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100 Million Pixels of Virtual Reality

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the holodeck-wannabe dept.

190

Roland Piquepaille writes "It's ironic that Iowa State University (ISU) announced a big upgrade of its C6 virtual reality (VR) room the same day as SGI filed for bankruptcy. Back in 2000, this 10x10x10 foot room was powered by SGI Onyx2 computers. The new version of this six-sided VR room will use 96 graphics processing units from Hewlett-Packard. And with its 24 Sony digital projectors, the researchers at ISU will immerse themselves into images of about 100 million pixels in the most realistic VR room in the world. Of course, this upgrade is not cheap. But with this $4 million addition, this new C6 should lead to new advances in urban planning, genetics, engineering or unmanned aerial vehicles."

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Thats not all it will lead the field in (4, Funny)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304219)

(insert obligatory pr0n reference here)!

100 million pixels of virtual pr0n... nope, no way to hide that at work!

Good to see government money at work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304449)

Does anybody really think the Gov'ment is using our money wisely? Do we really need to be spending millions to set up virtual reality?

I mean, anyone experience a fantasy world on the cheap just by listening to Bush or the WH briefings...

New Advances in Genetics, eh? (3, Funny)

bwcarty (660606) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304222)

Is that their slang for VR porn?

Re:New Advances in Genetics, eh? (2, Insightful)

Niet3sche (534663) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304299)

Is that their slang for VR porn?

No, this concerns real genetics - primarily agricultural typing and visualization. And, yes, I am here at ISU.

Re:New Advances in Genetics, eh? (2, Funny)

ill_conditioned (529750) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304362)

Mod parent "-1 spoilsport" :( Went off and crushed my hopes and dreams...

Re:New Advances in Genetics, eh? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304454)

For: "No, this concerns real genetics - primarily agricultural typing and visualization. And, yes, I am here at ISU."

Read: "Yup, that's why we've got wipe clean floors. I'm here at ISU until I've got forearms like Popeye."

Cheap (0)

glenrm (640773) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304230)

There has got to be cheap way to do this at home. I remember seeing Quake 3 on like 24 monitors, if you used projectors you should be able to do this cheaply and maybe better...

Re:Cheap (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304331)

You could probably do it on the cheap, but better? These people aren't throwing out money for some half-assed system.

OTOH, I don't see any reason why a person couldn't do this on the cheap and have something that's a few years behind (but since it's your own personal one, it's still cool). Hey, it may even be better than the one they are upgrading from 2000!:)

They used a 10 foot x 10 foot room. No biggie, practically a big walk-in closet. Then come some projectors and computers with video cards driving it. The biggest challenge would be software to sync it all and actually make it work together. Not sure about the options out there, but I imagine it would be doable.

I'd imagine a mouse and keyboard would be out of the question though, for most interaction. So what, then?

Re:Cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304547)

The Wii controller

Re:Cheap (2, Informative)

cr0sh (43134) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304570)

Actually, the CAVE room is a room inside a much larger room. Some space is saved by using mirrors and such to fold the optical path of the projectors, but sometimes this isn't desireable, as mirrors cause light loss (some of the light is absorbed by the mirrors - mirrors aren't 100% reflective). Things get really tricky if you are trying to project imagery on the top (ceiling) or bottom (floor) of the CAVE cubical...

Re:Cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304574)

The Wii controller, of course!

(Well, theoretically, a remote thing like that would work, but I don't know what would be involved it making it know what's going on.)

Re:Cheap (2, Informative)

reed (19777) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304595)

wireless mice designed for people giving powerpoint presentations are a nice cheap solution. E.g: http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/products/product listns/US/EN,crid=1999,categoryid=371 [logitech.com]

If you find one that's not wireless, it might be a whole lot cheaper.
Also I used to have a finger mouse I got for like 2 bucks that had a little trackball on top for the thumb with the mouse button as trigger, but lost it.

