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£1.7m for Multi-disciplinary Design of Effective Research Spaces

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31 January 2010

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A £1.7m multi-disciplinary project which aims to revolutionise the design of technologies for supporting research has been awarded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through the RCUK Digital Economy programme.

The project, entitled PATINA (Personal Architectonics of Interfaces to Artefacts) will be led by the University of Bristol in collaboration with the Universities of Brighton, Greenwich, Newcastle, Southampton and Swansea. The project includes Microsoft Research, Nokia Research and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Current digital research support systems take attention away from the material that they describe. PATINA will provide researchers with new opportunities to create research spaces that emphasise the primacy of research material, and support the sharing of research activities as well as results.

The consortium will build wearable prototypes that can enhance research objects by projecting related information back into their research space. These technologies will also provide the means to capture, record, and replay the researcher's activities to support intuitive archiving, sharing and publication of interactions with research objects. The design of the technologies will draw on theoretical frameworks of space developed from studies of research spaces as diverse as libraries, museums, homes and archaeological fieldwork sites.

Dr. Mike Fraser of the Bristol Interaction and Graphics group in the Department of Computer Science said: “Imagine walking in the footsteps of famous researchers and seeing how the provenance of your developing ideas links with theirs through shared objects that exist both online and in the real world. This grant demonstrates just how important it is to explore substantive design dialogues between arts and engineering disciplines to our mutual benefit. We expect this project to have immediate and lasting impact on the ways in which research is conducted.”

The project begins in June 2010 and will run for three years.