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Governor Beebe's weekly column and radio address: Vitrual Technology with Real Potential

Arkansas has an impressive new tool to use in our quest to improve education and boost economic development. This week, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock unveiled a new data-imaging system that is the first of its kind in the world. The state-of-the-art George W. Donaghey Emerging Analytics Center now has a wide range of applications and capabilities, including 3-D visualization. With a flood of new data being generated every second, the EAC has data-based solutions for every endeavor.

Using high-definition screens and monitors, the Center can simulate real objects by taking large amounts of data and building it into a visual format. This technology not only allows users to direct these virtual objects with a hand-held device, it also simulates the weight and feel of the object being viewed. It’s like a flight simulator for everything you can imagine; from medicine to manufacturing, there are endless applications.

In medical education, for example, this technology will allow a resident in neurosurgery to practice drilling a hole in a virtual head before performing brain surgery on a real patient. Graduates in many disciplines will be better prepared and more adept, and students will be drawn to this experiential learning procedure.

Businesses will be able to use the technology as well, and some already have. Dassault Falcon Jet, which recently announced the addition of a new hangar in Little Rock, used the Center to help design that hangar. The local availability of this unique advanced technology can save Arkansas businesses time and money. And because it is the first of its kind in the world, the EAC also provides a competitive edge to businesses that locate here.

For that reason, we expect that the Center will attract new businesses to Arkansas. The Arkansas Economic Development Commission plans to capitalize on the Center to add jobs in knowledge-based fields.

The George W. Donaghey Foundation gave UALR a grant of $5 million to fund a project that would be a “game-changer.” UALR already had more than a decade of expertise in this type of information analysis, and knew they could change the game by taking it to the next level. In 2001, the University began operating a 3-D Virtual Reality Center, and had established the first Information Quality program in the United States. With this new EAC technology, UALR and Arkansas have made an even greater name for themselves in the field.

For years, I have linked the importance of education and economic development to Arkansas’s future. The new Emerging Analytics Center at UALR also links those fields in a powerful new way. Arkansas is the only place in the world with this technology, and its impact should be significant. This facility will allow leaders in the private and public sectors to organize, analyze and interpret all kinds of data. The results the EAC generates will in turn help to generate more jobs and prepare more skilled professionals in Arkansas. I believe that the innovations it helps bring to life can improve lives today, and help future generations to come.