Calit2 project scientist Jurgen Schulze, inside the five-walled StarCAVE VR room, gets up-close-and-personal with a model from the UC San Diego-based Protein Data Bank. Schulze sees in 3D with lightweight, polarized glasses, and navigates with a wireless “wand.” Thirty-two projectors beam high-resolution images—and 68 million pixels—to fifteen screens and the floor for a fully immersive experience.
From Immersive Space to HIPerSpace
Visualization is not a popular term—yet. But for scientists swamped with data, the ability to take in gigabytes of information at a glance could hold the key to understanding cancer or predicting the weather. As the size of complex scientific data sets grows exponentially, so does the need for scientists to explore the data visually and collaboratively in ultra-high-resolution environments.
In 2008, the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) unveiled two of the most advanced display systems in the world. The StarCAVE is a third-generation virtual-reality environment that gives the viewer a 3D, 360-degree experience. Scientists can explore 3D computer models of proteins (pictured above) or probe the outer reaches of the galaxy from Earth’s perspective.
Calit2 also introduced the highest-resolution display system for scientific visualization in the world. Located at UC San Diego, the 286-million-pixel Highly Interactive Parallelized Display Space (HIPerSpace) is a 31.8-foot-wide by 7.5-foot-tall tiled display wall, with seventy individual displays that act as one when they are linked together.
A wide range of research groups at UCSD are using both the StarCAVE and the HIPerSpace systems to view their largest data sets. With the StarCAVE, they become fully immersed in the virtual environment, which is projected on all five sides and the floor. With the HIPerSpace, researchers can take in both the broad view of the data and the minutest details, all at the same time.
Visualization tools are helping researchers at Calit2’s Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture, and Archaeology (CISA3) peel away layers of paint to peer beneath the surface of paintings, murals, and historic buildings. In 2007, the Italian government named CISA3 director and UCSD bioengineering alumnus Maurizio Seracini, ‘73, to lead the search for a Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece not seen in 450 years. The search for the mural garnered headlines worldwide and was featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes newsmagazine.
The multispectral-imaging technologies pioneered by Seracini are fast becoming the future of art conservation. To demonstrate the value of creating a “digital clinical chart” for major art works, CISA3 is scanning some of the renowned paintings in the permanent collection of the San Diego Museum of Art. The process includes a battery of tests to provide a baseline for future efforts at restoration, preservation, and conservation.