Rice University

Mission: Empower Researchers, Faculty and Students

“There is a lot of excitement about using the wall, finding ways to use visualization, and developing workflows that will help advance our research objectives.” – Jan Odegard, executive director, Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology

To complete its ambitious data analysis project, one that would empower researchers and students, Rice University would need to implement the school’s first 3-D data visualization lab.  That responsibility went to AVI-SPL, whose team of Control Room Group experts has deep experience with developing and integrating solutions that present complex sets of data through visually accessible interfaces.

For the Data Analysis and Visualization Cyber-Infrastructure (DAVinCI) project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and deployed in the Chevron Visualization laboratory, Rice selected a 200-inch 3-D, stereoscopic, immersive visualization screen, which helps researchers understand structures spanning molecules, nanotubes, subsurface images, astrophysics, bridges and buildings.

“The technology solution needed to be completely transparent so users could conduct their work unencumbered,” says Bill Schmidt, AVI-SPL Control Room Group market manager.

Action: Advance Multidisciplinary Research Through Visualization

At the forefront of the visualization solution is Barco’s OLS-521 3-D stereoscopic video wall. The wall boasts some pretty impressive specs worthy of its task. Thirty-three million pixels are compacted into an image area that measures 14’ wide and 8’ high.

The sharp resolution and 3-D presentation enables researchers to see and manipulate details that would otherwise be invisible.

“We provided just the right level of fidelity for users to view their scientific data to enhance collaboration and discovery,” says Schmidt.

AVI-SPL’s solution allows users to project data onto the visualization wall and create realistic renderings of volumes, surfaces and illumination sources. AVI-SPL also implemented an optical tracking system that allows researchers to track their position among data and images in three dimensions, so that they can interact with the data.

Impact: Advances in Science and Beyond

“Users who have visited the lab and started using the DAVinCI visualization wall have been very impressed with its capabilities,” says Erik Engquist, Manager of Rice’s Chevron Visualization laboratory.

The increased computational power of the visualization wall will help Rice’s researchers make new discoveries while also preparing students for careers in which data visualization is a valuable skill, spanning several disciplines.  Data imagery can be shared with as many as 25 students or professionals wearing specially designed 3-D glasses.

“There is a lot of excitement about using the wall, finding ways to use visualization and developing workflows that will help advance our research objectives,” says Jan Odegard, Rice’s executive director of the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology (K2I).  “Not only do we see interest across the schools of science and engineering, but also in the schools of architecture, social science and humanities.”

“We committed to Rice University, as a long-term partner, to develop a solution which can evolve over time,” says Schmidt. “We are extremely pleased to be part of the groundbreaking work being done by the Rice University DAVinCI team.”