The opening of the new Arts and Technology (ATEC) Building at UT Dallas in 2013 will bring global attention to North Texas as a hub of research and innovation in this emerging field. This $60 million, 155,000-square-foot facility will provide an interdisciplinary and collaborative environment for students, scholars and industry. Here they will apply the principles of visual arts, computer science and engineering to solutions impacting fields as diverse as medicine, education, journalism, social media and more.
Learn more about this innovative program from two UT Dallas faculty members as well as from executives from Istation, a successful local technology company that has already discovered the value of ATEC’s research and graduates. Presentations will include ATEC projects and Istation’s educational animation programs, which are available to Texas public school students from third to eighth grade.
Dr. Thomas Linehan
Arts and Humanities Distinguished Chair and Director of the ATEC Program
Arts and Technology faculty Drs. Thomas Linehan and Mihai Nadin will be among 14 faculty honored by the University with an Investiture Ceremony on Monday, Oct. 22.
A chair or professorship is among the highest academic honors that the University can bestow on a faculty member, and it lasts as long as the University exists.
It is also an enduring tribute to the donor who establishes it. Endowed chairs and professorships are filled by faculty members who are recognized industry leaders, perform groundbreaking research, mentor PhD candidates and junior faculty, and attract talented undergraduates.
“The endowed professorships and chairs are important to the entire community and crucial to the success of the University,” said UT Dallas President David E. Daniel. “It’s all about discovery, change and innovation. The very best scholars want to be at those institutions where they’re constantly re-inventing the future. The endowed professorships and chairs are crucial to attracting and retaining the best talent.”
Linehan is director of the Institute for Interactive Arts and Engineering as well as Arts and Humanities Distinguished Chair. He has a background in both corporate management and educational administration. He has served as a college president, a corporate vice president, an associate dean, a research laboratory director, a professor and a public school teacher.
“UT Dallas students are the smartest I’ve taught,” Linehan said. “Most of them write very well, so it gives me great hope that the stories of the future will come out of this generation. They’ve got good, fresh ideas. This university is a university for this century.”
Nadin is Professor of Computer Science and Interactive Media and Ashbel Smith Professor. He is credited with introducing various terms and phrases that have found wide usage throughout society, including “semiotic machine,” “the civilization of illiteracy” and “anticipatory computing.”
“I am teaching because it gives me a chance to continue learning, and boy, do I learn at UT Dallas,” said Nadin.
The Investiture Ceremony will be held on Monday, Oct. 22 at 2:30 p.m. in Naveen Jindal SOM Davidson’s Auditorium.
Honor is Arts and Technology Research Project’s Third National Honor in 2 Years
For the third time in two years, the First Person Cultural Trainer (FPCT), a research project from the UT Dallas Arts and Technology(ATEC) program, has won a national award for serious gaming.
FPCT received the Best Game award in the Government Category of the 2011 Serious Games Showcase and Challenge. FPCT is sponsored by U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command G-2 Intelligence Support (TRADOC). The Serious Games Showcase is part of the Interservice/Interindustry Training and Simulation Education Conference (I/ITSEC), and was held in Orlando, Fla., from November 28 through December 1.
Earlier in 2011, FPCT earned first place in the Innovations in DoD Gaming Competition at the GameTech Users’ Conference in Orlando. In 2010, FPCT won the cross-function award from the National Training and Simulation Association (NTSA).
FPCT is a four-level immersive game that allows Army leaders and other appropriate personnel to practice culturally correct ways of interacting with different populations around the world. The game features a variety of innovations, like a branching conversation system and methods for displaying nonverbal communication and environmental perception. The program can also be ported to different game engines with minimal redevelopment.
More than 50 games were entered in the I/ITSEC Serious Games contest, which had five categories – government, business, student, mobile and a special category, adaptive stance. The work was reviewed by a panel of military, academic and industry gaming experts. About 20,000 government, business, military and academic total registrants attend I/ITSEC every year. The conference is widely considered to be the largest and most competitive worldwide in modeling and simulation.
“This honor and the overall visibility that FPCT, UT Dallas and ATEC received at I/ITSEC this year is a real tribute to our sponsors at TRADOC, students, faculty, project staff and administrators who have nurtured this project for going on four years,” said Dr. Marjorie Zielke, ATEC assistant professor.
