmitting the motion to the grouping of devices in the gallery. Therefore the stalks in the gallery space move in real-time and in unison based on the movement of the wind outside. This exhibit is supported by the Viz Lab.

Installation on view as part of "Les Faits du hasard," principle exhibition of Biennale Némo at Centquarte- Paris, France.  December 9, 2017- March 4, 2018 


Blackout is a location based game; you must travel to physical locations along Duluth’s lake walk and into Canal Park to reveal the murder mystery story within. You are the main

QR Code for Blackout Gamecharacter! Each of the 7 story points are revealed at specific locations which you will be guided through as the story progresses.

This was produced as part of the Media Arts Club at University of Minnesota Duluth. April 2017- May 2017

Motion Capture-VR Dance Workshop at ACDA

The dance conference attendees experienced motion capture technology and were able to see their dancing avatars take shape - and explored Virtual Reality as applied to dance. Lisa Fitzpatrick and Rebecca Katz-Harwood team-taught the workshop to an enthusiastic group of twenty dancers.

3D models of dancers for the dance conference 3D models of dancers for the dance conference

Dancers crouching wearing motion sensors for motion capture

The workshop was part of "Moving Bodies", the 2017 American College Dance Association (ACDA) North-Central Conference at University of Minnesota Duluth. March 8- March 11, 2017

Elizabeth Hill, Chemical EngineeringRecycled polymer test forms

Polymer Recycling Center, 2017

Professor Elizabeth Hill (Chemical Engineering) is heading up a team of student researchers to build a polymer recycling center, under the auspices of the Viz Lab. The polymer recycling center will enable the user to produce their own polymeric filament for use in 3D printing and/or use on subsequent equipment such as a press melt for thin film production. This ability to produce one’s own polymer granules and filament opens up the possibility of not only a cheap raw material for 3D printing but also research on novel materials and artistic blending of base colors for more aesthetically interesting final pieces. Further, property testing of resultant ground or extruded materials may be useful towards everything from showing, not just telling, students how morphological (crystalline vs amorphous) polymers change the mechanical characteristics of the polymers to aiding UMD materials researchers as they investigate the impact of partially degraded feed pellets as part of a DOE sponsored research project being jointly run through Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering.

Eun-Kyung Suh, Art & Design image of installation of Crossing Over

Crossing Over, 2017

Expressing the transformation that occurs when moving from one realm to another, fiber artists explore universal and cultural passages, including immigration, relocation, changes in form or appearance, and death, explored through varied and unexpected materials and methods.

Exhibition on View: August 5 - September 22, 2017

Solo Artists:
Eun-Kyung Suh (Duluth, Minnesota)
Eileen Woods (Columbus, Ohio)
+ a group show featuring the Weavers Guild of Greater Cincinnati, Inc.

SALT IMMORTAL SEA Salt Immortal Sea boat illustration

Exhibited July 2017 at MOSTEIRO SÃO BENTO DA VITÓRIA in Porto Portugal as part of the Electronic Literature Festival, SALT IMMORTAL SEA is an interactive game/narrative and installation by Mark MarinoJohn Murray, and Joellyn Rock. Text and story concept by Mark Marino. Interactive design and programming by John Murray. Digital art and visual assets by Joellyn Rock, with digital prints on fabric made possible through the Viz/Lab at University of Minnesota Duluth.

David Bowen, Art & Design image of infrared drawing device

Infrared Drawing Device, 2017

Uses four infrared sensors to detect people as they move in front of it. The sensors are programmed to move a drawing arm in real time creating a charcoal drawing based on a participants' movements.

Bowen's work infrared drawing device will be included in Drawn from a Score a group exhibition at the Beall Center For Art + Technology, University of California, Irvine, October 7 - February 3Drawn from a Score will include works by: Sol LeWitt, John Cage and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.

Ryuta Nakajima and Darren Houser, Art & Designartist rendition of a sturgeon

Black Gold, 2017

"Black Gold" interprets the important history and threatened existence of sturgeon through the work of multiple artists.  These iconic freshwater fish have been on Earth for more than 100 million years, but have become endangered due to over-harvesting and diminishing natural habitat.

Associate Professor Ryuta Nakajima and Assistant Professor Darren Houser from UMD's Department of Art and Design organized the exhibit, with programming support from Don Schreiner, Sharon Moen, and Marie Thoms of Minnesota Sea Grant. 

T. Lipke-Perry, Music and M. Levy, Biomechanics Terry-Lipke and Levy's Biomechanics Piano Study

The Effect of Different Instruments and Expertise on Pianists’ Hand Mechanics, 2017


Playing the piano requires remarkable coordination and motor control, skill acquired over literally decades of practice.  Over the course of a lifetime, a pianist trains and performs on a wide variety of instruments requiring him/her to adapt to the nuances of each instrument, particularly with regard to resistance and the force necessary to skillfully depress the piano keys.  Due in large part to the relative portability and low cost of the instruments, beginning piano students often practice on some type of electronic keyboard, the keys of which may or may not be touch sensitive and/or weighted/semi-weighted. More...

Mobile Language Learning GroupGerman Language App

Mobile Language Apps, 2016-17


This group was formed by faculty and students from collegiate units across the campus to work together and create digital tools that enhance language acquisition and cultural learning.

