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High Tech Facility Brings UCSD to Leading Edge of Digital Revolution

By Ioana Patringenaru I October 31, 2005

UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox announces the naming of Calit2's building as Atkinson Hall, in honor of former UC President Richard C. Atkinson.

Walk into UCSD's new Calit2 building and you can watch movies beamed through the world's highest-resolution projector. You can also meet RUBI, a quirky robot who teaches and plays with preschoolers. And you can talk to researchers who make devices about one 25-millionth of an inch across.

On Friday, officials dedicated the new home of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, better known as Calit2. An open house followed, showcasing about 150 projects.

The institute is on the leading edge of the digital revolution, Chancellor Marye Anne Fox told the hundreds of students, faculty, staff members, and community members who turned out for the event.

"The new facility that we have before us will engage students in a completely new way," Fox said.

215,000 square feet

Home to the highest resolution projector in the world and to TeraVision, a huge group of 55 tiled plasma displays

Provides the cleanest lab environment available on any U.S. campus

Roughly 360 miles of high bandwidth Ethernet cable are strung around the building

The new building will be named after former UC President and UCSD Chancellor Richard C. Atkinson. Calit2 is a collaboration between UCSD and UC Irvine, which already opened a sister institute on its campus.

Calit2 aims to foster collaboration between researchers working in many fields, from engineering, to neuroscience, to visual arts. The institute also aims to conduct breakthrough research in many areas, from computer games, to wireless communication, to nanotechonology, which deals with devices about one 25-millionth of an inch across.

All that innovation has a price tag.

The state of California contributed $70 million for construction and major equipment. Federal grants and private companies covered other needs, adding up to $304 million to date.

Friday, QUALCOMM CEO Paul Jacobs announced that the company will pitch in $1.5 million for Calit2's operating budget. The company already was Calit2 biggest donor, with gifts adding up to $15 million.

Visitors get acquainted with RUBI, a robot built by cognitive scientists in UCSD's Machine Perception Lab, which is moving into the new building. RUBI regularly spends time at UCSD's Early Childhood Education Center to react with and teach pre-schoolers.

"This is a resource," Jacobs said of Calit2. "It's a resource for the community, for the state, for the national and also for the entire world."

One wing of the new facility provides the most pristine laboratory environment available on any U.S. campus, officials said. Some of its sparkling clean laboratories have no more than 100 particles larger than 0.5 microns per cubic foot of air. By comparison, a human hair is about 100 microns thick.

Researchers will be able to use these clean rooms to make nanodevices that can for example be used to fight cancer. Another wing of the building is heavy on visual displays that can be used both as research tools and artistic displays. Visitors wearing special glasses could see 3-D images of thunderstorms and mathematical models displayed through the world's highest-definition projector.

"It looks like the wildest piece of toffee you've ever seen," joked research scientist Tom DeFanti.

Dedication day events continued into the night with several new media arts projects, including the premiere of Adriene Jenik's "speculative distributed cinema" piece, SPECFLIC 1.0, pictured here. More than 500 people attended the multimedia performance/film/happening, which imagined a radically different UCSD in the year 2030 through videos streamed onto multiple screens as well as onto the surfaces of the building. A bonfire, a buffet of dumpster-found food and masked actors wandering through the crowd added to the sci-fi atmosphere.

On the same floor, two robots created quite a traffic jam during Friday's open house. RUBI is a three-foot-tall female robot who can recognize voices and the six basic facial expressions. A creature of Calit2's Machine Perception Laboratory, she works with preschoolers at UCSD's Early Childhood Education Center, helping them learn letters and numbers and playing songs for them.

QRIO, a silvery humanoid robot made by Sony, dances with the children. Friday, he demonstrated his moves to a curious, awed and amused audience.

Meanwhile, on the fifth floor, visitors could learn about Mushroom Networks, a company that wants to increase Internet download speeds at low cost by allowing residential users to share their Internet access resources. The company was founded by UCSD professor Rene Cruz and researcher Cahit Akin based on an idea they developed at Calit2.

Edgar Hodge, a UCSD staff member, said he'd like that kind of technology to be available at his house. He and senior Ilham Bashir said they found the new technologies featured at the open house very interesting.

"I think it's very innovative," Hodge said.


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