Elpub buttonVirtual Reality News: 21st November 2002

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On a personal note, I may be wrong (I often am), but maybe the content of this issue sees everything changing: breakthrough technology from NVIDIA, low cost VR from ISU supported by Proctor & Gamble, Fakespace and Mechdyne merging…

I had to get this information to you without delay. Please note the VREfresh web site cannot be updated this week.


01 Schlumberger Goes for Barco
02 BAE Systems Selects ORAD DVG
03 Low-cost, Portable VR System
04 NVIDIA GeForce FX
05 Fakespace & Mechdyne to Merge
06 IntelliCAD Partners with Spatial
07 SGI in the Charts
08 People: Oregon 3D
09 Next Issue & SGI VizSummit

214.01 Schlumberger Goes for Barco

Schlumberger Oilfield Services recently opened a new Collaborative VR Center in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to support real-time reservoir management activities and initiatives in the Middle East and Asia Region. The Oasis iCenter is a secure networked environment for collaboration, integration and interpretation of Geoscientific data. It features Barco VR visualization technology with three-channel passive stereo, curved screen, rear-projected visualization installation. The Oasis iCenter enables multi-disciplinary exploration teams to collaborate locally and remotely so that they can understand complex geoscientific data and make decisions in real-time, in order to enhance the decision-making and planning processes.

Thanks to the collaborative and immersive environment of the iCenter, multi-disciplinary teams can see and evaluate seismic data, complex reservoir models, well logs and geologic cross sections. This process enables the teams to anticipate all kinds of problems, which saves both time and money.

URL: http://www.vr.barco.com

214.02 BAE Systems Selects ORAD DVG

BAE SYSTEMS has selected the ORAD DVG image generation system for its Motion Dome Flight Simulator at Warton in Lancashire. Scalable architecture led BAE Systems to choose this platform for military simulation. It is compliant with standard "Performer" code and OpenGL. This allowed developers of visual simulation software at BAE to use their existing code base saving a great deal of time and providing a smooth transition to the new platform. Mike Southworth, Engineering Manager - Simulation at BAE, commented: "The ORAD DVG is competitively priced and the flexibility provided by the open architecture is ideal for engineering applications. The ability to run LINUX means that a wide range of existing visualisation applications and simulation databases will run with little or no modification."

The DVG is composed of multiple NVIDIA GeForce 4 or ATI's Radeon 9700 rendering units tied together to produce a single output channel. Any number of DVG nodes may be composed to address different levels of scene complexity yielding high polygon count, fill rate and texture memory figures. The DVG, using Commercial Off-The-Shelf graphical boards can be upgraded with future generations of NVIDIA or ATI chips. It can be chained in any mix of four chaining modes (time division, image division, scene division and chaining for anti-aliasing) to scale performance according to the system's critical resource.

URL: http://www.orad.tv

214.03 Low-cost, Portable VR System

A low-cost, portable VR system has been shown by the VR Applications Center at Iowa State University. Designed and built by VRAC faculty, staff and students, the system demonstrates how VR can be brought into the mainstream of computing. "We designed it to provide the best quality image possible at the lowest cost," said Carolina Cruz-Neira, associate director of VRAC and an associate professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering at ISU. The system uses standard personal computers, standard meeting-room video projectors, and other off-the-shelf components. The effort to design and build the system was supported by Procter & Gamble, a long-time VRAC research partner.

"We've been wanting to get our own VR system to better visualize scientific and engineering data," said Joseph Kitching, technology leader at the company. The company will soon be installing a VR system based on VRAC's new design. "This low-cost, high-quality system is just what we need. It will help us learn how to use VR and get started applying it," Kitching said. He added that the system will also be used to introduce VR into many areas within Procter & Gamble. The system is portable and configurable, consisting of a number of self-contained display modules.

These wedge-shaped aluminum structures hold an 8-foot-wide by 6-foot-tall, snap-on screen at the wide end and two computers and two projectors at the narrow end. The modules are on wheels to easily move and reconfigure the system. Using four modules, the system can be made into a CAVE-like device with four walls or a single 32-foot long display. To keep costs down, the system uses polarized light and inexpensive polarized glasses to achieve the stereoscopic, 3D images required for VR applications. For sound, it uses an audio system and speakers like those found in most desktop personal computers. The pieces of the system simply lock together like building blocks.

"It can be set up in about two hours," Cruz-Neira said, including the time it takes to align images, a critical process in any VR system. Unlike other large-screen VR systems, the new system does not require rooms with high ceilings or any special facilities. "It's a multipurpose VR system that can be housed in a standard office environment," Cruz-Neira said. One group in a company could use the large-screen configuration, for instance, and then the system could be moved to another room for use as a smaller, immersive system later that day.

An open-source software environment called VR Juggler, also created by VRAC, allows the new VR system to run a variety of VR applications. VR Juggler is a suite of software tools that provide the infrastructure for creating collaborative, cross-platform, interactive environments. These tools integrate high-end systems, PC graphics clusters, mobile devices like PDAs, and web-based videoconferencing. VR Juggler is used by VRAC, other research organizations, software developers and industrial companies to create powerful VR applications that can run on a variety of systems.