If you have some time and expertise, you can do some motion tracking with webcams. The lower the resolution, the faster, actually!

For software though I have no choice but to selfishly invite people to join the interreality project (http://interreality.org) which can't do a CAVE out of the box but could if you synced up several clients (one for each projector) -- not hard, we did it with an older version of our software.

Re:Cheap (1)

antek9 (305362) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304342)

Hm, 24 monitors, right? Not exactly MY definition of cheap, but there you go... More adequately something like three two four good projectors powered by a small yet powerful cluster is what I'd suggest.

Anyway, welcome to the holodeck!

Re:Cheap (1)

SpanishArcher (974073) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304622)

I sooo wanted to be the first one to come up with the holodeck comparison. I made a /. account practically just for this. Anyway, that's it. Computer, delete character Antek. "unable to comply. He's not part of the simulation" what the hell..Computer, exit..I'm outa here....:)

Re:Cheap (4, Informative)

reed (19777) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304666)

If you're doing it on the cheap and only have three or four projectors, you don't need much of a cluster, just a three or four networked computers. Or, use two dualhead computers.

You'll have a small amount of lag in the syncronization (network + OS + application software) but with some tweaking of the OS network configuration, or using some insanely fast system rather than a network (shared memory backplane?), you might get it to a few ms?

If you want frame-by-frame synchronization you need some specialized equipment driving the projectors, stuff like this: http://www.es.com/products/image+generators/index. asp [es.com]

(Anyone making a homebrew CAVE want to try using http://interreality.org/ [interreality.org] VOS software in it?)

Cheap-Jethro VR. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304496)

"There has got to be cheap way to do this at home. "

Take one frosted fishbowl attached to a collar. Add projectors around perimeter. Throw in motion tracking body suit. Mix with lots of software. Serve a year later on slashdot.

Re:Cheap (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304509)

There has got to be cheap way to do this at home.

Yeah, I can give you about 80% of that for only half price.

KFG

Not so cheap (3, Informative)

MrTester (860336) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304535)

Your missing a piece of this though.

Its in 3d.
Doing 3d is no big deal for a small screen when the viewer is in a fixed perspective, but when you ware walking around the room the images have to change to keep the proper 3d perspective. Doing all of that for a 6 sided room in high deffinition and on-the-fly takes some serious horse power.

(BTW, I was in it in 1999 when it was 4 sided (floor and 3 walls))

Re:Not so cheap (1)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304695)

It doesn't take "that" much hardware though.


The toughest part is the software, which is usually very proprietary. I used to work in the planetarium field, and people like Evans and Sutherland were just rolling out massive, all-dome video systems. Usually these consisted of 4 projectors that would cover the dome in 3d. The computers that were running this stuff were pretty simple. One computer per projector, plus one computer that told the other computers what to draw. None of the computers were over 400Mhz. Granted, this was for regular video playback. To play a real-time 3d animation, that's where the hardware really had to be kicked up. I suspect that today's 3Ghz machines with the latest graphics cards could easily do what is needed. It won't be cheap, but it won't be super-expensive. Like I said, the hard part is having the software that corrects for the distortion of whatever surface you are projecting on so that it appears in true 3d.

Re:Not so cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304888)

"Doing 3d is no big deal for a small screen when the viewer is in a fixed perspective, but when you ware walking around the room the images have to change to keep the proper 3d perspective."

Not really, because I'm fairly sure they don't try to do "proper" perspective correction beyond what a normal GL pipeline does. It works well enough unless you go really close to the walls and look at things in the corner of your eye. "standard" perspective correction is just a matter of a matrix to multiply your triangles to, which has been "for free" in consumer hardware back since nVidia nv10.

I have some experience from an "much" older, but similar system (www.pdc.kth.se/projects/vr-cube).

The difference between a system like this and a normal pc is:
- 6 surfaces instead of one, meaning 6 pipelines (or multiple of 6 to parallelize pixel crunching)
- more pixels
- half the framerate you might expect (stereoscopic display)
- you get motion sickness sooner than you would think when playing the quake 2 compiled for it.

