Historic collections could be lost to ‘digital dinosaurs’

An image of Australian shearers taken on glass plate negative is now preserved in a digital collection. Powerhouse Museum Collection/Flickr

An image of Australian shearers taken on glass plate negative is now preserved in a digital collection. Powerhouse Museum Collection/Flickr

By Michael Brünig, CSIRO

Australian’s museums, galleries and other cultural institutions must adopt more of a digital strategy with their collections if they are to remain relevant with audiences.

Only about a quarter of the collections held by the sector have been digitised so far and a study out today says more needs to be done to protect and preserve the material, and make it available to people online.

Challenges and Opportunities for Australia’s Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums is a joint study by CSIRO and the Smart Services CRC.

It notes that Australia’s galleries, libraries, archives and museums (the GLAM sector) represent our accumulated achievements and experiences, inspire creativity and provide a place for us to connect with our heritage.

They are also crucial to our economy with the GLAM sector estimated to have a revenue of about A$2.5 billion each year. That’s not only a lot of paintings and artifacts, but a lot of jobs as well.

But despite its size and scope, we found that digital innovation in the sector has been inconsistent and isolated. If these cultural institutions don’t increase their use of digital technologies and services, they risk losing their relevance.

So what changes do they need to make in order to thrive in the digital economy?

Opening doors and minds

With Australia’s rapid uptake of online and mobile platforms, people are now choosing to access and share information in very different ways.

It’s safe to say that the only constant in this space is change. Research suggests that expectations for more personalised, better and faster services and more well-designed experiences will continue to increase.

Virtual tours are now possible at the National Museum of Australia.

Virtual tours are now possible at the National Museum of Australia.

This is why our cultural institutions need to review the kind of visitor experience they are providing. We found only a few organisations had made fundamental changes to their operations that would allow them to place digital services at their core, rather than as an add-on activity.

This is in contrast to the dramatic changes we’ve seen when it comes to adopting digital technologies in our daily lives.

In order to be successful, digital experiences need to be an integrated and cohesive part of an institution’s offering.

Take what is happening at the National Museum of Australia. It’s now possible to take a tour of the museum via a telepresence-enabled robot.

This means school students – particularly those in rural and regional Australia – can explore exhibits virtually, without even leaving the classroom. Interestingly, we hear that this actually increases their desire to visit the museum in person.

Digital-savvy innovations such as this need to be at the fore of our institutions’ thinking if they want to engage with the community and break down barriers to participation.

Engaging with the public

To be successful in this new era, institutions need to meet people on their own (digital) terms. We can no longer expect visitors to queue at the turnstiles waiting for opening time. Organisations need to bring experiences to the user so that they can access them wherever and however they prefer.

Some of Australia’s cultural institutions are starting to get this.

Another image available freely online as part of the Powerhouse Museum Collection. Powerhouse Museum/Flickr

Another image available freely online as part of the Powerhouse Museum Collection. Powerhouse Museum/Flickr

The NSW State Library has appointed a Wikipedian-In-Residence to contribute expertise and train the public in publishing information online.

The National Library of Australia has attracted a large online user base with its online Trove service attracting almost 70,000 unique users each day.

The Powerhouse Museum has made parts of their photographic collections available on Flickr via Creative Commons licensing. This has caused a surge in the level of use and allowed the public to contribute information, adding value to the collection.

While these examples provide a lot of hope for the sector, the unfortunate reality is that they are few and far between. Most of Australia’s cultural institutions have not kept pace with this change and are missing the opportunity to better connect and actually increase their revenue.

Digitise this!

Australia’s eight national, state and territory art organisations hold archives that, if laid out flat end-to-end, would span 629km. This is on top of a staggering 100,000 million artworks, books and audio-visual items in Australia.

But only a quarter of these items are digitised, with some of Australia’s collections still being managed through “old school” mechanisms such as log books and card indices.

