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Multimedia and Visualization Innovations for Science

February 9, 2011 - 11:45am

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Multimedia and Visualization Innovations for Science

I once saw a demonstration of the human brain’s capacity to absorb massive amounts of visually-displayed information. “A picture’s worth a thousand words” might have been an understatement. Think about what is probably the most famous graph in history, Charles Joseph Minard’s visual depiction of Napoleon’s disastrous Russian campaign of 1812. Now think about advances in the technology of visualization and multimedia since Minard’s time. ScienceCinema is a new multimedia search engine aimed at leveraging state-of-the-art technology to multiply the “teaching” and communications potential of scientific videos. The Department of Energy's Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI, within the Office of Science, has developed ScienceCinema in partnership with Microsoft. OSTI’s mission is to advance science and sustain technological creativity by making R&D findings available and useful to scientists, researchers, students and the public.

Not too long ago, communicating scientific and technical information was limited to simple text documents and two-dimensional graphs and charts. With the birth of the Internet, the ability to communicate science more quickly in more ways to a larger, worldwide audience became a reality.

Innovation inspires more innovation, and faster and more complex tools continue to be developed that allow researchers to communicate scientific and technical information in more interesting, exciting, complex, relevant, interactive and useful ways.

Multimedia (which includes videos, animation, visualization, interactive publishing, images and object recognition) tools and technology are relatively new, but are rapidly expanding as a means for scientists to record, share, disseminate and collaborate their experiments and research. These tools offer tremendous opportunities for the future of scientific discovery.

There are various factors that have contributed to the increased use and availability of multimedia and visualization tools. OSTI has been at the forefront of many of these innovations. Since its inception, and whether by print or by pixel, OSTI is committed to ensuring appropriate and ready access to government research.

Many of us use Internet search tools to search web pages and textual documents, but may not be familiar with the best ways to search through multi-media ...or even know that it can be done. This means that although many cutting edge scientific conferences, workshops and speeches are available on the web via video, it is difficult or impossible for many to search for the material they want or need without spending hours of (perhaps fruitless) effort. ScienceCinema is helping solve this challenge.

In order to provide better access to scientific and technical multimedia relevant to the research at and sponsored by the Department of Energy, OSTI has partnered with Microsoft Research, to leverages speech recognition technology to enable searching across large volumes of spoken content. Video files from the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories have been collected by OSTI and have undergone audio indexing via MAVIS, which will allow the user to conduct a search by a specific term. The user can then be directed either to a video in which the term is used, or tothe precise point in the video file where that particular term was spoken. Imagine the time, effort and cost that will be saved by using this capability – and the discoveries that may be made because the new material was made available.

Continuous new discovery is required to meet national and worldwide needs for major advances to power our economy, develop energy independence and protect our environment. It is essential to accelerate the diffusion of scientific and technical knowledge. OSTI continues to pioneer ways to facilitate a new era in sophistication and breadth of the tools to access and use scientific knowledge. ScienceCinema takes a big step into the future.

We hope you enjoy it. 

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