University of Nottingham Ningbo China
The University of Nottingham
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Vision

The MRVAI Lab seeks to be a keystone in advancing our understanding of the co-existence of the physical and the virtual, with a core value in transformative research, the exploratory lab acts as the convergence of disciplines, cultures, and of man and machine, and as an innovation hub for the University of Nottingham in an increasingly digital global landscape.

  • To advance our understanding of the co-existence of the physical and the virtual, and of man and machine
  • To innovate and facilitate transformative research between disciplines and cultures
  • To empower research and industrial applications using high-performance GPU-accelerated technology
  • To advocate the need to explore, investigate, discover, and share knowledge across disciplines and domains
  • To cultivate a new generation of interdisciplinary researchers who can create, build and work across cultures and domains

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Background and Development

The NVIDIA Technology Centre developed from the Big Data and Visual Analytics Lab (BDVA), established in April 2014 at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China with interdisciplinary research as a core component of our activities. The lab focuses on acquiring, processing and visualising datasets that are important for the understanding of various disciplines within Science and Engineering, and the Arts and Humanities. We acquired both static and dynamic, high-velocity real-time streaming datasets, and developed statistical and computational approaches in order to find patterns within massively connected datasets. The development of the lab includes the construction of scalable big data software and hardware architecture, integrating various open source solutions with our software modules for data processing, data mining, data relationality and real-time visualisation, including developing relatively inexpensive clusters such as Raspberry Pis as edge and compute nodes (quadcore, 16GB) to test our algorithms or as developmental environments prior to software deployment in the Cloud. The volume of our data in our research projects range from small to large spatial-temporal datasets in various dimensions within the geological, geographical, social and abstract landscape context, in collaboration with international institutions and grant consortiums. A complex systems science approach to modelling and simulation is a necessary component of our research, which we apply in order to fill up gaps in our subject information space. Other areas of expertise within the group are interactive visualisation, which covers virtual environments, Mixed Reality interfaces and the related field of Human-Computer Interaction. These visualisation tools and processes are important for making data meaningful by bridging the incomprehensibility of raw data with the rationality of our human senses. In other words, we study and develop the interfaces between man and machine so as to create a seamless flow of information between both worlds.

Our team members’ experience with large datasets first involved palaeoenvironmental 3D seismic data and large-scale agent based modelling of plant growth used for determining human settlement patterns in the Mesolithic from the IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre at the University of Birmingham UK. In early 2013, a #freejahar ‘fan club’ composed of teenage girls formed because of one of the Boston Bombing suspect led to an interest in acquiring social media data, reported in a later section. Together with other Twitter data (#NSA, #royalbaby, #MH360, #PRU13, etc), the lab began a social media strand of research, which led to NVIDIA’s two-year cooperation. The Big Data and Visual Analytics lab had two PhD students at its inception, supported by the International Doctoral Innovation Centre (IDIC), and 6 undergraduate summer interns co-developing our research.

The two-year cooperation in exploring GPU accelerated development for knowledge discovery in multiple research grants and seeding projects led to more formal relationship. A Memorandum of Intent was signed between the University of Nottingham Ningbo China and NVIDIA on the 27 June 2016, directed by Prof. Eugene Ch’ng and Prof. Simon See (NVIDIA AI Technology Center and Solution Architecture and Engineering, Singapore). We switched to a much more focused research direction when we realised that Big Data technology will become conventional, and that the real focus is the understanding of the co-existence of the physical and the virtual, and of man and machine. The lab exists as a hub for interdisciplinary research. We advocate cross-cultural creativity, which we believe to be a quality from which novelty and innovation can flourish. Our research is data-driven, with Data Mining, Machine Learning and Interactive Visualisation as core activities from which we discover knowledge - making data meaningful by bridging the incomprehensibility of raw data with the rationality of our human senses.