Friday, May 20, 2005

High-Tech Theater to see the future?

ASU’s Decision Theater ushers in new age of public policy

A new age is dawning on public policy, one based on advanced scientifically informed decision making, with the May 23 opening of the Decision Theater at ASU.
The Decision Theater is an advanced visualization environment that will enable policy makers and others to literally see – in detailed, three-dimensional representation – the consequences of their actions. It will feature a 260-degree “immersive environment” where researchers will be able to view the effects of public policy decisions played out before them.
“The Decision Theater is an exciting new concept that melds science with public policy in a novel way, which we expect will have a huge impact in a number of socially important areas,” says ASU President Michael Crow. “The Decision Theater will provide informed analysis based on scientific evidence to key public policy experts, who then can use that analysis on which to discuss issues and provide a basis for sound policy decisions.”
The Decision Theater will be used in several targeted research areas, including:

• Enabling policy makers, business leaders and government officials to explore the outcomes of possible scenarios of urban development, such as water availability, urban heating, land-use patterns, transportation networks, air quality and homeland security.

• As a forum where decision makers and scientists meet to discuss and explore integrated environmental, economic and social challenges to arrive at optimal decisions through the use of models and dialogue.

• In simulation games, or “what if” scenarios, to model and visualize otherwise unimaginable outcomes of the many factors that affect our society and possible “breaking points” of our critical infrastructure. For example, ASU researchers will be able to simulate metropolitan Phoenix in the year 2040, when it is expected to include a population of 7 million people, by inputting the known and expected growth patterns and associated demands for water and other natural resources.

The Decision Theater employs seven digital-image projectors to beam stereo images onto seven high-definition screens to achieve the 260-degree image surround. Hardware design and system set up is provided by Fakespace Systems Inc. of Marshalltown , Iowa , a leader in virtual reality and immersive environments.

Anshuman Razdan, director of research and technology at the Decision Theater, says a key capability of the facility is its ability to incorporate and integrate complex multidimensional data from a variety of sources, such as numeric and spatial data, into models and simulations for display in an immersive environment.

“With this data fusion, we can take data from different sources, which oftentimes are gathered and presented in specific and varying ways, and integrate them to provide a complete picture of the scenario we are monitoring or simulating,” Razdan says.

ASU’s Decision Theater ushers in new age of public policy


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