Research and Pedagogical Directions in the Experimental Visualization Lab

The Experimental Visualization Lab (ExpVisLab) is one of 6 dedicated research labs in the Media Arts & Technology arts-engineering program situated on the 2nd floor of the California Nanosystems Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The lab focuses on creative explorations in the fields of data visualization, visual language, machine vision, computational photography, interactive digital installations and related directions addressing the impact of computation on visualization in both the arts and engineering.

The fundamental focus is the study of the image, both 2D and 3D. The approach is to explore the syntactic nature of how images function, the impact of computation on visualization, and to articulate and analyze the complex cultural underpinnings of how and why optical-machine-generated images are believable. Interactivity has been an important component of projects, and in the past few years, we have explicitly studied research methodologies between various disciplines by visiting scientific and engineering lab as a way to identify similarities and differences in methodologies.

Students in the program come from a broad range of backgrounds that include computational design, architecture, media arts, engineering, physics, geography, computer science and others. There is an emphasis on interdisciplinary, hybrid approaches to achieve synthesis of high-end skills in conceptualization, visualization, and computation resulting in custom software development, and deployable interactive systems for public installations.

The experiments, projects, research and courses are computational-based, there is an experimental applied and research approach, suggestive of the open systems in the arts with the computational robustness of engineering. The lab contributes to the arts-engineering/scientific community in the following way:

1) Rapid testing of concepts through visual/spatial/interactive means

2) Explore new forms of visualizations through implementation of advanced knowledge of visual language, image syntax and semiotics through computation.

3) Address image-based research that are on the fringe of engineering/science research which may contribute to enhancing engineering/scientific opportunities.

Professional Outcomes

Since 2008, the lab has graduated six Ph.Ds and since 2002, fifteen Masters candidates. Students from the program receive high-visibility positions in the arts, engineering and academic fields. For instance both the 2018 SIGGRAPH Art exhibition and conference programs were directed by ExpVisLab alumni Dr. Andres Burbano and Dr. Angus Forbes. Graduates are holding positions at UC Santa Cruz, Computational Media; Carnegie Mellon, Computer Science; San Jose State University; Cal Poly, SLO; Universidad de los Andes, Bogota: Lasalle University, Singapore and others. Graduates in industry positions are at NVidia; IRIS.TV; Citris; RTKL Associates; Dropbox; Disney Engineering; Fender Digital; Meow Wolf; SurveyMonkey and others.

The output of the applied and research work in the lab crosses multiple disciplines and institutional contexts at the international level. These include presentations in Engineering (ACM Multimedia, IEEE), Arts-Engineering (Siggraph), electronic music interface (NIME), academic conferences (CAA, ISEA), academic museums (Beall/UC Irvine), Fine Arts museums (Heidelberg Kunstverein, SBMA, SFMoMA), media festivals (Fotofest, Ars Electronica), fine arts galleries in Canada, USA, Europe and Asia, public facilities (Seattle Central Library), corporate installations (CEB, Arlington) and a related range of publications in diverse conference and arts-engineering venues.

The lab has been supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, National Science Foundation Intelligence & Information Systems (IIS), the NSF Arctic Social Science (ARC), the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at UCSB, the UCIRA (University of California Institute for Research in the Arts), and the University of California, Santa Barbara.

George Legrady, Lab director

George Legrady is Distinguished Professor in Digital Media at the University of California, Santa Barbara where he directs the arts-engineering Experimental Visualization Lab in the doctoral Media Arts & Technology program. He served as Department Chair from 2012-2017 after which he took a one-year sabbatical research leave on a Guggenheim Visual Arts Fellowship.

His early artistic projects focused on a conceptual and semiotic analysis of the photographic image and during the past 10 years, he has generated research studies in data visualization and multi-robotic camera machine-learning research. “George Legrady: From Analogue to Digital” was a retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (1997-1998).


Facilities include a 1100 sq. ft. lab space with 6 desks and 14 chairs, 4 projectors, 5 large display screens, 3 desktop computers, 5 mini computers and other peripherals. We have desktop systems for software development, multi-screen and multi-projection systems, point-tilt-zoom automated camera systems, 11 mobile robotic camera systems, integrated 6 channel surround sound for multi-media installations.


UCSB Art Department
UCSB Data Science Initiative
UCSB Center for Digital Games Research
UCSB Center for Information Technology & Society
Institut des mines, Telecom, Paristech, Paris, France (Visiting Fellow 2017-)
iCinema, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia (Visiting Professional Fellow 2017-)

News (Intermittent Updates beginning January 2019)

2018 Siggraph Asia (Luo)
2016 IPAM, UCLA (legrady)

2018 Siggraph Asia (Legrady)
2017 ZKM (Legrady)
2017 Currents New Media (Yoon Chung Han)


The Experimental Visualization Lab in the Media Arts & Technology graduate program at UC Santa Barbara focuses on research and experimental projects in the areas of data visualization, computational photography and interactive installations. Emphasis is on aesthetic research through algorithmic processes, semantic categorization and the implementation of complex technologies for new forms of content, narratives, experiences and analysis.