Currently four apps are under development: The Study Abroad App, The French/Spanish Pronunciation App, The Russian Grammar Guide, and The UMD German Grammar Guide.  The first version of the UMD German Grammar Guide is already available for download at Apple's App Store.
Visit their website here.

Robert Feyen, Ph.D. and Alex Stecker, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Student (UROP) Section of research poster

Visualizing the Speed-Accuracy Trade-Off, 2016–2017


Have you ever noticed that when you are using a mouse and you go to click on something that you have to slow down in order to hit the icon or else you will overshoot it?  How about when you get ready to start your car and you have to slow down in order to insert your key into the ignition accurately?  There are countless examples of this phenomenon known as the speed-accuracy trade-off.  Speed-accuracy trade-off or SAT, describes the inverse relationship speed and accuracy have with one another when it comes to human movement.  In essence, the faster the movement you make is, the lower your accuracy is going to be.

Kristine Snyder, Ph.D., Mathematics and Statistics and Jennifer Schwietz (UROP Student) Snyder's Paddleboard Study

Muscle Activation and Movement Patterns in Novice and Experienced Stand Up Paddleboarders 2016-17

Our fundamental research question is: do movement and muscle activation patterns differ between novice and expert stand up paddleboarders? We would hypothesize the more experienced paddleboarders are more likely to use the stronger, proximal muscles to propel them forward and to have greater changes in joint angle for the proximal (torso and shoulder) as opposed to the distal (elbow and wrist) joints. We also hypothesize that overall muscle activation, particularly co-contraction, is decreased in experienced subjects as compared to novice subjects. The results will help us understand whether training is required in order to minimize the chances of injury during paddleboarding, as well as determine what injuries are likely even in experienced paddleboarders. More...

Joellyn Rock and Alison Aune, Art & Design; Pete Willemsen, Computer ScienceScreen shot of the art from the project


Artist Statement

FISHNETSTOCKINGS is an interactive installation created by digital artist Joellyn Rock, computer scientist Pete Willemsen, visual artist Alison Aune, and a crew of collaborators. The participatory space allows the audience to dive in and make virtual waves inside this alt version of a very old tale. A layered mix of digital video, text, silhouettes and cutout elements are motion activated with a combo of code, Processing and Kinect. More..

Eun-Kyung Suh, Art & DesignInstallation of project in the museum

Torn from Home, 2015

Artist Statement 

This exhibition features the art of Eun-Kyung Suh who honors and memorializes the extreme diasporic experiences of Korean “Comfort Women” during World War II. Using silk organza, Suh creates boxes printed with photographic images of the victims and their journal entries. Silk boxes—hold the stories told decades after their enslavement—give agency to “Comfort Women” and represent safe containers for personal memories.

Dustin Thompson (Grad Student), Steve Bardolph, Art & Design; and Lisa FitzpatrickConfused Herring

Confused Herring, 2013

Artist Statement

Associate professor Steve Bardolph, graphic design graduate student Dustin Thompson and their design colleagues collaborated with scientists, local fishermen, restaurateurs, chefs, grocers, Minnesota Sea Grant, and the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) Visualization and Digital Imaging Lab (Viz Lab) to explore Lake Superior herring as a sustainable local food source culminating in two promotional videos. More..

Lisa Fitzpatrick, Eric Stykel, and Michele OlsenScreen shot of the project with just the invasive species of fish

Repel the Invaders, 2012

Artist Statement 

“Repel the Invaders” is a collaborative project created by Eric Stykel, Michele Olsen and Lisa Fitzpatrick at the UMD Viz Lab in 2012, currently on display at the Great Lakes Aquarium. This interactive, projected application raises awareness of the problems of invasive species within Lake Superior and nearby ecosystems. It is coded with the open-source computer program, Processing. In the display, an animation of the bottom of Lake Superior is projected on the wall. There, native species swim around. When a child casts his or her shadow on the wall (i.e. human intervention), the native species are scared away and invasive species begin to take over. The child can try to trap the invasive species to help the native species come back. “Repel the Invaders” has been registered with the U of M Office for Technology Commercialization. More..

Video on Human Impact on Lake Superior and Diatoms

Created by Dustin Thompson, a Viz Lab Design Research Assistant, this video is on display for the Great Lakes Aquarium. It’s educational and provides outreach efforts for a Sea Grant project using diatoms from sediment cores to investigate historical water changes based on anthropogenic impacts. 

Ryuta Nakajima, Art & DesignMRI scan of the squids head

Project Cuttlefish, 2011

Dr. Shuichi Shigeno, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology
Dr. Mitsunaga Narushima, University of Tokyo

Artist Statement 

The quest of modernity has come to its final phase in the form of postmodernism.  Many of the past victorious attempts to define “individualism” and “self” seem to have found the wall of linguistic structure and categorization as governing principals of human consciousness. Postmodernism tends to recycle the façade of preexisting methods and theories, thereby creating fragmentation and dislocation.  Simultaneously, the presence of computer technology is rapidly reshaping our visual culture by offering the potential for more streamlined production and distribution possibilities. More..

The Viz Lab and MMAD Lab have also experiemented with and/or produced touchscreen wayfinding kiosks, video gmaes, 3D video animations, passive VR walls, heart beat apps, and robotics. 

Biannual Reports

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PDF icon2003-05.pdf

PDF icon2005–07.pdf