Jan. 19, 1999 EAST LANSING, Mich. - Visitors to Michigan State University's Media, Interface & Network Design (M.I.N.D.) Lab can walk around a virtual city in the Amazon, do virtual surgery, grab giant molecules with a laser spear and meet a cyborg connected to a wearable computer.
The M.I.N.D. Lab, which opened this week, is MSU's new, collaborative, human-computer interaction research facility. It is a leading research facility for the study of how humans communicate with and interact with computers. It is the only research lab in the field of communication dedicated to research on how humans communicate, work and learn inside advanced virtual environments.
"At the M.I.N.D. Lab, we look at new ways to connect people to information," said Frank Biocca, Ameritech Chair in Telecommunication Technologies and Information Services and director of the lab. "We focus on designing better ways to use virtual reality to assist information processing and worker productivity."
Biocca's research explores human-computer interaction in virtual environments. The current research asks: How can we design telecommunication technologies and services to help people better find, use and understand information? Recent projects explore how various modes of interactivity and presence in virtual reality can improve human performance.
Biocca also examines the long-term effects of media use and negative physiological and psychological reactions to interactive media like computer games and simulations. The only way to understand the long-term effects of such technologies will be over time.
"Most people born since the 1950's will spend as much as seven years of their lives watching television. For children born today, as new interactive media replace the telephone, the television set and other amusements, if you combine all those media, you may get a situation where people are inside these environments for as long as 15 to 20 years of their lives, over a 70-year life span," said Biocca. "There has to be some consideration of the long term psychophysiological effects."
"The M.I.N.D. Lab and related activities represent bold steps toward the integration of human ingenuity with computer and telecommunication capacity in a way that will enable MSU to become a 21st century pioneer," said James D. Spaniolo, dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. "The various applications and potential benefits are striking."
"The M.I.N.D. Lab has a different philosophy than most other research labs on campus," said Biocca. "Faculty and students from anywhere on campus can propose a research or design project and use any of the expensive computer graphics hardware and software housed in the M.I.N.D. Lab."
Plans are in motion to expand the M.I.N.D. Lab to Ohio State University and Indiana University. When this is accomplished the M.I.N.D. Lab will be the only multi-university, networked research lab in the communication sciences.
In 1988, Biocca was the first to apply computerized audience response systems to national press coverage of televised presidential debates. During the 1988 and 1992 presidential elections, Biocca conducted computer-based studies for ABC, Gannett, USA Today and other news organizations. Fortune 500 companies such as CBS, BMW, Sears and others have asked Biocca's research team to help them design more effective programs and information messages.
For more information on the M.I.N.D. Lab, see the lab's web site at http://www.mindlab.msu.edu.
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