Bryant University’s new Data Visualization Lab provides students with a window to another world – and a much clearer view of their own. Equipped with state-of-the-art virtual reality and visualization technology, the lab, made possible through a generous gift from HP, will help prepare the next generation of leaders to take their place at the forefront of a technology-driven future.
Offering fully-immersive experiences through 360-degree video and synthetic digital environments, the lab presents a range of new and vital opportunities for nearly every course of study. The lab’s diverse applications range from examining human anatomy and chemical structure in a three-dimensional space, to evaluating complex, high-dimensional data sets, to exploring digital storytelling and public speaking and sales training scenarios. It's also equipped with tools for students and faculty to create customized virtual learning spaces.
“Our new Data Visualization Lab will enhance learning for all of Bryant’s students—and we are only beginning to imagine the myriad ways that we can use this technology in our College of Business, our College of Arts and Sciences, and our Physician Assistant program,” says Provost and Chief Academic Officer Glenn Sulmasy, JD, LLM. “The possibilities are as exciting as they are numerous.”
“Bryant is one of a very few schools that have a lab like this. It helps us be among the best equipped and best prepared going forward.”
Established through a grant of equipment from HP as part of its Educause-HP Campus of the Future initiative, the new lab features:
- Windows Mixed Reality headsets and controllers
- Five HP Z-series graphics workstations
- Two HP Z VR Backpack workstations
- A 2×3 array of high-resolution, wall mounted digital displays
- High-resolution, 360 degree cameras for field use
“The founders of HP – Bill Hewlett and David Packard – always talked about giving people the tools to be successful, and then stepping away to watch what happens. Now we’re giving Bryant students the tools to go see what they can do,” says Todd Gustafson ’86, President, HP Federal LLC, Vice President, HP US Public Sector, at the new lab’s grand opening. “My hope is that this Data Visualization Laboratory becomes the next ‘HP garage’ where someone designs or builds something none of us can even imagine today.”
“This such a great tool and a great resource for students, no matter what their major is,” says Marketing and Sociology major Hannah Bloomwald ’21, who helped demonstrate the lab’s capabilities at its recent unveiling and is excited for its potential to create immersive learning environments.
"What’s most promising about the Data Visualization Lab is the possible cross-disciplinary collaborations for students and faculty alike.”
“It’s an opportunity to look at information in a way you never have before, it adds so much to our education,” agrees Data Science major Brittany Gouws ’22. “Plus,” she adds, “it’s really fun to use.”
English and Cultural Studies Lecturer Ryan Marnane’s Introduction to Literary Studies class, among the first to take advantage of the new lab, used it to explore how conventional as well as emerging narrative forms and mediums impact audience experience and understanding of information differently. “What’s most promising about the Data Visualization Lab is the possible cross-disciplinary collaborations for students and faculty alike,” says Marnane. “The lab provides the Bryant community with a novel means of actualizing and advancing the peculiar promise of an interdisciplinary education, building innovative and necessary bridges between various STEM, humanities, and business fields.”
The lab is supported by a team of staff drawn from Bryant's Krupp Library and the Academic Affairs and Academic Computing departments. “The Data Visualization Lab adds a new level of research, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit to Bryant and to the Krupp Library,” says Laura Kohl, Bryant’s Director of Library Services. “We’ve already had librarians working with faculty to incorporate virtual reality into the classroom and discuss the uses of extended reality in higher education.”
There are other benefits to the lab as well. In addition to enhancing the classroom experience, Bloomwald says, it offers students a fantastic opportunity to familiarize themselves with a new technology. “Bryant is one of a very few schools that have a lab like this,” she points out. “It helps us be among the best equipped and best prepared going forward.”