Cutting-edge technology in surprising places

As you enter the sunny lobby of the Wilkinson building, there is a dark glass panel on the wall near the entrance doors. A visitor in a hurry can pass right by. But those who take a moment to stare at the floating 3D images behind the glass will appreciate one of the newest and funniest technologies on the Duke campus.

Created by 3D Imaging Company, VNTANA, this hologram machine displays 3D renderings of Pratt School of Engineering student design projects – ranging from machine parts to colorful handbags – and, with a touchpad, allows visitors to rotate them at 360 degrees to take a closer look.

“That idea was to put something that could be interactive and showcase student work,” said Jim Daigle, director of IT and facilities at the Pratt School of Engineering, which helps oversee operations at the Wilkinson Building, which opened in 2021. “We wanted a signature piece. Since this is an engineering school, you wanted to have something that had a bit of a “wow” factor and show that this isn’t just another university building. »

While it makes sense to have cutting-edge technology in Duke’s new innovation hub, there are other similar creative technologies to be found in unlikely places on campus. From systems that help protect books to ones that improve curveballs, check out some of the surprisingly cutting-edge tools used by your colleagues at Duke.

Eyes on the conditions in the libraryBeth Doyle of Duke University Libraries can monitor conditions in library spaces from her computer.  Photo by Stephen Schramm.

From the computer in her desk at the back of the Perkins Library, Beth Doyle, Leona B. Carpenter’s senior curator and head of the Department of Curatorial Services, can stare at a series of colorful curvy lines and say that the books, films and other treasures that are in the collection of Duke University Libraries are safe.

“I can sit here and see everything that’s going on,” Doyle said.

Small sensors placed in the Duke University libraries monitor temperature, light, humidity and other factors important to the protection of materials.  Photo by Stephen Schramm.Much of the work done in the Preservation Services department involves the repair or preservation of library materials that have been damaged or need protection. But another key part of the department’s responsibility is to ensure that conditions in Duke’s libraries are conducive to maintaining materials in good condition.

That’s why Doyle oversees a system of sensors scattered throughout Duke’s libraries that record and report data on temperature, humidity, and even light.

The sensors, which are smaller than a candy bar, are stored in display cases, storage rooms and freezers where delicate items such as films are kept. They transmit data via Bluetooth technology and can alert Doyle to immediate problems such as an HVAC system failure or a leak, or let him know if there are any conditions particularly ripe for threats such as insects or mold.

“It’s part of preservation,” Doyle said. “We have to look at everything holistically, and that includes environmental management. This is part of trying to keep these collections in good condition for as long as possible.

Broaden the scope of research

Ryan Shaw of the Duke University School of Nursing holds one of the activity monitors used in his study.  Photo by Stephen Schramm.Duke University School of Nursing Associate Professor Ryan Shaw currently has dozens of new activity trackers, scales and other health gadgets in his workspace, all of which will soon play a role in a groundbreaking research study that can reshape the way care is delivered.

Shaw and Associate Professor of Medicine Matthew Crowley lead the five-year program EXTEND the study, which will explore ways to harness cutting-edge technology to improve the lives of patients with chronic health conditions.

Ryan Shaw's research involves patients using, from left to right, activity monitors, smart scales and digital blood pressure monitors.  Photo by Stephen Schramm.The study, which will begin enrolling about 220 patients with uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure this spring, will provide participants with a wearable activity tracker, digital scale and devices to test their blood pressure and blood sugar. .

All of these devices will be able to sync with the patient’s smartphone and automatically save data to the patient’s electronic health record.

“We are increasingly able to collect health information from people wherever they are,” Shaw said. “So the health information that we traditionally collect in a clinic, we can collect while you are at home. And that’s where health happens, it happens in our lives, not just when we visit a clinic.

The data collected will better inform nurses who will conduct telehealth consultations with patients every two weeks for a year. Patients will continue to follow the data for a second year. The team will then use the data from the devices to develop models to predict clinical events such as hospitalizations and emergency room visits.

“For the most part, people have to come to us when they have a health issue, and we can only help people if we have information about them,” Shaw said. “I think this can be an example of how we can move to a more proactive healthcare system.”

Numbers gameDuke Baseball graduate manager Coleman Williams, left, follows real-time pitch data from pitcher Adam Boucher during practice.  Photo by Stephen Schramm.
Visit Jack Coombs Field during a Duke baseball practice and you will find tools such as bats, balls and gloves. And you will also find laptops, cameras, sensors and radar systems.

Since 2017, the Duke baseball team has used state-of-the-art technology to gain comprehensive insight into player performance. the Road mender The system, which uses a high-speed camera and Doppler radar system, can record a dizzying amount of data on every pitch and ball hit during a game or practice. This allows coaches to see the exact speed, spin rate, release point and break of each pitch as well as the exit speed, launch angle and flight path of each ball hit. And with a swing analysis system known as Destroy, which attaches a sensor to the grip of a bat, coaches can learn about players’ swing speeds, swing plains and spinal angles.

Coleman Williams, left, and pitching coach Chris Gordon, right, check the data during a recent practice.  Photo by Stephen Schramm.All of these data points help the Blue Devils, who won the 2021 ACC title, know what they need to work on to improve.

“It was like drinking from a fire hose at first because I had no idea how those numbers related to anything,” Duke Pitching coach Chris Gordon said of the first few. days of use of the systems. “You were looking at the data and saying ‘Is this good or bad?'”

Duke staff enlisted the help of professors and students at the Fuqua School of Business to determine which metrics had the strongest links to desired outcomes.

“They helped us build models to figure out what matters and what doesn’t,” said Gordon, who can watch data about each location appear in real time on a laptop while training.

For example, Gordon said spin rate is not a good indicator of pitch efficiency. Instead, the measure of induced vertical breakage, or the extent to which a pitch travels downward on its way to the plate, generally dictates how difficult it is to hit.

“We all thought it would revolutionize everything we saw with our eyes,” Gordon said. “But having the chance to watch that many throws and see the data come through right away, it’s kind of trained our eyes in a way where you can watch a game and get a better sense of what’s going to happen. and why.”

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