GeoWall: Stereoscopic Visualization for Geoscience Research and Education

Authors: Johnson, A., Leigh, J., Morin, P., Van Keken, P.

Publication: IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, vol 26, no 6, pp. 10-14


In 2001 the GeoWall project began with a question: Could we create an affordable (<$10,000) version of our existing CAVE® hardware and software. Instead of relying on special-purpose hardware, we used off-the-shelf components including new projection technology, fast graphics cards and inexpensive computers to provide a stereo projection system that was more affordable than previous commercial solutions. A community of users interested in sharing software, visualizations, and experiences formed and led to over 500 GeoWalls being built. Five years later this collaboration between Computer Science and Geoscience has changed the way Geoscience research and education is done.

The reasons for creating the GeoWall are obvious. A good understanding of spatial relationships is a fundamental requirement in the Earth Sciences; Earth science data is typically 3D and time-dependent. The GeoWall allows people to visualize the structure and dynamics of the Earth in stereo to aid the understanding of spatial relationships. Making use of inexpensive polarized 3D glasses entire classrooms or conference audiences can share the 3D experience. Since the hardware is portable, it can travel as checked luggage on flights to remote sites making it easier to bring the visualizations to the audience.

The article will describe the GeoWall hardware and software and will talk about how the GeoWall Consortium was instrumental in creating a community of users in a variety of disciplines. The paper will then focus on several case studies of how the GeoWall has been used in research and education. Finally it will describe our recent work in high-resolution tiled displays.

Date: November 1, 2006 - December 31, 2006

Document: View PDF
Students wear lightweight polarized glasses to view a stereoscopic GeoWall application showing the topography of Hickey Mountain, Arizona - A. Johnson, EVL

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