Imagine if there was a fire at one of our great institutions? We would risk losing cultural and heritage material of significance. Parts of our history could be completely lost. Even without such a devastating event, if we don’t make our collections more accessible, in a sense they’ll be lost to many of us anyway.

As a country, not only do we need to get moving when it comes to digitising our collections, we also need to explore new and innovative ways to do this. Traditionally, digitisation has meant scanning flat documents, photographing objects or creating electronic versions of catalogue data.

But what if we could do so much more? Researchers are now focused on the next challenge: digitising objects and spaces in three dimensions.

Researchers from the University of Wollongong with support from the Smart Services CRC are focusing on capturing 3D models and the textures of surfaces using low-cost equipment such as a Kinect camera from an Xbox.

3D map of The Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne

3D map of The Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne

At CSIRO, we’ve even used our own handheld scanner Zebedee to map culturally and environmentally significant sites suchb as the Jenolan Caves, Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance and even a semi-submerged wreckage of the HMQS Gayundah.

We’re also creating high-quality 2D and 3D image libraries based on the National Biological Collections, letting us document biodiversity in the digital era.

Embracing the digital economy

While our study reveals that Australia’s cultural institutions are certainly at risk of becoming “digital dinosaurs”, it also demonstrated how those organisations that are embracing digital are reaping the benefits.

It provides recommendations for the GLAM industry in order for it to maximise its digital potential, including:

  • shifting to open access models and greater collaboration with the public
  • exploring new approaches to copyright management that stimulate creativity and support creators
  • building on aggregation initiatives such as the Atlas of Living Australia
  • standardising preservation of “born digital” material to avoid losing access to digital heritage
  • exploiting the potential of Australia’s Academic and Research Network (AARNet) and the National Broadband Network (NBN) for collection and collaboration.

By adopting these recommendations and building on some innovative examples in the sector, Australia’s GLAM industry will be well placed to embrace digital, rather than be engulfed by it.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article 


Kids raid caves in virtual classroom

Remember when going on a school excursion meant a trip to the bowling alley? Or, for a really special occasion, perhaps a visit to the local fun park?

Well, things have certainly changed since I was at school.

Today, we’re launching what could be Australia’s biggest (and arguably coolest) school excursion ever. In classrooms around the country, students will set out to explore the spectacular Jenolan caves located in the scenic Blue Mountains.

How will this be possible? They’ll be embarking on their journey in virtual reality. 

Real-science-from-caves-to-the-classroom-B

To create this digital experience, we teamed up with 3P Learning to combine their latest educational resource, IntoScience, with HD panoramic video and 3D models of the Jenolan Caves scanned using our (ahem, award winning), laser mapping technology, Zebedee.

Using their own avatars, students from years 6 to 9 will be able to delve into the natural wonder of the caves, all without leaving the classroom. The Jenolan caves are Australia’s largest and, with elaborate underground structures, offer a rich scientific environment full of learning opportunities.

“It’s exciting to see our cave models now brought to life as a virtual world that students can explore and perform their own scientific investigations in,” said Michael Bruenig from our Digital Productivity and Services Flagship.

Zebedee is the first technology capable of mapping caves with lasers while continuously moving, meaning the 3D models it creates are incredibly detailed and can be produced in only the time it takes to walk (or climb or crawl) through a cave.

The technology is already well-known for mapping other iconic landmarks such as the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance, Queensland’s Fort Lytton, and a little structure you might have heard of known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa  Oh yes, and there was a Boeing 727 too.

So, as much as I enjoyed my school field trips (complete with packed lunch and walkman), I can’t help but feel a teensy bit jealous of today’s students. First stop is the Jenolan Caves, but what’s next? The possibilities are endless. Check it out in this video:

This online 3D educational initiative, funded by the Australian Government, will be officially launched today by the Minister for Communication, Malcolm Turnbull.

 


Keeping us connected – wirelessly

By Nola Wilkinson

Dr Iain Collings decided early in his career that wireless communications was hot. Fascinated by the prospect of transferring information without wires or optic cables, he saw its huge potential to change our daily lives – and wanted to be a part of it.

The whole world is into cool electronic devices. Our growing appetite for smartphones, iPads, GoPros and FitBits has produced a huge new market – and wireless data transfer is essential for these devices.

What’s more, the more we use them, the faster our demand for higher rates of data transmission grows. Iain has focused his work on the use of multiple antennae to vastly improve the rate of transmission of data wirelessly. As he points out, this is fundamental to meeting the ever-growing global consumer demand. Watch this video to find out more.


Five uses for WiFi even we didn’t see coming

CSIRO_Wifi_highres-01-01 Remember the internet of the 90s? When browsing online meant being stuck at your desk with your whiz-bang 56k modem. It was an era without smartphones, without tablets – some might say, without freedom.

Luckily the clever folks in our labs came up with the underlying technology behind a little something called WiFi using the same mathematics that astronomers initially applied to piece together the waves from black holes (for more on the WiFI story click on our handy infographic on the right).

While WiFi has given us the freedom to work wirelessly in our homes, offices and out-and-about, it has also inspired a few other – err, interesting – innovations. Here’s a few that even we didn’t see coming:

  1. No more queuing for beer at the footy – thanks to a digital upgrade at Adelaide Oval, sports fans won’t even have to get out of their seats to order a drink. Or hot chips.
  2. Keeping Rover happy – this WiFi enabled system is a fully autonomous robotic dog sitter complete with video conferencing capabilities, remote tug-o-war, ball fetch mechanism, and treat dispenser.
  3. The humble bathroom scale has taken a leap forward – why waste energy (and calories) having to get up to manually record your weight when your wireless bathroom scale can do it for you?
  4. Did someone say bionic butler? For a couple of hundred thou’, this guy will get you a drink and even flip your pancakes.
  5. Yep, it’s a WiFi rabbit. We’re sure he’s useful in some way. We just can’t figure out what it is yet.

Find out more about how we invented and patented wireless LAN technology on our website.


The spice is right: how curry and the cloud may improve Alzheimer’s testing

By Carrie Bengston, James Davidson and Olivier Salvado

Mmm . . . lovely! A hot Indian curry is simmering away on the stove on a wintry night. The smell of spices fills the kitchen. One of the spices is turmeric, from the ginger family. Its vibrant yellow colour comes from the compound curcumin which is finding a use in clinical tests for Alzheimers disease (AD).

Who knew? Soon everyone will! We’re presenting our research this week at a major conference in Copenhagen, AAIC2014.

Indian curry in a dish

Curry night! The golden yellow spice turmeric contains curcumin – a key ingredient of a new eye test for Alzheimer’s

A clinical trial of the spice-infused eye test is being led by our own Dr Shaun Frost and team, with WA’s Edith Cowan University, US company NeuroVision Imaging, and the McCusker Alzheimer’s Research Foundation in Perth. Several hundred volunteers have taken part. They include healthy people, mildly cognitively impaired people and patients with AD. It’s all part of the Australian Imaging Biomarkers and Lifestyle study of Aging (AIBL)

The trial asks volunteers to come along to two visits for retinal fluorescence imaging, ie an eye scan. This is quick and painless. Patients sit in front of a specialised camera and a photo is taken of the retina at the back of their eye.

Patient having eye scanned by researcher

Dr Shaun Frost takes a photo of the back of a patient’s eyes, not for Instagram but for a clinical trial

Between visits, volunteers eat some curcumin which binds to beta-amyloid plaques, the sticky proteins that indicate Alzheimers, and fluoresces. The plaques (if there are any) show up in the eye scans as bright spots which can be counted and measured. The data is then used to calculate a special number for each patient, a retinal amyloid index (RAI), and compared between healthy, mildly cognitively impaired and AD patients.

Bright spots showing Alzheimer's plaques in retinal scan

Amyloid plaques, a sign of Alzheimer’s, show up in retinal scan as fluorescent spots as curcumin binds to them

Encouragingly, as we announced this week, early results show the amount of plaque in the retina closely mirrors the amount in the brain. If confirmed, retinal imaging may be the beginnings of an easy, non-invasive test for early detection of AD. Combined with results of cognitive tests and other markers it could help doctors diagnose AD more confidently.

Eye scans like this also find plaques when they’re smaller than the ones in brain scans, potentially finding signs of AD earlier – maybe up to 20 years before cognitive symptoms appear. If diagnosed, AD patients could start treatment sooner and have regular eye scans to see which treatments work best for them.

Brain imaging on the cloud

From curry to the cloud. More research presented this week is about more accurately interpreting brain images sometimes used to diagnose AD.

To get a brain scan, a patient lies on a bed in a large machine like a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Positron Emission tomography (PET) scanner. These machines record a series of images through the brain, which are then visually checked by a radiologist who compiles a report for the patient’s doctor.

This visual inspection can be subjective, tedious and time consuming. But recent advances in scientific computing and machine learning allows systems to accurately measure features of the 3D scan, such as brain size or concentration of a tracer molecule, that support a diagnosis.

Using these techniques, a new trend is emerging for improving radiologists’ productivity. Scanners and specialised medical software can report quantitative values and compare them to the values expected for normal, healthy patients – just like blood test results from a pathology lab do.

Our researchers, led by health imaging specialist Associate Prof Olivier Salvado, have just released a new cloud computing application, MILXCloud, that automatically delivers standardised radiology reports.

brain surface showing the concentration of a radioactive dye imaged by PET scan

Our new software, MILXCloud, automates brain scan analysis and reporting on the Cloud

Users will be able to upload a PET scan and within 15 minutes be emailed a one page quantitative report showing a diagram of the brain with colour coded values compared with what’s normal. This data will help support diagnosis by the radiologist and enhance delivery of eHealth services.

Whether it’s curry or the Cloud, the future of Alzheimer’s detection sure looks bright.

Media: Andreas Kahl  |  0407 751 330  |  andreas.kahl@csiro.au


Not 3D heat scanning, waving

With the first World Cup match just over (Brazil beat Croatia 3-1) and a month of games to go, no doubt we’ll see soccer crowds in stadiums across Brazil erupting into a Mexican Wave.

Crowd at sports game doing Mexican wave

Getting into the spirit of the match.

Back home, our robotics researchers are waving their arms around too, but for a different reason. They’re using new handheld 3D heat mapping technology.

We’ve all heard of energy audits. Maybe you’ve even had one done to find out where your home is losing heat and how you can better conserve energy. Accurate measurements of temperatures and their precise locations is key to that. It’s now easier, cheaper and more reliable thanks to HeatWave, a new 3D handheld thermal imaging system we’ve been working on. We’re pleased that last night it was the winner of the R&D category at the Queensland iAwards, the IT industry awards.

Thermal imaging systems have been around for decades. But they’ve been a bit cumbersome and often only display results in 2D (which for some applications is fine). Not just that, they’ve needed experts to interpret the results. This often involves mentally challenging tasks like comparing and interpreting different kinds of images from different angles. That’s called ‘cognitive load’ in case you need to know.

Operator holding HeatWave scanner near engine to generate a heat map

HeatWave being used to scan the heat in a Bobcat engine

Our system needs less brain and more brawn. Basically if you can wave your arm, you can use HeatWave. It weighs around half a kilo and captures multiple perspectives of the same object, then merges them. It’s built on the SLAM (simultaneous localisation and mapping) technology that makes our famous Zebedee scanner work. But it adds information beyond just the 3D shape – it overlays accurate temperature measurements into a single view using some software smarts we’ve developed. Here’s how it maps a hot engine.

Colourful 3D heat map of a Bob cat engine.

So hot right now. Rainbow colours in the 3D heat map show the temperature of specific engine parts.

