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Innovation Lab Creates Space for New Ideas

Innovation Lab Creates Space for New Ideas
Graduate student Lauren Fenton shows attendees an Interactive GeoSurface Map, a land-use storytelling tool that uses geographic data of oil-drilling locations in and around Los Angeles.

The USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism introduced a new idea-generation space for the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab on Aug. 23 at an open house event filled with students, faculty and corporate partners.

On display were a dozen projects already generated by the lab, which launched in November as an incubator for multiple disciplines to develop ideas and tools aiming for a real-world application and an impact on society.

USC provost and senior vice president for academic affairs Elizabeth Garrett, an early supporter of the lab, congratulated its leaders on a new space that will “make possible tomorrow what we don’t even think about today.”

Addressing the attendees gathered at the entrance of the lab, located in USC Annenberg’s West Lobby, Garrett said: “This space to me is the embodiment of a big idea that great universities have to embark on great challenges of the day with methodologies and spaces that don’t just permit collaboration – they require collaboration.

“Because that’s how we’re going to solve the pressing needs of society – whether it’s health care, tax policy, government design, the environment, technology – this is a place that your imagination and your hard work and your intelligence will combine with those of your colleagues and your faculty to imagine your future.”

USC Annenberg dean Ernest J. Wilson III said the lab embodies the school’s belief that innovation and communication thrive when they operate together.

“Innovation is not just about bits and bytes. It’s also about physical spaces like this one where highly creative people can come together and try out really cool ideas [and] where they can fail, succeed and experiment,” he said.

A key feature of the lab is a Cisco HD TelePresence suite, a 3-D conferencing system room that supports lifelike collaborations among university and corporate leaders. Corporate partners of the lab include IBM, Verizon, Mattel, Levi Strauss, Intel and Microsoft.

Annenberg Innovation Lab director and communication professor Jonathan Taplin explained the impetus of the lab, which has drawn students from the USC Marshall School of Business, the USC Rossier School of Education, the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

“We have some great aspirations for this lab,” Taplin said. “We think that the borders of art, science, design and engineering need to be torn down, and we’ve been lucky enough in our first year to find a lot of artists and engineers who agree and want to work together.”

Among the projects demonstrated at the open house:

• a mobile news app developed as an experiment for the Associated Press
• Interactive GeoSurface Map, a land-use storytelling tool that uses geographic data
• R-Shief, a project that aggregates and analyzes real-time data from social media feeds and maps sentiment surrounding the 2011 Pan-Arab revolutions – including recent activity in Libya
• CrisisConnection, a tool that links the Web, handheld devices and geolocation to transmit information about damage, danger and those who need help
• PLAYground, a cloud-based, interactive educational platform being used at the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Los Angeles.

Innovation Lab Creates Space for New Ideas

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