At the same time as developing networks to make more efficient use of Osaka University’s supercomputer, Professor Shimojo is studying “visualization” as an interdisciplinary research theme.
We interviewed Professor Shimojo at the Knowledge Office in Grand Front Osaka, adjacent to JR Osaka Station.
Osaka University opens industry partnership facility in “Umekita”
The Knowledge Office is a joint research facility for universities, research centers and companies. The choice of the Umekita district as the location for the office is related to the concept of “open innovation”. Research that is impossible for a single lab or university or company to undertake on its own can become possible if we get together. By opening up the research process to collaborative activity, we are building the basis for innovation.
The office also places emphasis on interaction with the wider community. On the second floor of the office building there is a space where various university and corporate research projects are showcased to visitors. We believe that our knowledge base will grow if we share our work widely and solicit new input. Naturally, we hope that many students will visit us.
The projects shown in the photographs include a system linking multiple display units to enable enlargement of a mural from the Takamatsuzuka Kofun archeological site, and a 3D imaging system that enables users to experience virtual reality. Through the Knowledge Office, which is part of the Knowledge Capital complex, we have been working on research and development for these projects in collaboration with the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT).
An example: Simulating the flow of air within the human mouth
Let me tell you some more about the “visualization” research we are currently conducting. As an example, I’ll use a project that is being developed by the Schools of Engineering Science and Dentistry. The subject matter of the project is air flow within the mouth; when a tooth is removed, for example, the flow may change and different sounds may be produced. The project involves visualization of these changes by simulating the air flows.
Measuring the movement of air involves some fairly complex calculations, because of the noise created by turbulent flows within the mouth. Calculating these flows is a job for researchers from the School of Engineering Science. On the other hand, those in the School of Dentistry want to be able to understand the flows and explain them to their patients in a diagrammatic form. Our job is to work as intermediaries between these two groups, formulating ways to render the outcomes of the calculations in visual form.
Riding the crest with an eye on the current
The Humanware Innovation Program is designed to enable you to extend expertise in your own field at the same time as absorbing a balanced range of knowledge from other disciplines. Technological advancement are taking place at a very rapid pace today, so rather than simply digging deeper into pre-existing fields of knowledge, I think you will need to move around and gather what you need from a combination of different fields.
At the same time, however, I believe that there are some universal elements of university education that are worth preserving. The current rapid changes are like the crest of a wave; underneath, there is something more fundamental; a relentless tidal current. As a faculty member, I will be doing my best to keep an eye on both the rapid movement and slow, steady flows.