Zielke is the associate director of the Institute for Interactive Arts and Engineering (IIAE) and principal investigator of the FPCT project. Other faculty co-investigators on the project include Dr. Frank Dufour, assistant professor and director of the ATEC PhD program; Dr. Gopal Gupta, professor and head of the UT Dallas computer science department; and Dr. Thomas Linehan, professor and director of ATEC and the IIAE. More than 20 students, staff and faculty worked on the project for this development phase. The project has employed many more undergraduate, masters and PhD student developers over its four-year life cycle.
As part of the award, the development team received a kiosk display area at the conference where live gameplay was demonstrated to the large conference delegation. Key developers from ATEC serious games projects gave demonstrations throughout the entire conference.
The developers were able to show the game to key government and business entities involved in modeling and simulation, including a representative from the White House, who visited the Serious Games pavilion to learn about national and international research in serious games.
In addition to winning the award, Zielke, Dufour and ATEC Research Manager Gary Hardee presented a paper titled “Creating Micro-expressions and Nuanced Nonverbal Communication in Synthetic Cultural Characters and Environments,” which highlighted some of the new FPCT development recently completed in October.
Construction of the 155,000-squre-foot facility is scheduled for completion in 2013.
After the ceremonial dirt was turned, the group made its way to the Visitor Center and University Bookstore (VCB) for a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony. The 33,000-square-foot building was brought online in eight months under a “fast-track” construction program.
Dr. Calvin Jamison, senior vice president for business affairs and master of ceremonies at both locations, praised the “remarkable collaboration” that produced the ATEC building design, and said the VCB would answer many needs for more space on campus.
Two recent projects developed by research teams within the Arts and Technology (ATEC) program at The University of Texas at Dallas have earned industry awards.
One award was presented at the GameTech 2011 Conference in Orlando, Fla., in March for the First Person Cultural Traineror (FPCT), a 3D interactive training game that teaches soldiers the values and norms of Iraqi and Afghan cultures.
FPCT was honored for “designing and developing a training process that meets training objectives, engages the learner and provides creative training for our war fighters,” according to event sponsor Kristy Murray, director of the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative.
The game also earned the Cross-Function Team Award at the 2010 Modeling & Simulation Leadership Summit, presented annually by the National Training & Simulation Association and was among the top 10 finalists for the Governors Cup at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference in 2009.
“We owe our success to our great sponsors, students and faculty dedicated to these projects and the support of our director, dean, and administration,” said Dr. Marjorie Zielke, an assistant professor in the ATEC program and the UT Dallas principal investigator on the projects. “One thing I am really impressed by is that these awards are coming from different groups, in two totally separate sectors and with different student development teams.”
She added that the awards are extremely competitive with entries from top-tier universities and private industry world-wide. The game design links serious gaming with the Army’s own combat models.
The FPCT game is supported and sponsored by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command G-2 Intelligence Support Activity (TRADOC), which develops the Army’s soldier and civilian leaders. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey (TRADOC Commanding General) wrote a personal letter to the UT Dallas FPCT team congratulating contributors on this honor.
Gen. Dempsey wrote, “Your magnificent work in developing this culturally-based, cutting-edge capability will help to address critical training priorities within stability operations and will ensure that our Nation’s war fighters can more effectively and efficiently accomplish their missions around the world. I am confident we will continue to benefit from your great partnership and look forward to future collaboration.”
This project is a collaboration between Dr. Judy LeFlore, associate professor in The University of Texas at Arlington College of Nursing and Zielke. The project was supported with funding from the UT System’s Serious Game Initiative, a statewide committee launched in March 2008 to explore how serious games could be used for innovative teaching and learning.
“This shows the depth of the talent in our ATEC program and the broad national and international recognition of our work,” Zielke said. “With the ever-growing demand for cost-effective virtual education and simulation we have good reason to hope that we are at just the beginning of our success.”
Zielke and her co-investigators have been working on game-based simulations, with the help of approximately 30 students at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral level. The co-investigators have included Dr. Thomas Linehan, Endowed Chair and director of Arts and Technology at UT Dallas; Dr. Frank DuFour, assistant professor of sound design at UT Dallas; and Dr. Gopal Gupta, professor and department head of the UT Dallas Computer Science department along with sponsor Dr. Judy LeFlore, associate professor of nursing at UT Arlington.
Inspired by the “Educate to Innovate” campaign – President Barack Obama’s initiative to promote a renewed focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education – the National STEM Video Game Challenge aims to motivate learning among America’s youth by tapping into students’ natural passions for playing and making video games.
Both UT Dallas teams entered into the Collegiate Prize division, which awards $25,000 to the top undergraduate or graduate game submission geared toward young children (grades pre-K through 4). The first team, comprising students Jainan Sankalia, Liz Paradis, Chris Camacho and Matthew Tackett, created “Mission Earth: The Search for Hamburgers.” In “Mission Earth,” players learn the scientific method by helping a cute alien, Gumpert, explore the planets.
“We entered because it seemed like a fun, unique challenge to tackle, with the potential for national recognition,” Sankalia said. “Our game is designed to help young kids learn the steps of the scientific method, a core mentality that applies across STEM fields, and to help kids cultivate a desire to learn more about space.”
The second team, made up of students Tony Wu, Adam Chandler, Michael Kaiser and Daniel Ries, created “Space Cadet,” a game that teaches kindergartners about basic math concepts such as length and height by launching rockets.
Wu said, “A chance to design games is always welcome. Using space exploration as a background for our game and in-game learning objectives as the base concepts for learning, we hope to create a fun learning experience that doesn’t feel like learning.”
Dr. Monica Evans, assistant professor of game design at UT Dallas, said, “I’m thrilled that so many of our students, many of whom are working on educational or training game-based research projects, are able to take that experience and create their own educational games. I’m very proud of both teams and wish them both the best of luck.”
A training tool being developed by a research team from the Arts and Technology (ATEC) program may soon make it easier for military service men and women to perform their missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The project offers virtual villages for soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan to practice their training skills.
“The work we’re doing has to do with the facilitation of cultural training,” said Dr. Marjorie Zielke, an assistant professor in the ATEC program and the principal investigator on the project. “The way some of that training has been done in the past and may still be done in certain areas is to build actual villages and hire actors to replicate a particular culture,” Zielke said. “That kind of approach has some limitations in the sense that it’s expensive, not everyone can attend, it’s not easily changed because it’s a physical structure, you have to work with actual actors, and so forth.”
The ATEC team set out to re-create a realistic virtual environment instead. The result is First Person Cultural Trainer (FPCT), a 3D interactive game that teaches soldiers the values and norms of Iraqi and Afghan cultures. FPCT is a serious game, which means that it is designed for purposes other than pure entertainment, in this case, cultural training.
FPCT recently won the Cross-Function Team Award at the 2010 Modeling & Simulation Leadership Summit, held in Virginia Beach. Presented annually by the National Training & Simulation Association (NTSA), the Modeling & Simulation (M&S) Awards recognize achievement in the M&S functional areas of training, analysis and acquisition, and in support of the overall M&S effort.
First Person Cultural Trainer was also a finalist at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) in Florida in early December. I/ITSEC promotes cooperation among the armed services, industry, academia and various government agencies in pursuit of improved training and education programs.
Zielke says ATEC has been working in the cultural training and simulation area for about three years, with about 15 students – at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels – working on this project. Her co-investigators are Dr. Thomas Linehan, Endowed Chair and director of Arts and Technology at UT Dallas; and Dr. Frank DuFour, assistant professor of sound design.
“Much of the cultural data is being developed in real time by the military,” Zielke said. “By having it in a systems-based approach that is composable — in other words, we can generate culture in certain aspects of the game on the fly — we can respond to the data as soon as it becomes available. We could change it overnight if we needed to.”
The project is supported and sponsored by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) G-2 Intelligence Support Activity (TRISA).
“This prototype, now on its way to a full-fledged model, is a highly flexible tool for training battle staffs and individual soldiers at the tactical level,” said Mel Cape, senior knowledge engineer for TRADOC G2. “The recognition [the UT Dallas team] has received within the modeling and simulation community is well deserved, and we at TRISA are proud of their superlative efforts in the development of a culturally-based training device.”
Part of this cultural training is to familiarize soldiers with what they will face when arriving in their theaters of operation. Researchers worked to make the game’s characters look, sound and act as much as possible like people from the culture they represent.
