On Friday, February 8, Tufts Center for Scientific Visualization will be inaugurated in Anderson Hall on the Medford campus. A key goal of the new Center is to integrate research and education by advancing discovery and understanding while at the same time promoting teaching, training, and learning at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
The Center was made possible by a 2006 National Science Foundation grant that awarded $350,000 to Tufts University to acquire and install an interdisciplinary scientific visualization facility for use by researchers and educators across Tufts. Bruce Boghosian, Professor and Chair of the department of Mathematics, was the principal investigator on the grant. He was joined in the successful bid for the facility by co-principal investigators Robert Jacob, Professor of Computer Science, and Mely Tynan, Chief Information Officer and Vice President for Information Technology.
The School of Engineering, the School of Arts & Sciences, and University Information Technology (UIT) collaborated to provide funding for the construction and remodeling of the Engineering Project Development Center (EPDC) in Anderson Hall, which houses the new Center. Older style visualization systems of various kinds have been installed for some time at supercomputing centers worldwide, mostly supporting data visualization and interactive computing tasks involving massive amounts of data. Unfortunately, many have experienced integration issues that have limited the impact of the facilities. With this in mind and, after a lengthy technology review, Tufts selected VisBox Inc. to provide the university with a modern scientific visualization solution. The system Tufts has implemented simplifies many of the technical integration issues that plagued previous installations at other supercomputing centers. A new high-resolution Sony projection technology integrated with stereovision provides the ability to view data as multi-dimensional images--a capability that was previously unavailable in greater New England and a feature that truly brings to life complex data sets.
For example, those who will attend the Grand Opening of the Center will be treated to the 3D visualization of an F3 tornado within a simulated supercell thunderstorm. Created by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the initial data for the simulation were based on actual environmental conditions recorded prior to a real F4 tornado that devastated South Dakota in 2003 with winds in excess of 200 mph. In the simulation, these conditions produced a severe F3 tornado capable of uprooting trees, ripping the roofs from homes, and overturning trains, illustrating how visualization tools can now help us better understand and predict severe weather. The calculations to visually re-create this storm generated 1 terabyte of data, which NCSA's visualization team translated into a dynamic, high-definition animated visualization of the tornado's birth and growth. This 3D movie was graciously loaned to Tufts by Professor Donna Cox from the NCSA to demonstrate the capabilities of the system. But Tufts researchers have also begun creating visualizations of their own research. Early projects include visualization of fluid dynamics, geotechnical engineering, the effects of human factors in medical systems, image reconstruction and tomography, computational geometry, robotics, chemical mechanical planarization, and computational anatomy.
To put the impact of this new visualization facility in perspective, the 14 foot by 8 foot high-resolution display wall located in Tufts Center for Scientific Visualization has more than four times the number of pixels in a conventional home high-definition TV display. In the Center, rear screen projection is used, allowing the viewers to approach the screen for detailed analysis without blocking the projected image, thus allowing them to immerse themselves in their data. Passive stereoscopic vision is created by the use special glasses that separate the left-eye image from the right-eye image. These glasses are similar, but far more advanced than those worn by movie goers of the 1950s to watch 3D films. Finally, a powerful graphics workstation provides the signal source for the images, and allows the viewer to steer the results during the viewing experience.
Please visit the Tufts Center for Scientific Visualization website at http://sciviz.tufts.edu to see details about construction and installation.