Viz Lab | MMAD Lab

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

The Labs are hubs for multi-disciplinary research opportunities. Throughout the year, faculty, graduate and undergraduate researchers utilize the labs to explore the integration of visualization technologies with data gathering and presentation. Current research projects focus on interactive installations and visualization of scientific research, particularly climate change. 
Along with faculty research, the Labs also facilitate the exploration of new technologies and techniques, including game and animation experimentation and chromakey video production. 

T. Lipke-Perry, Music and M. Levy, Biomechanics

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


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.

In this study, we use digital motion capture to quantify and compare pianists’ mechanics in playing a 2-octave, bimanual C major scale with regard to expertise (“non-expert” and “expert”) on four different instruments, a Steinway grand piano, Yamaha upright, Kawaii MP11, and a Kurzweil PC2.

Results of this study are relevant to pianists’ training and health since practice and performance take place on keyboard instruments of varying characteristics and quality which may have implications for pianists’ development not only technically and artistically, but perhaps most importantly with regard to the cultivation of healthy, injury and pain-free playing habits.

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

Visualizing the Speed-Accuracy Trade-Off

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)

Muscle Activation and Movement Patterns in Novice and Experienced Stand Up Paddleboarders

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.  

Subjects recruited will be between 18 and 55 years old and will be either novice or experienced paddleboarders. The novice subjects must not have stand-up paddleboarded before, though they could have experience in other paddling sports, such as canoeing or kayaking. Whether or not they have other experience will be recorded as well. The experienced paddleboarders must have at least 50 hours experience paddleboarding and have been trained in proper paddleboard form.
We will track muscle activation and limb movement while subjects are performing paddleboard strokes under controlled conditions on a force plate in the MMAD (Motion and Media Across Disciplines) lab. These data will allow us to determine the movement patterns, the muscle activation, and the forces for subjects performing a paddleboard stroke, both on flat ground and on a balance board. We can compare these data to determine whether we see any significant differences between novice and experienced paddleboarders in terms of the pattern of muscle activation and movement patterns. These data are not being collected in a pool because the forces cannot be measured under those circumstances, and the EMG electrodes also cannot work while wet. 

June 2016- June 2017 (approximately)

Joellyn Rock, Pete Willemsen, and Alison Aune
Screen 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..

Ryuta Nakajima, Artist
MRI scan of the squids head

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..

Eun-Kyung Suh, Artist
Installation of project in the museum

Torn From Home

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.

Past Research 

Lisa Fitzpatrick, Eric Stykel, and Michele Olsen
Screen 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..

Dustin Thompson, Steve Bardolph, and Lisa Fitzpatrick
Confused 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..

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.