Thursday, November 20, 2008

Visualization Gets Touchy-Feely at SC08

SC has always had some of the coolest visualization displays on the planet, and this year continues that trend. This year saw a big jump in interactive multi-touch systems.

This is the Lambda Table from the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (evl), "an interdisciplinary graduate research laboratory that combines art and computer science, specializing in advanced visualization and networking technologies."
One of the applications was created for the Minnesota Museum of Science to teach students how rain and water flows over terrain (apparently there is a wide-spread misconception that water flows south, instead of down). In this case, when you touch the screen, it rained on that portion of the landscape, and the water then flowed down the terrain. Another application on the device was a view of the rat brain cortex, which could then be zoomed in and out to a fairly high level of magnification.

There was also some of the more traditional techniques, where you manipulate the visualization with a handheld controller and glasses; in this case it is wireless...

and in this case it is a 3D joystick with feedback. The setup was built by the High-Performance Molecular Simulation Team with the Computational Systems Biology Research Group from RIKEN in Japan, and is a looking at protein folding. It includes a display in the back showing a protein and a target drug molecule in 3D, and allows the user (wearing special 3D glasses) to move the drug molecule around and in and out of the larger protein. All the while the joystick is providing feedback on the interactions between the drug and the protein, giving resistance and bumps as the molecules collide.

Cyviz was showing a gorgeous large display with 3650 by 1050 resolution generated by DLP projectors and their special blending technologies to provide a seamless image.
Next is a beautiful 64" prototype LCD monitor from Sharp in the San Diego Supercomputer booth, with 4096 x 2160 resolution.

There were a couple of other multitouch tables, one from the University of Amsterdam

and another from RENCI. The RENCI folks said it took them about six months to put their hardware and software together.

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