LAS Visit to NUS Libraries Digital Scholarship Lab and TEL Imaginarium

28 LAS members visited NUS Libraries on 7 June 2019 for a special tour of the Digital Scholarship Lab and TEL Imaginarium. The two facilities are found in the NUS Central Library.

The Digital Scholarship Lab is a dedicated space for members of the NUS community to work on digital humanities research projects. It is equipped with four high-performance workstations that can be used for GPU processing and which are installed with customised software to support data visualisation and some forms of data analysis. There are also large multi-touch TV screens that can be used to display and interact with digital projects created by members of the NUS community.

Other than the hardware and software, the NUS team for Digital Scholarship also provide advice for researchers on their projects, including research assistance on reference finding, data management and data visualisation on an appointment basis. NUS researchers can also gain access to additional cloud data storage to support their projects.

Introduction to NUS Libraries’ Digital Scholarship Services by a NUS librarian

At the Digital Scholarship Lab, the NUS librarians in the team introduced LAS visitors to the services and facilities available, and showcased a few examples of the projects created by NUS Faculty that are featured on their Digital Scholarship Portal. Some examples include “Fifty Years of Japanese Performances in Singapore (1965 to 2015)” by the Department of Japanese Studies and “Historical Maps of Singapore” created by Department of Geography (NUS).

The portal also serves as a directory of digital projects created by the NUS community, and additional widgets and functionalities may possibly be added to the portal and the workstations in the Digital Scholarship Lab in the future.

You can overlay maps produced in different years in “Historical Maps of Singapore”

The TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) Imaginarium is a separate space a few rooms away from the Digital Scholarship Lab. The space showcases exploratory and practical applications of various tools that facilitate experiential learning and teaching using new technologies. Some of the technologies featured include a “Mixed Reality Room”, motion sensor technology, 3D printing and projection mapping, amongst others.

Watch those hands! Picking up virtual objects using motion sensor and VR technology

Many of the equipment in the space are set up with third party apps that have practical uses in education. For example, a device called a Hologram Prism can be used to convert a 2D image into floating 3D holograms, aiding in visualisation of concepts for teaching. The team shared that some of these equipment were funded by the Provost’s office as part of a drive to leverage specific new technologies for education. At the same time, NUS Libraries also funded and procured some of the technologies in the Imaginarium themselves, to explore further on possibilities.

Other than pre-made, third-party software, there were also a number of customised collaborations between faculty and the library’s team. In one example, LAS visitors were given a chance to try out a custom made set-up in the space’s “Mixed Reality Room”; visitors would put on a VR headset and “collect” virtual items in a virtual forest environment (which was visualised on a screen for audiences using a green screen) to put into virtual containers. The sequence that was showcased using this technology was developed by the team in conjunction with NUS faculty, and customised for a coursework programme for a module teaching Forensics.

Picking up virtual objects in the Mixed Reality Room

Another practical application for education was developed using hololens as a tool, paired with software that allowed overlaying computer generated images (CGI) of human anatomy onto a physical mannequin, for use in teaching of medical procedures or lessons.

Visitors also tested a custom-made program that allows users to virtually spray-paint their own designs on a Digital Graffiti Wall using motion capture controllers. The resulting artwork can be sent to users’ email or printed out immediately. The team shared that the software is created by IgniteVR, which is the company of an NUS alumni specialising in developing custom VR software.

Spray-painting is so fun!

The equipment featured in the above examples can be loaned out for class use or for student projects, subject to terms and conditions of course.

The visit was an enlightening exhibition of some of the possible roles an academic library can play in providing meaningful access to new technologies and research methodologies to the wider University community they serve. With meaningful and progressive support from University management, new technologies can be made available not just to select members of the campus, but leveraged to enrich and enliven the two central roles of a university – teaching and research. LAS visitors had loads of fun learning about TEL and Digital Scholarship initiatives at NUS Libraries and wrapped up the visit by sharing and discussing with each other similar developments about teaching and learning at their own institutions and libraries.

A showcase of TEL devices in the TEL Imaginarium

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Reported by Vincent Wong and Wong Oi May, NTU Library
Submitted by Jenny Wong, Member of LAS Programmes & Social Committee