Re:Cheap (1)

LookoutforChris (957883) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304737)

Sure there is, buy an Onyx2 and get some projectors. They can be had from anywhere between $0 and a few thousand dollars depending on config/circumstances. If you're lucky you can find one in a dumpster. You can find some Onyx3x0/3x000 on the market (most are still chugging along with their original owners) but the cost is very high .

A single pipe with a DG5-8 can drive up to 8 monitors, not sure of the res./monitor you'd get though. I only have specs for the InfiniteReality4 (IR4) but 16 pipes gets you 133 million pixels, I think this is the same for IR3 was well. Realistically you'd only need at most one pipe per wall of your CAVE.

There's a port of Quake, Quake II, and QuakeIII for SGI, I have it on my O2 :)

Here's a very cool page, this guy actually works with a CAVE [uiuc.edu] (and an Onyx2) and he likes Quake! (Also, checkout the wall [uiuc.edu] this guy has access too!)

It's a sad story about SGI, I think even if they survive long term as a company that the "G" in their name is already dead.

Drool (2, Funny)

GmAz (916505) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304231)

Can I get some play time of World of Warcraft in there?

Re:Drool (1)

DanHibiki (961690) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304287)

five minutes in to a dungeon the party stops for a smoke break.

WTF? (1)

DRAGONWEEZEL (125809) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304759)

Why does that allways happen w/ pugs?

Every time!

ON Rexxar, I don't have that problem due to my awesome guild Gothic-Justice!

Finally! (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304233)

A HUD for pretending to walk around town. No more reaching into the pocket to see what's playing. And the 21st century was such a letdown until now...

I need to get out more (0, Offtopic)

Craptastic Weasel (770572) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304234)

The first thing I thought of was how much fun it would be to play Battlefield 2 in this room... Mind you of the million of other actually useful purposes it has. Like pr0n.
 
Wait...

Nice picture of the room in TFA (2, Funny)

plover (150551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304236)

"That's no moon!"

"/."-hype? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304242)

But according to Slashdot [slashdot.org] VR is useless hype.

Re:"/."-hype? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304510)

According to Slashdot, there are several bridges up for sale. Let me know if you are interested in some land, while you are at it ;-)

That's not irony (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304248)

Irony is more like rain on your wedding day. Or maybe getting a free ride after you already paid. That kind of stuff.

Re:That's not irony (4, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304294)

No, irony is kind of like bronzey or goldy, only with iron. Ironic is when you write a song about irony where none of the situations mentioned are in fact ironic at all.

Re:That's not irony (1)

complete loony (663508) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304900)

I vaugely remember a comedians routine where he tried to make all of those situations really ironic. For example "It's like rain on your wedding day" became "It's like rain on your wedding day when you're getting married to a weather man and he picked the date".

Re:That's not irony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304475)

Kind of like Swiss Cheese. This article doesn't end with the guy turning out to be Nixon does it?

At least ISU is spending wisely (2, Interesting)

zjl56 (935988) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304262)

At least ISU is spending somewhat wisely,but I have heard of some really stupid purchases. Such as spending 3k for Graphics design computers for use as word processors. And you wonder why tuition is rising and extreme rates..

Re:At least ISU is spending wisely (5, Funny)

shudde (915065) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304425)

Such as spending 3k for Graphics design computers for use as word processors.

Good to see your university is getting ready for Vista.

Re:At least ISU is spending wisely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304711)

Um... ISU is spending *wisely*? I work at ISU. This thing is a joke. I have yet to hear of a single use for it besides flashy demos and gratuitously "immersive" simulations. ISU's "HCI" program consists of finding cool new things to do with goggles and gloves. A renowned HCI expert came and gave a lecture on campus about data visualization and had to repeatedly refute suggestions that the be-all, end-all solution to visualization of high-dimensional data is a CAVE and a set of goggles.

