The virtualization technologies that researchers need are now easily accessible through the MAGICS consortium. This collaboration between universities makes it possible to use cutting-edge technology to research immersive and naturalistic remote presence among many other things. With cooperation and the right equipment, research can cross scientific boundaries.
The motion capture studio and portable MoCap suit can be used to record the user’s movements.
Photo: Aalto University.
What if you could measure how a hall full of people simultaneously reacts to an opera? Or maybe you could create just the situation needed to study human behavior and easily customize it according to the results. Imagine being able to analyze an interaction, pause it, and view it from multiple points of view. All this and more is possible with the help of the MAGICS consortium.
Aalto University, Tampere University, and University of Arts Helsinki (Uniarts) have teamed up to create a network of infrastructures to advance science towards new directions. Cutting-edge technologies have been selected according to the interests of researchers and divided between these universities to encourage and inspire interdisciplinary research that crosses scientific boundaries.
“With the MAGICS infrastructure you can take a step outside laboratory environments into more natural conditions,” says Mikko Sams, Professor of Cognitive Technology at Aalto University and Academic leader of MAGICS.
The base ideology of MAGICS is in proactivity and a curiosity-driven approach to science. Researchers can use any technology from the MAGICS locations. People are encouraged to experiment with the available technology and see how it can benefit their research. The MAGICS community has experts who know how the technology works and who can give insights on how it can be used for different purposes.
“We listen to what people need and give them innovative suggestions on how they could use MAGICS technology to achieve their goals,” says Roope Raisamo, Professor in Human-Technology Interaction at Tampere University.
MAGICS also supports researchers in describing the technologies in funding applications if needed.
Several successful use-cases
The MAGICS infrastructure is already in active use. Upwards of 20 research groups are regularly using the infrastructure. For example, researchers are studying the effects of VR on therapy and measuring how people react – how they move, what their eyes focus on, and what is happening in their brains. Applications in clinical research are also being tested in collaboration with HUS. In Tampere, MAGICS equipment has been used in collaboration with Tampere University Hospital to develop new methods for diagnosis and surgery planning using medical imaging data and virtual reality technologies. Another use case is new methods to support collaboration in shared virtual reality environments.
Olfaction technology can be used to smell objects in virtual reality, like the apple pictured.
Photo: Tampere University/TAUCHI, Päivi Majaranta
MAGICS also has great potential for education. “By bringing such technology to students and staff they come to understand the phenomenon and its uses, which makes way for new ideas,” says Tero Heikkinen, university researcher at Uniarts.
Scientists are not the only ones who benefit from MAGICS. There has also already been collaboration between MAGICS and companies from different industries to use the technology for more commercial development projects.
One year to find all necessary infrastructure
The project got its funding of 2,4 million euros from Academy of Finland in 2020 with the caveat that all the money was to be used within a year. After discussions with multiple researchers, the equipment in the MAGICS infrastructure was chosen according to their needs. Now the consortium is in full swing, and the tools are available for easy use.
“We also want to build a MAGICS community that meets to discuss common interests, generates new ideas, and forms multidisciplinary research groups of experts to tackle difficult problems,” Sams describes. “This process is still on its way, but we are off to a good start.”
Expanding the network and working on shared projects
The plan is to increase collaboration between other universities so that the network can be beneficial for researchers and companies throughout Finland.
A team can experience and design 360° environments,
like games or architecture, in the Visualization Hub.
Photo: Aalto University
“The opening of the brand new Marsio building at the Aalto campus will be in the early autumn of 2024. Among other things, it will contain a media center and spaces for various events. It will offer possibilities where researchers can gather data from individuals and groups of different sizes,” says Antti Ruotoistenmäki, the academic coordinator of MAGICS Aalto.
MAGICS will continue to keep the infrastructure and technologies up to date. Next up: concrete collaboration projects that connect researchers in different universities.
Find out more about MAGICS and keep up with upcoming events through their website.
Carita Salminen, Helsinki Brain & Mind
Neurocenter Finland and the nationwide Brain & Mind network support multidisciplinary neuroscientific research, development, and further cooperation between universities, hospitals, and businesses. MAGICS has a similar mission, which is why this story is published by Helsinki Brain & Mind.
Helsinki Brain & Mind neuroscience network represents the University of Helsinki, Aalto-University, and HUS Helsinki University Hospital.
Tampere Brain & Mind neuroscience network represents Tampere University and Tampere University Hospital.
They are regional nodes of Neurocenter Finland’s Brain & Mind network.