Virtual Nature: Making Knowledge Beautiful

This seminar took place through Zoom on September 24th, 2020 from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm.
Presented by: Dr. Maria C. R. Harrington, Assistant Professor, University of Central Florida

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Virtual Nature: Making Knowledge Beautiful
Dr. Harrington will give an overview of her research in developing immersive virtual models of nature used to investigate
informal learning in the context of museums and outdoor gardens. These models are not art, nor are they games,
but new and unique immersive, interactive, knowledge artifacts. Constructed from GIS data and information fused
together, they are developed in real-time, interactive game engines as large open-world environments and distributed
as AR and VR learning applications. Furthermore, they are semantically interactive and self-expose information in context,
thus offering a wide range of future research trajectories into deep learning, modeling and simulation, useful in
forecasting scenarios important for decision support when the natural environment is a factor. She will cover her
design, development, and construction processes used to create these high information fidelity representations of
nature by using accurate data and expert knowledge. Theses environments also result in emotionally beautiful and photorealistic
experiences of nature, creating opportunities for research into the health and wellbeing effects of such applications.
Please join us to imagine the future of Virtual Nature applications, one that can go beyond the exhibits of museums
and into developing new immersive presentations complex system dynamics, Earth focused models and simulations,
and research into the human-computer-environment interactions.

Dr. Maria C. R. Harrington is an American information scientist and artist. Research focus is on Virtual Nature,
by applying information science theory in novel ways to understand foundational questions at the boundaries of
perception, aesthetics, emotions, communication and learning on topics related to the natural world, and by using augmented
reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR). Such tools are used to investigate human interaction
of real-virtual environments and impacts on perception, learning, health, and creativity. Such systems influence scientific,
human, social, and cultural transformations. An Assistant Professor of Digital Media in the UCF Nicholson School of
Communication and Media at the University of Central Florida. She also has a second joint appointment in the UCF
Learning Sciences Cluster, is a core graduate UCF faculty member in the Texts & Technology Ph.D. program, and is a
Research Associate with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History with the Powdermill Nature Reserve. She is director
of The Harrington Lab, recipient of the Epic Mega Grant Award 2020, and has consulted on projects using AR and VR
with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Her research area is broadly related to the development of digital media
artifacts from human-computer interaction, user centered design, and data visualization perspectives. There are two
major creative research projects currently under investigation. The first project is AR Perpetual Garden App used in
museums, and the second project is the investigation of VR with The Virtual UCF Arboretum, both are used to study
informal learning, emotional, and aesthetic impacts of immersive, multimodal, and interactive digital media as knowledge
artifacts. Both projects have resulted in grants, awards, publications, and presentations. The AR apps are available
on iTunes, Google Play stores, and digital media on PBS LearningMedia. Papers have appeared in peer-reviewed international
journals and conference proceedings, including: Curator: The Museum Journal, Virtual Reality, IEEE Transactions
on Learning Technologies, and Museum and the Web, NASA Human Research Program, HASTAC, Human Factors
and Ergonomics Society, ACM-SIGCHI IDC, ACM SIGGRAPH, and IEEE Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces.