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24-foot LED immersive soundstage for virtual productions to anchor new extended reality lab

For Immediate Release Mar 19, 2024

The Media School at IU Bloomington. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University The Media School at IU Bloomington. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A new extended reality lab at Indiana University Bloomington will feature “The Wall,” a 24-foot LED immersive soundstage that will enable faculty and graduate students to use virtual and augmented reality in research and creative projects across disciplines, including public art, science, health and education.

The Kinetic Imagery and Extended Reality Lab (KIX) will serve as a hub for the creation, use and study of virtual worlds. As performers move about on the stage, “The Wall” displays their environment, and camera tracking moves the environment as the performers move. The result is like a green screen, but the performers and production team can see the virtual world in real time, and the imagery can be altered beyond what can be seen on the wall; there is no limit to what the camera can capture.

David Tolchinsky, dean of The Media School at IU Bloomington. Photo courtesy of The Media School David Tolchinsky, dean of The Media School at IU Bloomington. Photo courtesy of The Media School

“This underexplored intersection of technology and the arts provides a space for interdisciplinary research and creative activity that was previously unavailable to our faculty and graduate students,” said David Tolchinsky, dean of The Media School. “The KIX Lab will be the first extended reality lab to focus on the arts, facilitating advancements in media, music and fine arts. It will also model a more environmentally responsible media practice, as well as new techniques to model climate change and a range of health conditions, especially mental health.”

With its interdisciplinary nature, the KIX Lab’s potential applications are vast. For example, filmmakers can use the facility as an adaptable film set; public health researchers can create spatial experiences to study mental illnesses such as addiction; and optometrists can develop assistive devices and rehabilitation for people with visual impairments. The lab can serve as a venue for live performances using immersive visual projections and for screenings of experimental films.

But the KIX Lab’s impact will reach beyond campus. Collaborating with local communities, faculty will use the lab to create interactive public art, science, health and education projects. And the facility will create connections with industry, with the soundstage available to rent for local commercial productions.

“The KIX Lab is exactly the variety of interdisciplinary effort that has earned IU Bloomington a reputation as a leader in media and arts innovation,” IU Bloomington Provost Rahul Shrivastav said. “This lab will push us forward in the realms of student success, research, creativity and service, and I am grateful to everyone who boldly contributed to its development.”

It’s an interdisciplinary initiative among seven schools — The Media School; the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design; the School of Optometry; the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering; the School of Public Health-Bloomington; the College of Arts and Sciences; and the Jacobs School of Music — as well as University Information Technology Services.

The initiative also poses intercampus potential. The KIX Lab’s first phase will be construction on the IU Bloomington campus, with the opportunity to later expand to a facility at IU Indianapolis.

The participating schools will use the KIX Lab to create new graduate programs focused on immersive technologies and media and to attract new faculty in both technology and art.

“The KIX Lab concept is an inspiring example of the collaborative spirit among IU Bloomington’s academic leaders,” said Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design Founding Dean Peg Faimon. “As the details unfold, the opportunities for faculty and graduate students’ creative research will come into greater focus. Such a facility will provide a platform for innovation and connection to create meaningful interdisciplinary work.”

The KIX Lab will launch two faculty searches this fall, and construction on the Bloomington facility will follow.

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Teresa Mackin

Deputy Director of Media Relations, Indianapolis

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