The VRAC guys run roughshod over the ME department as though what they're doing has anything but a tangential connection to the field, but because they can give the coolest demos, they get all the press, funding, and political power.

Not really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304841)

As a Junior at Iowa State in the Mechanical Engineering program (which funds a big chunk of C6 acticities) I wish the C6 program would die already. The ME department has been sucking money out of resources the bulk of the students here use, in order to pay for a toy only a few people at the university will ever use.

I've been inside the thing before on a tour, and yes, it's pretty cool inside when they run the 3D flyover demo, but nobody there could explain what is being done in the 3D cave that can't be done with a set of VR goggles or a regular computer screen. As a student, it boils my blood that the department does away with useful tools for students like liceneses for CAD software because of "the budget crunch," but it can still afford to piss away millions on TOY for a few professors and their grad student slaves.

This looks really good, but also such a waste (2, Interesting)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304274)

There is nothing this room can do that a decent set of VR goggles can achieve.
The goggles would also have the benefit of being runnable on relatively standand class hardware.

I mean, this thing has to produce a spherical projection for every single point in the viewers space, its got to be crunching far too much data.

I personally don't see the benefits of this virtual magic carpet ride for the outlay required.

Re:This looks really good, but also such a waste (1)

GrEp (89884) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304289)

The engineers eat CPU on it for computational fluid dynamics codes, so it's not all waste.

Re:This looks really good, but also such a waste (4, Insightful)

Niet3sche (534663) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304339)

There is nothing this room can do that a decent set of VR goggles can achieve. The goggles would also have the benefit of being runnable on relatively standand class hardware. I mean, this thing has to produce a spherical projection for every single point in the viewers space, its got to be crunching far too much data. I personally don't see the benefits of this virtual magic carpet ride for the outlay required.

There actually are things you can do in the C6 that you cannot do with goggles. For one - and to name something that I know is implementable and implemented - you can track body posturing and position within the C6 to make the experience more engaging/real. Any pictures just do not do this justice; the "seams" shown in the picture are not nearly as obvious in the real thing. On that note, I will say that I've nearly walked into the wall before (on the old system), and missed walking into the screen by a matter of about 6 inches.

With respect to your other comment, the part about interoperability (The goggles would also have the benefit of being runnable on relatively standand class hardware), sometimes you want and need specialized solutions to do great things. Just because you or I cannot hope to afford such a system doesn't invalidate the system.

Re:This looks really good, but also such a waste (1)

MourningBlade (182180) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304757)

Neat! Someone who's been there. What sort of stuff was running on the display? What was the purpose? Anything you can tell us would be good - the article was a puff piece with a pretty picture.

Re:This looks really good, but also such a waste (1)

eikonoklastes (530797) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304388)

There is nothing this room can do that a decent set of VR goggles can achieve.
Except create a display with high resolution.

I mean, this thing has to produce a spherical projection for every single point in the viewers space, its got to be crunching far too much data.
Data crunching is realivly easy. The real bottleneck comes when you need to dispaly all the points.

I personally don't see the benefits of this virtual magic carpet ride for the outlay required.
Me either, and I'm working with (only) a 4-sided VR cave at my uni.

Re:This looks really good, but also such a waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304864)

"Data crunching is realivly easy. The real bottleneck comes when you need to dispaly all the points."
The kind of data this thing will be visualising is not easy to crunch. We're talking about volumes that will barely fit onto hard disk, let alone memory. Splitting data into chunks (for multi-processing) so that data redundancy does not occur is one of the precises of Computational Mathematics. The bottleneck of displaying pixels is probably the easy job given that the data has already been split for processing. Multiple graphic pipelines will handle this.