URL: http://www.vrac.iastate.edu

214.04 NVIDIA GeForce FX

The NVIDIA GeForce FX graphics processing unit (gpu) was launched at Comdex 2002. It has more processing power and will cost more than my PC, but it changes the rules of the interactive, three-dimensional (i3D) business and will create new opportunities for software developers and content creators by aproaching the grail of combined personal near-cinematography with personal computing. The GeForce FX's 500MHz gpu is able to computer 375 million programmable vertices per second, four billion pixels per second… it has 1GHz memories and claims the fasters frame buffer rate ever. How significant is GeForce FX? Well, in my view, it's on a level with IBM entering the PC business about five years after the first microprocessor-powered PC systems: it's not like Henry Ford entering the automobile business (we're not close to it being a de facto standard in the installed base of PCs), but it is comparable with Rolls and Royce getting together to set new standards by which others will be judged.

Other board manufacturers, 3DLabs and ATI for examples, will not just play "catch-up" they'll leapfrog because that's the way this business is. What's happened is new possibilities have been described and expectations have been raised. It's not all plain sailing either: the process of manufacturing to 0.13 micron specification rather than the "traditional" 0.15 micron standard allows you to build a gpu with 125 million (125,000,000) transistors and that's hot in terms of temperature as well as market wow factor. (If you count one number per second for 3.9 years… you get to 125 million.) If you missed the NVIDIA GeForce FX at Comdex 2002… that's because it wasn't there. Its launch took place in a ballroom of the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas about a mile (or a million miles) away from the Comdex exposition.

URL: http://www.nvidia.com

214.05 Fakespace & Mechdyne to Merge

Fakespace Systems and Mechdyne Corporation have signed a letter of intent to merge their businesses by the end of the year. Fakespace and Mechdyne are significant players in the global marketplace for immersive display systems. With complementary products, markets and management teams, the merged company should gain resources and expertise to better serve the growing worldwide market for advanced visualization solutions. Dr Chris Clover, CEO and controlling shareholder of Mechdyne Corporation, will continue as CEO of the combined entity. Carol Leaman, currently president of Fakespace Systems, will serve as president of the merged company with responsibility for day-to-day operations. The merged company, which will be called Fakespace Systems, plans to continue to expand facilities and representation throughout the world.

URL: http://www.fakespacesystems.com
URL: http://www.mechdyne.com

214.06 IntelliCAD Partners with Spatial

Spatial Corp, provider of 3D development technologies and a Dassault Systèmes company, has announced its partnership with the IntelliCAD Technology Consortium (ITC). ITC is a non-profit organization committed to promoting a cooperatively developed CAD engine. Member-companies of ITC gain access to the source code of its CAD application, IntelliCAD, for commercial application development.

URL: http://www.intellicad.org
URL: http://www.spatial.com

214.07 SGI in the Charts

SGI has again achieved top ranking with more Top 25 ratings-across all categories-than any other vendor in the recently released IDC Balanced Rating benchmark. Designed by analyst firm IDC to rate expected sustained performance on real-world supercomputing applications, the report verifies the critical need for high-productivity computing capabilities to meet the current requirements of technical compute environments. SGI attributes this high ranking to its SGI NUMAflex shared-memory architecture and optimized operating and development environment. The IDC Balanced Rating report is among several recent industry statements indicating the change towards measuring high-productivity over theoretical peak performance.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is also emphasizing productivity over unattainable theoretical performance as essential for a new generation of scalable, high-performance computing systems. DARPA selected SGI to participate in a study for a new vision of high-productivity computing because of its expertise in delivering "balance-able," scalable hardware and software, low-latency memory access, scalable resource management, and an easily deployable, robust computing environment-critical requirements for this new era of computing. SGI was also well recognized this week for increasing its presence on the TOP500 Supercomputing Sites list, which released twice-yearly reports on the world's most powerful supercomputers as measured by the system's ability to do simple mathematical operations. SGI posted a twelve percent gain in overall site installations on the November 2002 list. The TOP500 Supercomputing Sites is compiled and published by Jack Dongarra, Hans Meuer and Erich Strohmaier from the University of Tennessee and University of Mannheim (Germany).

URL: http://www.sgi.com
URL: http://www.idc.com/hpc

214.08 People: Oregon 3D

Oregon3D Inc, The Center for Visualization Technologies, has appointed Mark Noland as Educational Director for Oregon3D and Phillip Guzzo has been appointed Associate Educational Director. Noland and Guzzo bring real-world production knowledge to the Oregon3D curriculum with past experience in animating and directing for a variety of companies including Will Vinton Studios, Fox Broadcasting, Fox Sports and The Golf Channel.

URL: http://www.oregon3d.com

214.09 Next Issue & SGI VizSummit

The next issue of VREfresh will return to its established format and include news of the SGI VizSummit to be held February 3rd to 5th, 2003 in Paris, France.

URL: http://www.sgi.com

For extensive information about events relevant to the European VR/i3D community, see the events pages on El.pub: for Europe: base05.htm, for the rest of the world: connone.htm

About VREfresh news
Each edition of virtual reality news is now published on a separate page, ensuring that links (particularly from VREfresh) continue to remain current. To view news from previous issues, please use the navigation buttons below.
Email alerter of news items and associated URLs, send an email with your name, organisation, country (and for the US a zip code) to the Editor via the link above.
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