Selected Publications

Fabian Offert, "Images of Image Machines. Visual Interpretability in Computer Vision for Art", Proceedings of the ECCV (forthcoming 2019)

Fabian Offert, "Hands on Circuits. Preserving the Semantic Surplus of Circuit-Level Functionality with Programmable Logic Devices", in: Hands on Media History, ed. by John Ellis, Nick Hall, Routledge, (forthcoming 2019)

Jieliang Luo, Sam Green, Peter Feghali, George Legrady and çetin Kaya Koç: "Reinforcement Learning and Trustworthy Autonomy" in Cyber-Physical Systems Security. Springer (2018)

Fabian Offert, "I know it when I see it. Visualization and Intuitive Interpretability", NIPS 2017 Symposium on Interpretable Machine Learning

Jieliang Luo, Donghao Ren, George Legrady: Anamorphic fluid: exploring spatial organization and movements of images in a simulated fluid environment. VINCI 2017: 63-64

Angus Graeme Forbes, Andres Burbano, Paul Murray, George Legrady: Imagining Macondo: Interacting with García Márquez's Literary Landscape. IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications 35(5): 12-19 (2015)

Javier Villegas, George Legrady: Creating coherent animations from video. IJART 7(2/3): 148-162 (2014)

Marco Pinter, Angus Graeme Forbes, Danny Bazo, George Legrady: Generation of Engineering Research Directions Through Artistic Process. ArtsIT 2014: 28-35

Angus Forbes, Tobias Höllerer, George Legrady: Generative Fluid Profiles for Interactive Media Arts Projects. Computational Aesthetics 2013: 37-44

George Legrady, Katherine Scott, R. J. Duran: The James Bay Cree Visual Ethnographic Digital Online Cultural Atlas. Culture and Computing 2013: 129-130

George Legrady, Danny Bazo, Marco Pinter: SwarmVision: autonomous aesthetic multi-camera interaction. ACM Multimedia 2013: 737-740

George Legrady, Danny Bazo, Marco Pinter: SwarmVision: autonomous aesthetic multi-camera interaction. SIGGRAPH ASIA Art Gallery2013: 23:1-23:4

George Legrady, Marco Pinter, Danny Bazo: Swarm Vision. SIGGRAPH Art Gallery 2013: 408-409

Javier Villegas, George Legrady: Generating Time-Coherent Animations from Video Data. ArtsIT 2011: 108-117

Angus Forbes, Tobias Höllerer, George Legrady: "behaviorism": a framework for dynamic data visualization. IEEE Trans. Vis. Comput. Graph. 16(6): 1164-1171 (2010)

George Legrady, Javier Villegas, Andres Burbano: The "We Are Stardust" installation. ACM Multimedia 2009: 1087-1090 


M254 Arts & Engineering / Science Research A course to study research methodologies in arts, science and engineering through lab visits.

M259 Data Visualization A studio course dealing with data mining, data aggregation and the visualization of abstract data in various modes that include frequency, spatialization, and 3D interaction.

M594CP Optical-Computational Studio / An experimental studio course where students individually define a research topic that explores new directions in computational photography.

M594CM Fundamentals of Spatial Computing Forbes) A foundation course for computing in multidimensional spaces, investigating the synthetic and generative potentials of elementary geometric constructs.

Arts130 Digital Visual Culture A theory based course that examines the impact of digital technologies on the study and analysis of the image.

Arts102 The Conceptual Art of Photoshop A studio production courset that explores alternative methods of understanding what a signal processing instrument like Photoshop may be to extend its use in art exploration.

People (2018-2019)

George Legrady | director
Jieliang Luo | Ph.D doctoral student
Fabian Offert | Ph.D doctoral student
Weihao Qiu | Ph.D doctoral student
Weidi Zhang | Ph.D doctoral student
Lu Liu | MS student
Junxiang Yao | MS student
Xindi Kang | Ms student


Ambika Yadav | MS 2017
Data visualization engineer, Illumino, Sunnyvale
Mohit Hingorani | MS 2016
UI/UX, product design, user research at Dropbox
Danny Bazo | Ph.D 2016
Engineer at Meow Wolf
Yoon Chung Han | Ph.D 2016
Faculty, Dept. Design, San Jose State University
Angus Forbes | Ph.D 2014
Media artist/engineer. Faculty, Computational Gaming, UCSC
Qian Liu | MS 2013
Working in data visualization, Los Angeles
Andres Burbano | PhD 2013
Media artist/historian, Professor, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogota, Columbia.
Javier Villegas | PhD 2012
Media artist/engineer, Smule, Alameda, California
Pehr Hovey | MS 2010
Media artist/engineer, Los Angeles. Fiber optics suits featured at the Guggenheim Museum.
R & D Imagineer Systems Developer, Disney Imagineering
Syed Reza Ali | MS 2010
Designer/engineer. VR/AR UX Engineer, Google, SF
Jeungah Kim | MA 2009
Instructional Designer, KAIST, Korea
Wes Smith | MA 2008
PhD student, Media Arts and Technology, UCSB. Exhibiting artist, software designer, consultant at cycling74.
Rama Hoetzlein | PhD 2010 | MA 2008
Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture and Media Technology, Aalborg University, Copenhagen, Denmark. Currently Senior Engineer, NVidia, Exhibited artist and published papers in ACM, SIGGRAPH, Leonardo
Kristoffer Campanale | MA 2007
Aldo Figueroa | MA 2006
Instructor, 3D Animation, CSU Channel Islands
Eunsu Kang | MA 2005
Associate Professor, Machine Learning, Carnegie Mellon Institute, Pittsburgh
August Black | PhD 2-11 | MA 2005
Artist, Engineer. Atlas Institute, University of Boulder
Ethan Kaplan |MFA 2005, Art dept
Director of Technology, Warner Brothers, Burbank, California
Andreas Schlegel |MS 2004
Faculty of Digital Design, Lasalle University, Singapore. Internationally featured interactive works. Contributor to the processing.org software development. Previously worked with Art + Com, Berlin
Ayoub Sarouphim | MA 2003
Senior Design Associate, Klai Juba Architects, Las Vegas, Nevada. Practicing architect responsible for a number of designs in Las Vegas (Hard Rock Hotel, Ellis Resort, E Hotel/Casino, Gateway, and others)
Enrica Dias Lovaglio | MA 2002
faculty of architecture, CalPoly State University, San Luis Obispo.