By Trisha Kholiya
Nestled in the glass-windowed Atkinson Hall right by Bear sits the Qualcomm Institute (QI) — a multidisciplinary research center that brings together UC San Diego faculty, students, technical professionals and industry partners.
QI’s strategic vision stresses collaborative, interdisciplinary research and education in four core areas: culture, energy, the environment and health. Its goal: to come up with innovative technology solutions to large-scale challenges facing society in the 21st century.
Let’s take a glimpse at a handful of the many facilities and programs QI has to offer.
1. Opportunities for Students
QI understands the importance of educating the next generation of innovators and providing them with opportunities that complement and enhance their coursework. At QI, students gain experience working on large-scale, interdisciplinary and team-oriented projects.
Students can also gain hands-on experience by working directly with faculty and affiliates of QI to conduct research, prototype technologies, and test those technologies in the field. Every student gets access to a wide array of unique research assets and facilities housed within QI.
2. Home to Interdisciplinary Research
QI is home to research that crosses the typical boundaries between fields of science. Many interdisciplinary, up-and-coming research groups have found their footing at QI, including the Power of NeuroGaming Center, the Cultural Heritage Engineering Initiative and the Center for Human Frontiers. All three groups use 3D modeling or other technological innovations to enhance our understanding of human culture, psychology and behavior, with the ultimate goal of improving quality of life or preserving culture.
The Institute encourages partnerships across disciplines like engineering and anthropology to inspire new, creative ways of studying issues in society. Visit each of the websites linked above for more information on how the seeds of innovation take root at QI.
3. QI Innovation Space (QIIS)
QI has generated more than a dozen startup companies created by both current and former students, as well as researchers. The QI Innovation Space, or QIIS, offers startups room for collaborative office use on the second floor of Atkinson Hall. By bringing startups into the campus research community, QIIS creates opportunities for joint research between the private and public sectors.
Nano3 provides advanced capabilities for fabrication and characterization in a state-of-the-art cleanroom facility. The name “Nano3” reflects the facility’s synergistic nature, focusing on three fields of nanoscale research and development within the space: Nanoscience, Nanoengineering and Nanomedicine.
If you glance in, you’ll see researchers sporting some unique fashion. Researchers in the cleanroom dress in protective “bunny suits” to prevent free-floating particles (dirt, hair, etc.) from damaging research materials used in biomedical and biochemical devices, circuits and sensor technology. The bunny suits include shoe-covers, a hairnet, a face mask and gloves — only the skin around the eyes is exposed to the air.
Sound like a lot of clothes? It takes about 30 minutes for a novice to put on the suit and a couple of minutes for a veteran.
5. SunCAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment)
The SunCAVE is a 360-degree virtual reality space, and the highest-resolution VR system in the world.
The SunCAVE is outfitted with 70 3D stereo ultra-high definition 4K panels (45 screens in front and another 25 behind). The 500 megapixel display tilts at both the top and the bottom for an encompassing experience that gives the space a sphere-like appearance. By wearing lightweight 3D glasses, visitors can engage with their virtual surroundings.
6. Virtual Room (VROOM)
The Big Wall in QI’s Virtual Room (VROOM) is an impressive display screen. The VROOM has four rows of eight displays for a total of 32 displays with a 55 inch diagonal. Each of the displays has full HD resolution, adding up to 66 million pixels, where a regular HD TV has only 1080 pixels. VROOM captivates the attention of not only visitors, but also researchers and students who use it for its amazing scientific visualization ability, and artists blending traditional performance and technology.
The gallery@calit2 is one of the first spaces you’ll see when you enter Atkinson Hall. It’s an innovation space that features art exhibits by different artist groups and students. gallery@calit2 reflects the nexus of innovation implicit in QI’s vision, and aims to advance our understanding and appreciation of the dynamic interplay among art, science and technology.
Interested in checking it out? It’s open to the public and free of charge, weekdays from 12 p.m. - 5 p.m. gallery@calit2 is closed on observed UC San Diego holidays.
8. Prototyping lab
QI’s Prototyping Lab is where researchers and students can create embedded electronics, mechanical devices, robotic contraptions and real-time/networking software 3D printed structures. Alternately, this busy space is a good place to find general systems engineering support. The lab houses multiple 3D printers, saws and production mills.
9. Drone Lab
The second floor of Atkinson Hall houses the Drone Lab. Researchers at the Drone Lab use lightweight unmanned airborne or aerial vehicles (UAVs), as well as terrestrial and underwater drones, for a broad range of scenarios, often in tandem with other robotic systems. UAVs, commonly referred to as drones, are everywhere in research. Relatively inexpensive, lightweight and easily-deployed, drones provide an alternative to traditional forms of flight, such as full-scale aircraft and helicopters, and allow researchers to collect data from the air.
There’s one more place in QI that can transform your surroundings, at least as far as your ears are concerned. Tucked away on the first floor of Atkinson Hall, the Audio Spatialization Laboratory, or “SPATLab,” is a large, dark room sheltered by sound-trapping walls. The space is designed for audio research, music composition or a combination of both. Its unique structure allows researchers to completely create or recreate immersive soundscapes. Recent projects in the SPATLab include “Hearing Seascapes,” an interdisciplinary course that encourages students to draw on technology, the marine environment and their own artistic spirit to create new musical pieces that can inspire others to preserve and appreciate the oceans.
QI is the UC San Diego division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, or Calit2, one of four Gray Davis Institutes for Science and Innovation on University of California campuses. Interested in learning even more about us? Check out our website and follow us on our social media accounts to stay updated with news from QI.