We’re hoping the $4B thermal imaging industry will benefit from HeatWave’s ease of use, precision, portability and reliability. Already we’ve done pilot trials for detecting faults in engines, auditing heat loss in buildings, monitoring the condition of livestock and even people!

In the spirit of practicing what we preach, we’ve tried it out on ourselves. One of our researchers had his sore back scanned using HeatWave. The results clearly show where the hot spots (ie painful spots) are in his right shoulder. Hopefully, with a bit of physio, he’ll be waving his arms around pain free sometime soon.

Maybe even doing a Mexican Wave in front of the telly . . .

*  *  *

Media: Carrie Bengston  |  0417 266 190  |  carrie.bengston@csiro.au


Not so chirpy: How ‘We Feel’ revealed by tweets

That little blue bird in the Twitter logo is always so damn chirpy! But not all our tweets come from a happy state of mind.

With over 9000 tweets posted every second, it’s clear that Twitter has become a popular place to express our feelings in 140 characters or less – from fear, joy and sadness, to anger, surprise and of course, hunger.

But what if we could use this information to help those who aren’t feeling so chirpy? We’ve teamed up with the Black Dog Institute and Amazon to do just that. Our new research project, called ‘We Feel’, will monitor and analyse public tweets to see when (collectively) people are feeling down and so help mental health support organisations be better prepared.

For this project, we’re drawing on our expertise in natural language processing, big data mining and social media analysis to present data in a way that’s usable by mental health experts.

‘We Feel’ started out by creating an emotional word map. We asked a bunch of people to look at a set of 600 emotion words used in tweets and link them to particular feelings. The emotions are based on US Psychology Professor W. Gerrod Parrott’s standard list of basic emotions including love, joy, surprise, anger, sadness and fear. They were divided further into specific secondary emotions which were then mapped to words used in tweets. For example, the word ‘hurt’ might suggest a feeling of sadness; or ‘nice’ in a tweet might reveal contentment.

This word map combined with data analysis software and techniques can be used to process the stream of thousands of tweets sent into the public domain every second and create a graph of a particular emotion. Here’s ‘fear’ as the Federal Budget was announced last week.

Graph showing how the 'We Feel' software records growing 'fear' as revelead in Tweets on Federal Budget night.

As Budget night unfolds, ‘We Feel’ shows Tweets revealing ‘fear’ growing in number as a thickening band in purple and pink from left to right. Click to view full size.

Contrast that fear with the joy of Eurovision the previous weekend. The winner, Austria’s Conchita Wurst, was certainly ecstatic. And millions of Eurovision fans on couches around the world were tweeting almost simultaneously, giving the Eurovision hashtag a work out. ‘We Feel’ revealed spikes of words like ‘amazing’, ‘surprising’, ‘funny’ and ‘weird’ on Twitter in Europe at the time.

Crunching even a small proportion of twitter data like this as-it-happens is a huge task. That’s where Amazon came in with their cloud service Kinesis. It enabled our software to process the data efficiently as it rushed down the pipe. The user interface for ‘We Feel’ is freely available to other developers and researchers so they can use the data too.

As well as providing real time population data, this tool will also help uncover where people are most at risk of poor mental health and how the mood and emotions of an area or region can change over time. We Feel will also help to understand how strongly our emotions are related to social, economic and environmental factors such as the weather, time of day, day of the week, news of a major disaster or economic downturn. This is all very important to health services who could use it to both monitor community mental health and predict where/when more services are needed.

An infographic: "This harvesting of tweets gives an instant snapshot of how the world is travelling emotionally."

‘We Feel’ harvests emotional tweets from around the world.

Using social media data to support those with mental health issues – now that’s something we should all feel chirpy about!

Read more about this at: Twitter tool shows a real-time view of our emotions

Media contact: Sarah Klistorner 02 9372 4662, 0423 350 515, sarah.klistorner@csiro.au


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