In the game, the player enters a community from the first-person point of view. He doesn’t know much about the community, how the people feel about him, or who the key figures are in the village. The goal is to move through the community and try to understand the social structures and issues, then address those issues and work with the community to affect missions.
The people in the community form opinions about the player based on how the player treats them. If the player doesn’t interact properly with them, the villagers discuss his behavior among themselves. Some individuals in the village have more clout than others.
The player collects information based on verbal and non-verbal cues he observes in the characters he encounters and then rates those characters based on a scale of four emotions: anger, fear, gladness and neutrality.
One of the most rewarding aspects of this program for Zielke is the opportunity to help her students make connections within the industry. “Between this project and other similar projects in the ATEC program, we have at least 30 students employed at any given time,” she said. “The students develop great portfolios, gain work experience, go to conferences, write research papers based on an incredibly rich data set and then hopefully leverage all of those things to get industry jobs.”
Tony Tyler’s infatuation with computer animation began with Tron, the groundbreaking science fiction film from 1982. Decades later, he read an article in the UTD Mercury about the University’s new Arts and Technology (ATEC) program and thought perhaps he could learn how to create virtual worlds and the creatures to inhabit them.
For the full-length animated film, Tyler worked as a technical director for the character effects department. The job involved pipeline engineering – creating software programs that provide the foundation, or skeleton, for animated images and link components – software development and troubleshooting artistic problems.
One of the most challenging aspects of his job was getting the cloth simulation, which replicates the texture and movement of woven material, robust enough for the movie.
“Monsters vs. Aliens was the most complicated film DreamWorks has done in terms of simulated cloth,” Tyler said. “Every character – even the little ones way in the background – had simulated cloth, which added an awesome touch of realism.
“The challenge was to make it as easy as possible for the artists to use while allowing them the flexibility to implement their creative whims.”
His favorite character of the film is B.O.B., a brainless, indestructible gelatinous blob voiced by Canadian-American actor Seth Rogen.
“Everything B.O.B. says in the film is sheer comic genius and really stood out for me as one of the most enjoyable parts of Monsters vs. Aliens,” said Tyler. “B.O.B. the animated character did some pretty amazing things. I was fortunate to be able to help develop a pipeline that helped the artists truly bring that character to life.”
Tyler graduated in 2004 from the University with a master’s degree in Arts and Technology. He studied 3-D animation and film, as well as game development and production.
“The ATEC program fostered a belief in myself and my creative abilities that didn’t exist until that point,” said Tyler. “I am so very proud of all that I accomplished in my time there, and very thankful for all the support and opportunities I was afforded.”
Monsters vs. Aliens was released in March, and grossed more than $59 million its opening weekend. The movie’s worldwide box office receipts since its opening total $364,691,105.
“Tony’s dedication and technical and aesthetic background have prepared him for a leadership role in the world of special effects-based entertainment and interactive communications,” said ATEC program director and Arts and Humanities Distinguished Chair Thomas Linehan. “He will have a major design-role early in his professional career because he is well–trained in both arts and technology.”
Team Claims $35,000 for Developing Functional Demo and Business Plan
Eight teams of game creators from The University of Texas at Dallas found out Friday night whether their products had won them a share of $50,000.
In the second Computer Gaming Entrepreneurship Competition (CGEC), teams spent nine months creating a functional demo game and comprehensive business plan.
The winning games of the 2008-09 CGEC are:
First place and winner of $35,000 in cash prizes and development money – “Balance of Power,” an iPhone game by the 5 Minute Games group. The game puts the player in the role of an arms dealer who provides weapons to both sides of a war.
Second-place winner and Hughes Ventures Award for Excellence in Innovation recipient – “Hour Zero,” an adventure game and detective story in both 2D and 3D for Xbox 360, created by the Frisky Pixel team.
Third place – “Ring Runner: Flight of the Sages,” a top-down 2.5D space shooter scenario that blends fast-paced action and massively-multiplayer online (MMO)-style customization, developed for XBOX Live Community Games, designed by the Triple B Titles team.
“This level of support by Kingdon Hughes of Hughes Ventures helps us place the study of game development right next to the study of the business of game production,” said Dr. Thomas Linehan, ATEC program director and Arts and Humanities Distinguished Chair.“Kingdon helps our students connect to the real world they are about to face.”
The first-place winners represent a cross-section of technologically cutting-edge schools at UT Dallas; 5 Minute Games team members are from the Schools of Brain and Behavioral Science, the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Arts and Humanities.
