‘WE ACT UPON DATA AND DATA ACTS UPON US. THERE’S A CYCLE’
The xREZ Art + Science lab has shattered the wall between academic disciplines at the University of North Texas, boldly combining several different fields of study into one.
There are computer engineers, psychologists, scientists, anthropologists, journalists, musicians, photographers, and artists all working together to solve today’s biggest problems. It’s about taking the enormous amounts of data that exist in today’s world and making an experience out of it.
“We actually want to transform how people understand their relationship with this data,” said Ruth West, associate professor and director of the xREZ lab. “We act upon data and data acts upon us. There’s a cycle.”
WHAT THE NAME xREZ MEANS
West, whose work has been featured around the country, started the lab in 2014, taking an empty room and transforming it into a multi-disciplinary learning center. The xREZ name is short for cross-resonance, a term West coined for her approach towards art and science.
Resonance is a scientific term for co-occurring frequencies that exchange energy. Resonate is a personal touch that is relatable and inspires or uplifts. And Resonant is evocative and expressive.
Together, the three define the mission of the xREZ lab — to create art-science projects that transform how we see and understand ourselves and the world.
The centerpiece is the lab’s immersive, full-body virtual reality system where multiple people can interact with data at the same time. The 20-foot-by-12-foot system responds to gestures while the spatialized sound system also provides three-dimensional audio.
The lab typically has about 15 students from freshman to masters and doctoral students working at any given time.
“I’m appointed across four departments so that way students from almost anywhere on campus can come do their thesis research in the lab,” West said. “It’s changing how you do something so inevitably you come up with something new, changing the way we work, the way we live.”
Students who go through the lab are resilient, well-rounded and think outside the box, West said.
“The world is more collaborative. Everything will happen through synergy.” – Ruth West
“You can have someone that is able to be so adaptive and learn while they’re working on something so rapidly that they can make a contribution to something outside their field,” West said. “The world is more collaborative. Everything will happen through synergy.”
She gets to teach and help mentor students as they do their research.
“They’re amazing. One of the most exciting things is to watch each of them come into their own,” West said. “They bring so much and then they grow a lot. They help each other. They’ll come in after hours to help someone do a course project. Someone from another discipline.”
For a daily dose of what’s new and next in Dallas-Fort Worth innovation, subscribe to our Dallas Innovates e-newsletter.