Re:This looks really good, but also such a waste (4, Informative)

foxcorner (873288) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304390)

There are no head-mounted displays that will deliver anything like the pixel resolution of a system like this. You simply wouldn't get the detail. And, the data infrastructure for this kind of project (where the aim is to visualize complex data) is not possible on "relatively standard class hardware". Another thing: In a cave environment like this, if you turn your head, the graphics view is updated only slightly or not at all. With a head-mount display, the whole scene has to swing round when you turn your head. If there's any latency in head-tracking (likely) or graphics rendering (possible), then the cave is much less unsettling per head-turn than is the head-mounted display. Less nausea. And another thing: you get a much larger peripheral view in a cave, leading to better understanding of context. Undisclaimer: I work for HP. :-)

Re:This looks really good, but also such a waste (3, Interesting)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304813)

A head mounted display doesn't have to have that kind of pixel resolution. The input resolution to your brain is only about ~10 million elements in the eye, so with an up close goggle you can get away with something like 2-3 million pixels with no loss of detail. The head tracking issue is more relevant, though presumably you can again do better with a HUD because you can do fast inertial measurement at the head rather than having to use smart cameras to track. Then assuming you have an equal amount of processing power available to create the scene, the hardware required to render it to goggles will be much cheaper and more conventional.

Re:This looks really good, but also such a waste (2, Interesting)

aliens (90441) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304408)

Another post mentions tracking movement as a good reason for it you can't really use googles for, but I'll go one better.

How about it's great for having more than one person in there and you can point at a spot and keep talking. With googles you'd both have to be wearing them and you'd have to describe to the other person the point you are looking at.

At least that's what I thought of.

Re:This looks really good, but also such a waste (1)

foxcorner (873288) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304506)

The trouble is that this kind of environment doesn't usually work for more than one person. Reason #1: The projections are calculated for the location of the head-tracked user's eyes. With the stereo goggles on, everything makes sense... for him or her only. Reason #2: A six-sided cave usually has back-projection on all surfaces, including the floor. A perspex floor supported only at the very edges is unlikely to take more than one or two person's weight.

Re:This looks really good, but also such a waste (2, Insightful)

TJWitz (719055) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304575)

#1 -
Yes, though head-tracking is typically only done for 1 user, there are ways to set it up with multiple head-tracks and render/shutter multiple times per application-frame. Further, the difference between tracked/non-tracked users is really only an issue for objects that are near the 'screen' or would be 'inside' the walls. Large-scale or large-distance viewing is not affected since the binocular disparity is so small.

#2 -

The floor of the old C6 could handle 7-8 people safely, which is about as many as you can pack into a 10'x room anyways.

At least while they're alive and/or comfortable.

Re:This looks really good, but also such a waste (1)

ID10T5 (797857) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304468)

From the second image in TFA, you can clearly see the student is wearing some sort of optical device. These are most definitely not your standard "VR goggles".

About 8 or 9 years ago, I had an opportunity to spend some late-night time in the original "cave" (predecessor to the C4 and C6). The optical device that was used at the time employed computer-controlled polarizing lenses, along with sensors to determine the location and orientation (i.e. where the user was looking). The flight simulator application I was using back then provided an extremely "real" environment, even compared to the recent consumer-level VR technology that is available. I was definitely not prepared for the realism, and within a few minutes was feeling some motion sickness and experiencing vertigo.

I can only expect that with technological advances (computing, graphical display, enhancements to the optical headwear, etc.) over the past 8 or 9 years that the technology used in the C6 far surpasses anything available in "a decent set of VR goggles".

Re:This looks really good, but also such a waste (1)

reed (19777) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304537)

There is nothing this room can do that a decent set of VR goggles can achieve.

More than one person can be in it?

Besides have you ever actually used VR goggles? For any length of time?

Actually, that isn't true... (1)

cr0sh (43134) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304543)

There is one thing a CAVE system can do that the vast majority of HMDs can't, which is to provide true immersion within the virtual environment. By "true immersion", I mean a field-of-view (FOV) and resolution of display that is beyond anything any current HMD can do. With the resolution of this system, I would dare say that for the resulting FOV the number of pixels per degree is probably pretty outstanding. Likely close to 20/20 visual acuity, something no HMD on the market can do.

