IDEA Lab: Innovation, Discovery, dEsign & dAta

We visited IDEA Lab today, which is located in Grainger Engineering Library Information Center of the University of Illinois. Like its name, IDEA, which standing for Innovation, Discovery, DEsign & DAta Laboratory, this space supports UIUC faculty members and students to collaborate and make innovations. 



The access to IDEA Lab is strictly controlled because of all the cutting-edge technology equipment. Faculty members and students can submit a proposal to gain the access, and once they are authorized they can reserve space and equipment via web form. If there is an existing reservation, the library contacts them for adjustment.



Visualization Wall

When you enter the IDEA Lab, the first thing cut your eyes is a 13.5′ feet by 7.5′ visualization wall consisting of 16 46-inch monitors, which is ideal for high-definition presentations. We watched some 4K video clips and 3D modelling works on it and it was I am sort of interested in photography and video filming and they were so crisp and clear on it! I am interested in photography and video filming so checked the specifications too. According to the library website, the monitor pixel resolution is 7,680 by 4,320 and it’s powered by a high-end Windows 10 workstation with NVIDIA Quadro 6000 video card.

Not this big, but there are more presentation spaces here and there in IDEA Lab. It’s a summer season so usage is not very high but even when we visited there were people having discussion.


Information Labs
Next, we entered one of the two Informatics Laboratories. There was an experiment going on, which is being conducted by Bill (William) Mischo, the Acting Dean of Libraries and University Librarian. Actually, this optional tour was made available by his recommendation during his meeting with Mortenson Associates, in which I willingly participated.


There were five huge touchscreens on wheels with attached workstations. The experiment seemed like to be related to enhancing user experiences with library search and discovery.



3D Print Lab

Of course there were 3D Print Lab too! This lab is used mainly for constructing prototypes. There were three LulzBot TAZ 5 3D printers equipped with dual extruders and Sense 3D scanner.




Innovator Design Rooms

I am not sure whether the room we entered is one of eight innovator design rooms, but wherever it was, we had so much fun and a brand new experience there. There was a virtual reality system, and we actually played it!




This is what we are wearing on the pictures, which is presumably a HTC VIVE Virtual Reality System. It consists of Headset, two controllers and two base stations and provides a small room scale virtual reality with motion tracking. Some might use it for gaming, but what people do here with it are a variety of design, testing, and training project. For example, you can find where to improve in your virtual 3D interior design, games, even internal organs in human body. You can also train people for some dangerous tasks without actually endangering someone!




I liked the IDEA Lab in Grainger and thought it’s so cool. If the university libraries provide it, it could benefit not only STEM researchers but those in social science and digital humanities too, because it can enhance the quality and productivity of the researchers’ works. It would help researchers to save trial-and-error costs and resources, and is expected to build more collaborations throughout the fields.



 (He’s the Mr. Grainger! Hahaha)


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