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Students Get Giant Screen Test

Although the James B. Hunt Jr. Library is still under construction on Centennial Campus, it’s already giving students hands-on experience with the gaming industry’s newest technology.

During the spring semester students studying industrial design, graphic design and computer game development got the chance to work together on a prototype of the 21-foot-wide high-definition video wall that will be the centerpiece of the library’s game lab.

The Serious Side of Gaming

Student calibrates new game on a mini-version of the Hunt Library's Christie MicroTiles digital canvass.

The students learned to research the needs of a client, orchestrate the work of a team of designers and engineers, and complete a project on a tight deadline. They scoped, planned and delivered NOL, a collaborative pursuit game designed to use real-time data from the library’s database to allow players to work together to guard the Vault of Knowledge, a mystical storage site holding the collected wisdom and secrets gained from the innate human capacity for curiosity and thirst for understanding.

Michael Young, associate professor of computer science, said the vast visual real estate provided by the Christie MicroTiles screen encouraged the students to develop a game more adapted to large groups than the typical computer game. They even combined two motion sensing devices to double the number of  players connected  to the system.

‘We Can’t Wait’

“We can’t wait for the Hunt Library to open so we can further bolster our program by using the whole ecosystem of visualization spaces in the building,” he said.

Students put NOL's Kinect interface through its paces.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing during the semester. The design students had to resolve dilemmas involving the large aspect ratios and wide camera angles inherent in the giant video wall. They were also consulted by library staff designing the user experience for the game lab in particular and library in general.

“This is fundamental to the work of a great designer,” said Tim Buie, assistant professor of industrial design. “A new technology comes along and the best designers find productive and creative ways to use it. Our students have now had an immersive experience earning their wings on a new technology.”

Seeing the game run for the first time on the Christie MicroTiles screen, one student summed up the experience of the semester: “This is epic.”

The Hunt Library, designed to be nothing less than the best learning and collaborative space in the country,  is scheduled to open in January.

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