“I am continually impressed by the level of sophistication, innovation and hard work these students have shown,” said Monica Evans, competition coordinator and assistant professor of computer game design in arts and technology (ATEC). “Each of the teams worked on their own outside of classes for months to create these games, and I’m proud of each and every one of them.”
The first place team will continue to develop their game this summer with the assistance of Robert Robb, associate vice president of technology commercialization at UT Dallas, and Ludovick Michaud, creative director with Dallas-area animation studio Jamination, as well as faculty members from the ATEC program at UT Dallas.
Teams were made up of three to eight UT Dallas students. Teams received guidance and review of their games at checkpoints throughout the competition design phase.
“It’s a gift for us to have so many game industry professionals in the area who have helped by advising teams, judging the final submissions, or volunteering to assist the winners with further development,” said Evans. “It helps tether these games to the professional world, and gives our student teams a shot at creating something that will flourish beyond the University.”
Kingdon Hughes, head of funding sponsor Hughes Ventures, has high hopes for the competitors and for the ATEC program.
“Maybe someday a business venture will be started from these fledging projects,” said Hughes. “UT Dallas has an enormous opportunity to expand on the gaming business, thanks to Dr. Linehan and his team. With his leadership and the talent of the students coming out of the program, I can see the UT Dallas ATEC program becoming the #1 gaming education program in the country.”
Faculty at three University of Texas System institutions will be recognized as the inaugural recipients of the System’s Innovations in Education Awards, which laud individuals who produce cutting-edge approaches to teaching that have proven to be both creative and effective in classrooms and laboratories.
“These faculty members demonstrate extraordinary ability in devising novel approaches to teaching and learning – methods that explore alternative pedagogies which could provide a bold new framework for future curricula,” UT System Chancellor Mark G. Yudof said.
“We believe these innovative programs maximize our students’ engagement in their coursework, increase their potential for achievement and advance excellence at our institutions.”
In all, seven faculty members were recognized for their work on three projects. In one case, five professors collaborated on the program; in the other two, a single professor was recognized for the program. Each prize comes with a $5,000 award.
The awards, funded by the UT System Chancellor’s Council, will be presented at the group’s annual meeting in Austin on May 4.
“We recognize there are many successes throughout the UT System ranks and we hope these awards will help continue to foster a culture of innovation and healthy scholarship among our faculty members,” said John T. Stuart III of Dallas, chairman of the Chancellor’s Council Executive Committee.
“We hope these awards continue to increase awareness of our faculty’s outstanding work throughout the system.”
The faculty and their respective programs receiving recognition are:
Alma Leal, Ed.D.; Olivia Rivas, Ed.D.; Selma Yznaga, Ph.D.; Manuel Zamarripa, Ph.D. and Ray Adomaitis, Ph.D., of UT Brownsville. These faculty members collaborated to create the Community and Counseling Clinic at UT Brownsville. Because many students in the program are fluent in Spanish and English, but have learned virtually all of the basic counseling and psychological constructs in English, the faculty developed a bilingual lab manual that provides translations to important terms regarding emotions and psychological disorders. It gives students the linguistic tools necessary to explain counseling ideas and concepts to future Spanish-speaking clients.
Thomas E. Linehan, Ph.D., of UT Dallas. Linehan developed the Arts and Technology (ATEC) Program, the first comprehensive degree program in Texas that combines computer science and engineering with creative arts and the humanities. The program offers a unique approach in that it combines a variety of fields with modes of thinking and incorporates multiple forms of digital content. Students can mix interactive narration with game creation, visual elements and sound design and even animated and simulated worlds. The courses are intended to educate students to succeed in a media-rich, technologically sophisticated world. With more than 400 students, and in less than three years of existence, the program grew into the university’s largest undergraduate major in the School of Arts and Humanities.
Manuel Berriozábal, Ph.D., of UT San Antonio. Berriozábal founded the Texas Prefreshman Engineering Program (TexPREP) at UT San Antonio. Begun in 1979, the program conducts no-cost summer math-based academic enrichment programs for high-achieving middle school and high school students who come from the city’s most underserved areas. More than 25,000 students have completed at least one summer session in the program, and by 2005, 97 percent of its attendees were either in college or had graduated from college.