Certainly, there might be a few one-off HMD research models out there, using some exotic display technology (or just a ramped up form of current display tech) to achieve extremely high resolutions coupled with wide FOV angles, but I doubt it (if that kind of tech existed, we would see in projectors and TV's today, as that market is much larger and lucrative). Even if such HMDs did exist, they wouldn't be cheap. Some of the best HMDs out there, built by companies like Kaiser-ElectroOptics, sell for around $250,000 - and still don't approach the FOV and resolution levels of most CAVE systems. Certainly these HMDs are very nice, and have their own benefits (like not needing an entire HUGE room to setup and use them in), but for massively immersive virtual environments, where a full and realistic FOV is needed, with extreme resolution to bring visual acuity at or near 20/20, a CAVE cannot be beat.

Re:This looks really good, but also such a waste (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304566)

If you know of a set of good color goggles that exceed VGA resolution, please submit them.

VR Goggles! (1)

Pi_0's don't shower (741216) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304649)

MY EYES! The goggles, they do nothing!

Re:This looks really good, but also such a waste (1)

jjeffers (127519) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304677)

One of the things you can do with the C6 is actually put objects in the room. The floor of the C6 is made from a very thick plexiglass and can support well over 1,000 pounds. This allows you to wheel things like combine cabs into the room for doing VR simulations.

I worked for Iowa State and the Virtual Reality Application center until recently, so I know what I'm talking about.

Re:This looks really good, but also such a waste (1)

LookoutforChris (957883) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304772)

VR goggle that have a resolution of 100M pixels?!? Hell I'd be excited about goggle that had a resolution of 9M pixels! Whose your supplier? Of course you'd still need to setup a body tracking system, I guess you could get by with a 3D mouse, but probably no gloves or wand.

Here it comes (1)

Wolface (740944) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304276)

Let the porn jokes cue in...

Atanasoff-Berry Computer (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304280)

ISU is home to the Atanasoff-Berry Computer, the first electronic digital computer.

One last lame post (3, Insightful)

fm6 (162816) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304304)

All the previous posts are lame as hell. I shouldn't add another one, but I have to point out the misuse of the word "ironic". Somebody seems to think that "ironic" means "sad coincidence". No, it means "incongruous circumstances". (There's actually several meanings of "ironic", but this is the one that comes closest to applying.) There's nothing incongruous about this. SGI went bankrupt because their specialized hardware got replaced by commodity hardware. The new VR room uses commodity hardware. No irony here, move along.

Irony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304335)

It's like rain on your wedding day.

about irony.. (1)

Skadet (528657) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304347)

SGI went bankrupt...

It's like the University could have gotten a free ride, but they already paid...

Re:about irony.. (1)

ID10T5 (797857) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304600)

ISU got quite a good free ride from SGI.

Former SGI CEO Ed McCracken was a graduate of the ISU College of Engineering. In 1992 he donated [iastate.edu] $5 million worth of SGI equipment to the university. I'm not sure what (if any) of the original donation went to what became the VRAC, but the widespread use of SGI equipment in the ISU College of Engineering certainly contributed to the use of SGI hardware in the VRAC.

Re:One last lame post (4, Interesting)

Joosy (787747) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304530)

According to Merriam-Webster's [m-w.com] ...
3 a (1) : incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result (2) : an event or result marked by such incongruity
Given that SGI powered the first version of C6, and that C6 is receiving a massive upgrade, it would be an "expected result" that SGI would benefit. However, the "actual result" is that they declared bankruptcy on the same day. It could be said that this is an "incongruity." So it is not unreasonable to say that this is indeed ironic.

Re:One last lame post (1)

50m31sl4sh. (854939) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304647)

Isn't it ironic to have an "non-ironic" sig while posting about whether the situation is ironic?

