May 20th, 2009
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by Kathryn Murphy
May 20, 2009
Since helping to digitize the images of the Death Star for the first Stars War movie, the Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago has been at the front lines of computer graphics and interactive visualization technology. Maxine Brown, associate director of the lab sat down with Medill to discuss the many innovations and projects in the lab.
Q: So, tell me a little about what you do at the Electronic Visualization Laboratory.
A: The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Electronic Visualization Laboratory does research and education. We specialize in the development of networked visualization and collaboration hardware and software. We’re interested in having people collaborate with one another, plus their data, over distance. Two or more remote groups can interact with their data and with one another using advanced optical networks.
Our middle name is visualization. The lab’s been around for 36 years, and we’ve always specialized in real-time, interactive computer graphics. Back in 1992, we got interested in not only developing the algorithms to make pretty pictures, but in moving these pictures, in real time, from point A to point B. So, we started getting involved in networking, which is why we today do networked visualization and collaboration today.
Q: What do you mean, from point A to point B?
A: When you’re at home watching television, you want the picture to flow flawlessly from your cable provider to your television screen, and if there are hiccups, if there are jitters or if the image breaks up, you’re not going to be satisfied. Well, we’re looking at images and animations that are extremely high resolution, much higher than today’s HDTV movies that you view in your home, and we are looking at ways of sending them, interactively and in real-time, flawlessly over very high-speed optical research networks.
Q: You have a large tiled display of monitors, is that an example of where you view those extremely high-resolution images?
A: Yes, we tile LCD displays - like you have on your laptop computers. An LCD display is approximately the resolution of HDTV, or about two megapixels. EVL’s largest tiled display, called LambdaVision, is 55 LCDs, 11 across and five up, and equals 105 Megapixels, which is the number of little dots or picture elements - a “pixel” is a picture element - that are on the screen.
The larger the screen size, the bigger the image you can show, or the more images you can show side by side. Today’s feature films are 4,000 by 2,000 pixels, or eight megapixels in size, which is four times the resolution of HDTV. Some of the scientific images we work with are much larger.