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CAPRI Initiative Launches at AU

By Patty Housman

Collaborative for Applied Perceptual Research & Innovation (CAPRI) member Jonathan Newport

Collaborative for Applied Perceptual Research & Innovation (CAPRI) member Jonathan Newport

With the launch of the Collaborative for Applied Perceptual Research and Innovation (CAPRI), American University now has one central interdisciplinary research hub where science, art, and experimental technology can come together. 

Founded by the College of Arts and Sciences, CAPRI breaks down traditional walls between university departments and disciplines. It provides opportunities for faculty in different fields to collaborate on new interactive technology tools in multimedia art, scientific research, and advanced data representation. 


Changing the World 

CAPRI is dedicated to the belief that developments in interactive technology over the next 30 years will change the world as much as the Internet has shaped the last 30 years, said Psychology Professor Art Shapiro.  

Interactive technology is already being used in research and teaching across American University. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The interactive experiences of the future will entertain us, educate us, keep us healthy, keep us safe on the roads, and help us manage nearly every aspect of our daily lives. 

At the same time, this technology is becoming accessible to more and more people. “You no longer have to be an engineer to use interactive technology,” said Shapiro. “So the goal of CAPRI is to help faculty and students push the technological envelope in their individual fields. We want to build up a culture of cutting-edge technological innovation across American University.”  


Across Departments and Disciplines 

Shapiro believes that one of the biggest questions for 21st century academics is “Are we going to organize ourselves by content or by methodology?” 

He believes it will be the latter. “The methodology and new technologies cut across disciplines in ways that could not have been imagined 50 years ago,” he said. “CAPRI is betting that the new interactive technology will cross our previous divisions. Faculty and students in different fields will come together to develop new tools and technologies to help their research and teaching.” 

Shapiro points to the work of Michael Bader, assistant sociology professor, who is mapping data about the civil rights movement and neighborhood demographics. Bader is using GIS (Geographic Information System) tools to identify this information and present it in the most engaging way. 

“The interactive mapping tools used by professor Bader,” said Shapiro, “can also be used by scholars in other disciplines. Once we see tools working in one field, we can adapt them for our own fields.” 


Inspiring Creativity and Innovation 

CAPRI will also offer events and demonstrations to showcase its new projects, spark creativity, and inspire new ways to collaborate using technology. 

Its first event, Magic and the Brain, drew more than 200 participants. Renowned neuroscientists Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde discussed how magicians’ techniques can help neurologists better understand brain functions.  

The talk was followed by interactive demonstrations of cutting-edge AU projects that blend scientific research, art, and experimental technology. Shapiro presented interactive visual illusions. Performing arts professor William Brent focused on sound: visitors could control the brightness, loudness, and richness of sounds with their hand movements. And in physicist Jonathan Newport's demonstrations, visitors explored auditory illusions and created laser light shows using their voices. 

At the next event, Sounding Movement: Cross-mappings in Music and Dance, Brent, dancer Mirenka Cechova, and 'cellist NJ Snider will discuss how they use technology to create relationships between physical movement, acoustic/computer-generated sound, and video. This event takes place on December 7, at 3 p.m. in the Katzen Arts Center Studio Theatre.  


The Future: Projects and a New Home 

CAPRI will ultimately become an incubator for cutting-edge software and interface development for digital musical instrument design, medical testing, improved training procedures, and educational tools.  

It will also be a place for innovating technical solutions for real-world applications in a range of industries, ranging from museums and performing arts to assistive technologies for the partially disabled. 

In fall 2016, the university's state-of-the-art Don Myers Technology and Innovation Center will officially open, becoming home to CAPRI and also the Departments of Computer Science, Physics, and Mathematics and Statistics, and the new program in game design, offered jointly with the School of Communication. 

“In the new building, CAPRI will become an open collaborative laboratory, hosting students and faculty from departments across AU campus, as well as visiting researchers from around the world,” said Brent. “The work will be exceptionally public and visible—creating a space of interactive demonstrations and installations that the general public can freely explore. CAPRI’s exhibits will illustrate both what we know and are still exploring of human perception.”  

For More Information For more information about CAPRI, visit its website.