(Sorry for tautology)

Re:One last lame post (1)

MyNymWasTaken (879908) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304786)

That still isn't irony. At best, it's syncronicity.

SGI stopped being a market power and is collapsing. The C6 needed to be upgraded. Rather than go with a flailing has-been, a different provider was selected.

It is a coincidence that on the same day that they filed bankruptcy, the upgrade was announced - hence syncronicity, not irony.

Cost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304309)

Does it really cost that much with todays processing power?

HP GPUs? (2, Insightful)

ragnarok (6947) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304311)

Does Hewlett-Packard actually make GPUs? I would think they would go with some off the shelf chips from Nvidia or ATI, surely those can push more pixels than anything else and they would have the advantage of a relatively standard API (opengl for example).

Is there some very specialised requirement I'm not seeing here?

They probably meant cluster of 96 workstations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304356)

HP makes graphics workstations, and a lot of them are in clusters around the world.

96 would be a pretty small one. Heck, with as vague as the statement is, that could be 48 dual CPU, or 24 dual dual-core CPUs.

There's an SLI capable box that's been shown off for 32X FSAA in real time. 6 of them, linked with the Nvidia Genlock/Framelock cards, moving a rendering/raytracing of a car in real time, no jaggies. :-)

First time I've ever seen a line around a tradebooth that wasn't handing out schwag.

Re:HP GPUs? (3, Informative)

Niet3sche (534663) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304366)

Does Hewlett-Packard actually make GPUs? I would think they would go with some off the shelf chips from Nvidia or ATI, surely those can push more pixels than anything else and they would have the advantage of a relatively standard API (opengl for example). Is there some very specialised requirement I'm not seeing here?

I can only comment about the API - we're using something that is a standard (for us) and that fills in as nice middleware: VRJuggler [vrjuggler.org] . It sits atop (among other things) OpenGL.

Re:HP GPUs? (1)

SebNukem (188921) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304399)

They used to make GPUs (fx series, like fx5, fx10, fxe, etc.) for PA-RISC systems but not anymore. HP Workstations are nVidia and ATI powered now.

The (other) important question: (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304315)

Can it play Mario Clash [wikipedia.org] ?

RealityLens (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304344)

Would be cool if they coupled this with some sort of video camera that has the capability to capture the images this room is capable of displaying like http://www.realitylens.net/ [realitylens.net] .

Poor quality (5, Funny)

plumby (179557) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304345)

For 100 million pixels, the graphics of those planes look pretty crap.

Re:Poor quality (1)

icydog (923695) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304398)

That's because the image you see on TFA is 1/1300 of 100 million pixels. I bet that 1600x1200 high-res porn wouldn't look so great at 39x39 either.

(I'm kidding. Well, mostly.)

Re:Poor quality (3, Funny)

momerath2003 (606823) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304403)

It's all about the gameplay.

Re:Poor quality (1)

metalcup (897029) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304463)

that could also be the old SGI's rendering their last images..maybe that's why they needed the upgrade!

Re:Poor quality (1)

TJWitz (719055) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304473)

The screenshots are from the old system, built circa 2000, which has about 1/16th the resolution.

Re:Poor quality (1)

Tet (2721) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304505)

For 100 million pixels, the graphics of those planes look pretty crap.

Despite the impressive sounding headline figures, it's not actually that high resolution at all. 100 million pixels is approx 16.7 million per side of the cube. Now I have some 4.2 million pixels sitting in front of me as I type this. So it's only about 4 times the pixels of my current desktop, covering a 10'x10' wall, which I can assure you is much more than 4 times the display area that I have. In fact, the VR room is only around 33dpi, compared to over 100dpi on my desktop. It's still pretty impressive, of course, and remember that your head will typically be 5' away from the display in the VR room, so you don't need massively high resolutions to get a good visual effect.

Re:Poor quality (1)

slashdotnickname (882178) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304539)

For 100 million pixels, the graphics of those planes look pretty crap.

