The July 13, 2012 news item on physorg.com presents an extraordinary picture (Note: I have removed a link),
The 200-inch wall (measured diagonally) lets users display and analyze images of all types, from atoms to galaxies. This studio is expected to help researchers in Earth science, biomedicine, engineering, art, architecture and other fields gain extraordinarily clear pictures of their data sets, be they bacteria or bridges.
“I can take my 3-D seismic images, project them here and walk around inside them,” said Alan Levander, Rice’s Carey Croneis Professor of Earth Science and principal investigator of the Data Analysis and Visualization Cyberinfrastructure (DAVinCI) project. “With a tracking device in my hand, I can go through and choose the features that I want to look at.” The DAVinCI project adds to Rice’s extensive supercomputing resources, which also include Blue Gene/P, among the 500 most powerful supercomputers in the United States.
The news item originated in a July 12, 2012 Rice University news release by Mike Williams,
The futuristic wall of 50-inch high-resolution projection monitors supports two- and three-dimensional visualization needs at extremely high resolution and clarity, Odegard [Jan Odegard, executive director of Rice’s Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology] said. Backed by custom graphics engines, the wall allows data to be displayed in three dimensions using modern active stereo shutter glasses, often seen in home 3-D TV systems but far more sophisticated than glasses used at a 3-D movie theater.
The shutters are linked wirelessly to the graphic engines so that, in effect, only one eye is open at a time, and it matches the left or right images displayed on the screen. But this all happens very fast, at a frame rate of 120 times a second, so users see no flicker in their images.
Erik Engquist, manager of the lab who joined Rice last year, has been demonstrating the system with geological, molecular and other 3-D data that float in front of the screen and allow viewers to see details that might be invisible on flat images, no matter how big. The system has two other advantages over standard 3-D displays. The 32-megapixel screen can track researchers with an infrared system (also tied into the glasses) and allows them to walk around inside an image. Researchers can also interact with the data by turning them this way and that in midair to get a different perspective and interpret the data quantitatively.
“If you have a 10-dimensional data space — which is not uncommon — you can’t visualize it in 10 dimensions, but you can visualize any three at a time,” Levander said. “You can walk through complicated multidimensional space looking at what are called ‘hypercubes.’ You can interact with them and look for correlations in complex systems.”
Engquist, an applied mathematician, said the 16 projection monitors were chosen for their display brilliance and their narrow borders that leave only a thin strip of black between individual screens. “It’s far less intrusive than if we had used regular TV monitors, which have a large bezel,” he said. “If the images have a black background, you barely see the lines; in fact, after a while you don’t really notice them, since your focus will be on the data.”
Here’s a video about DAVinCI produced by Rice University,
The official opening for this project is Sept. 5, 2012 but researchers are already working with this new equipment (or playing with a fabulous new toy which brings to mind the Star Trek holodeck). Rice University has made an online technical manual, Getting Started on DAVinCI available. You need to be familiar with the Linux operating system and comfortable with writing short scripts (i.e., have rudimentary programming skills).