Paying tribute to resilience

Augmented reality art sculpture honors Class of 2020

May 15, 2020

Arizona State University's Class of 2020 knows what it means to be resilient.

They’ve had to adapt to unique circumstances, and they’ve risen to the challenge. They moved to fully remote learning in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve navigated fears and anxiety from the global health crisis while socially distant, and their graduation ceremonies were virtual. An original, augmented reality art sculpture was created to pay tribute to the resilience of the Class of 2020. Download Full Image

An original, augmented reality art sculpture is now paying tribute to those experiences.

“We are in this together," said Diana Ayton-Shenker, ASU-Leonardo Initiative executive director. "We wanted to honor the experiences and sacrifices everyone has gone through, and the incredible adaptability and resourcefulness to create something new.”

ASU Resilience Rising is a collaboration between the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, ASU-Leonardo, Meteor Studio and Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts visiting artist William T. Ayton

“I've done many images depicting the world in many different ways,” Ayton said. “I did a drawing back in 1991 in response to the AIDS epidemic, which showed a ruined world held up by two hands as it fell apart. This (Resilience Rising) artwork is intended to be the opposite of that, with humanity coming together to create a new and better world.”

Resilience Rising App

Rising Resilience app.

The project features figures rising out of a broken globe and creating a new one together. It is then placed virtually in your physical environment through a free app. You can change the size of the piece and the lighting, and even set off fireworks. 

Robert LiKamWa, director of Meteor Studio and assistant professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, helped bring the project to life. He and his students used the software program Unity to create the AR piece.

“I thought it was a very beautiful idea,” LiKamWa said. “It was a way to share stories of resilience and inspiration, and show how we're able to connect with each other in these strange times that we're in.”

The goal is to create a long-term AR piece on the Tempe campus featuring a digital “COVID Quilt.” Students can contribute their stories of resilience to the quilt, which would surround viewers in the immersive experience. 

“I hope that people will use it for cathartic healing,” Ayton-Shenker said. “It would be a place you could go and feel the pain and the recovery of this experience.”

computer-generated sculputre

Mockup of statue with "COVID Quilt."

The digital art piece is a way to show how people come together during a crisis and respond with resilience. 

“It’s a love letter to our students, each other and ourselves,” Ayton-Shenker said. “With commitment, collaboration and imagination, we can use art, science and technology to carry us through something that really humanizes us. We can make ourselves more human and more humane when we share a story of resilience.” 

The ASU Resilience Rising tribute is now available from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Ashley Richards

Communications Specialist , School for the Future of Innovation in Society


A lost world and extinct ecosystem

May 15, 2020

Archaeological sites on the far southern shores of South Africa hold the world’s richest records for the behavioral and cultural origins of our species. At this location, scientists have discovered the earliest evidence for symbolic behavior, complex pyrotechnology, projectile weapons and the first use of foods from the sea.

The Institute of Human Origins' field study site at Pinnacle Point sits at the center of this record, both geographically and scientifically, having contributed much of the evidence for these milestones on the evolutionary road to being a modern human. Paleo Agulhas Plain Looking out at the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain from the cave entrance at the Pinnacle Point research site, (left) 200,000 years ago during glacial phases and lower sea levels, and (right) today where the ocean is within yards of the cave entrances at high tides. Image by Erich Fisher.

The scientists working on these sites, led by institute Associate Director Curtis Marean, have always faced a dilemma in understanding the context of these evolutionary milestones — much of the landscape used by these ancient people is now submerged undersea and thus poorly known to us.

Marean is a Foundation Professor with the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and Honorary Professor with Nelson Mandela University in South Africa.

The archaeological records come from caves and rockshelters that now look out on to the sea, and in fact, walking to many of the sites today involves dodging high tides and waves. However, through most of the last 200,000 years, lowered sea levels during glacial phases, when the ice sucks up the water, exposed a vast plain. The coast was sometimes as much as 90 kilometers distant. Our archaeological data shows that this was the prime foraging habitat for these early modern humans that, until recently, we knew nothing about.

That has now changed with the publication of 22 articles in a special issue of Quaternary Science Reviews titled “The Palaeo-Agulhas Plain: A lost world and extinct ecosystem.” About 10 years ago, Marean began building a transdisciplinary international team to tackle the problem of building an ecology of this ancient landscape. ASU, Nelson Mandela University, the University of Cape Town and the University of California, Riverside anchored the research team. Funded primarily by a $1 million National Science Foundation grant to Marean, with significant funding and resources from the Hyde Family Foundations, the John Templeton Foundation, ASU, the Institute of Human Origins and XSEDE, they developed an entirely new way to reconstruct “paleoecologies” or ancient ecosystems.

This began with using the high-resolution South African regional climate model — running on U.S. and South African supercomputers — to simulate glacial climate conditions. The researchers used this climate output to drive a new vegetation model developed by project scientists to recreate the vegetation on this paleoscape. They then used a wide variety of studies such as marine geophysics, deep-water diving for sample collection, isotopic studies of stalagmites and many other transdisciplinary avenues of research to validate and adjust this model output.

They also created a human “agent-based model” through modern studies of human foraging of plants, animals and seafoods, simulating how ancient people lived on this now extinct paleoscape.

“Pulling the threads of all this research into one special issue illustrates all of this science,” Marean said. “It represents a unique example of a truly transdisciplinary paleoscience effort and a new model for going forward with our search to recreate the nature of past ecosystems. Importantly, our results help us understand why the archaeological records from these South African sites consistently reveal early and complex levels of human behavior and culture.

"The Palaeo-Agulhas Plain, when exposed, was a ‘Serengeti of the South’ positioned next to some of the richest coastlines in the world. This unique confluence of food from the land and sea cultivated the complex cultures revealed by the archaeology and provided safe harbor for humans during the glacial cycles that revealed that plain and made much of the rest of the world unwelcoming to human life.”

Julie Russ

Assistant director, Institute of Human Origins