Back to the future, cutting edge science made understandable
New technology comes in many guises, and for many reasons. And we may as well admit that most of it is above the heads of most people, requiring an engineering degree or two to understand how it all works.
“In many cases, new technology is very complex and difficult to understand. But as sight is our most active sense, by visualizing complicated things we want to create an understanding of how we can learn by using new technology,” explains Johan Klittmark, Head of Marketing at Visualiseringscenter C.
In fact, the Municipality of Norrköping, Linköping University, Norrköping Science Park and Interactive Institute Swedish ICT thought it so important to get the general public to learn about and understand the technological achievements in the region that they formed a consortium that founded Visualiseringscenter C to show the results.
The centre opened its doors on 27 May 2010 in the beautiful, well-preserved and carefully restored industrial landscape in the centre of Norrköping. Visitors come here from near and far to learn about important parts of Östergötland’s technological wonders. The aim is thus to get us mere mortals to understand, in a smart and easy way, the ultra-modern visualization research carried out at Linköping University’s Campus Norrköping.
“The main aim is that children should explore and learn more about technology and to arouse an interest in science subjects. We invite school groups here either as a class for educational purposes or on a school trip. Many students start or end themed work based on one of our exhibitions here, so we have employed an educationalist who works with our school programmes,” explains Johan Klittmark.
For those of us who have just learnt to download an app, it is a bit daunting to walk around Visualiseringscenter C – a jittery feeling of having broken into some secret future lab combined with a childish fascination of actually being allowed, yes, even encouraged to touch, twist, turn and test.
The permanent exhibition with the telling title ‘To show what we can’t see 2.0’ includes a visualization table that shows which parts of the brain are used for the different activities. At another installation, you can try pairing synapses that move on the floor in a big semi-circle with LED screens. “Over there you have a microcosm, and here is something we call ‘Food on the table’, which is about sustainable development and ecological footprints. With the help of a touch table, you can put out icons for different food products and see how much carbon dioxide a food product emits during its life cycle,” explains Johan Klittmark as he clicks on crispbread and a piece of South American beef. A little further along, on yet another touch table, we find Urban Explorer where you can take a closer look at a 3D version of Norrköping. It is a collaboration between Visualiseringscenter C, the Town-Building Office and Hyresbostäder in Norrköping, which are behind it, and as well as allowing visitors to see every street corner in the city, the 3D model is used to facilitate city development issues.
Here you will also see the real superstar of Östergötland’s visualization research: the virtual autopsy table, which is really worth an exclusive article on its own and which has revolutionised a whole industry. Researchers at Visualiseringscenter C headed by Professor Anders Ynnerman are behind this tremendous international pioneering success.
The medical advances of the virtual autopsy table are enormous, but maybe the biggest gain, despite everything, is that it shows the pure aim of Visualiseringscenter C: to take high technology to the people. Here, a five-year-old, a plumber, a hands-on photographer or anyone at all can be looking at the same data and explore it in the same way as doctors, archaeologists, zoologists and experts at the British Museum. If the virtual autopsy table is the Zlatan Ibrahimovic of the visualization research, then the IMAX cinema is the changing room where the team bond. The cinema with 102 seats and a concave screen provides an exhilarating 3D experience. Visualiseringscenter C is behind several of the productions shown here.