For 500 sq ft area (600 with floor), they'd need at least 300 million pixels to look realistic.

Re:Poor quality (1)

tkarr (459657) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304603)

Also, the images were made to be recognized by military gurus from a very high distance above the field. They don't need to look realistic as long as they look similar to what they are used to, and they are recognized from a long distance away.

Re:Poor quality (1)

TeleoMan (529859) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304645)

But...but...they're using S3 video cards. Can you give a body a break? Please?

Yawn? (1)

jeff_schiller (877821) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304392)

My computer screen has 1600x1200 pixels. 100 million pixels would be 52 of these screens. Let's say there are 4 walls - that's 8 screens per wall...big deal :P Let me get out my check book...

Re:Yawn? (1)

sinfree (859988) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304531)

Now try to imagine them making a camera that actually takes high-res shots at 100 million pixels. Nothing like seeing a 1280x1024 pixel image all blurry and blocky. I would personally rather see it on a 1280 x 1024 monitor for clarity sake.

Re:Yawn? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304754)

( 4 * 8 ) != 52

Link to article text here (2, Informative)

Niet3sche (534663) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304406)

5-8-06

Contacts:

James Oliver, Virtual Reality Applications Center, (515) 294-2649

Chiu-Shui Chan, Architecture, (515) 294-8326

Eve Wurtele, Genetics, Development and Cell Biology, (515) 294-8989

Mark Bryden, Mechanical Engineering, (515) 294-3891

Mike Krapfl, News Service, (515) 294-4917

/

The most realistic virtual reality room in the world

AMES, Iowa -- More than $4 million in equipment upgrades will shine 100 million pixels on Iowa State University's six-sided virtual reality room.

(image)C6 battlespace

(image caption)Jared Knutzon, an Iowa State University graduate student in human computer interaction, demonstrates how Iowa State's C6 virtual reality room can control the military's unmanned aerial vehicles.

That's twice the number of pixels lighting up any virtual reality room in the world and 16 times the pixels now projected on Iowa State's C6, a 10-foot by 10-foot virtual reality room that surrounds users with computer-generated 3-D images. That means the C6 will produce virtual reality at the world's highest resolution.

Iowa State's C6 opened in June 2000 as the country's first six-sided virtual reality room designed to immerse users in images and sound. The graphics and projection technology that made such immersion possible hasn't been updated since the C6 opened.

The difference between the equipment currently in the C6 and the updated technology to be installed this summer, "is like putting on your glasses in the morning," said James Oliver, the director of Iowa State's Virtual Reality Applications Center and a professor of mechanical engineering.

The new equipment -- a Hewlett-Packard computer featuring 96 graphics processing units, 24 Sony digital projectors, an eight-channel audio system and ultrasonic motion tracking technology -- will be installed by Fakespace Systems Inc. of Marshalltown. The project is supported by a U.S. Department of Defense appropriation through the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

The project began this spring with a prototype upgrade to one wall of the C6. The remainder of the work will continue throughout the summer. Oliver said the improved C6 will open in the fall. A grand opening celebration is being planned for the spring of 2007.

A better C6 will be good news for the Iowa State researchers who study virtual reality.

Chiu-Shui Chan, an Iowa State professor of architecture, has used the C6 to develop 3-D models of buildings, cities and workplaces. He's studying how virtual reality can be a tool to create a library of historical buildings, plan urban growth and test workplace efficiency.

(image)virtual Beijing

(image caption) A virtual model of the Xidan business district in Beijing can help city planners manage urban growth.

Chan said the upgrade will improve the visual realism and interactive speed of his virtual reality applications. And that will enhance the sense of place in his applications and the effectiveness of his research.

Chan said the C6's existing technology requires him to balance and sacrifice some of a project's size, speed, realism or human-computer interaction. "With the new system I won't have to worry about that," he said.

Eve Wurtele, an Iowa State professor of genetics, development and cell biology, working with Julie Dickerson, an Iowa State associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, has used the C6 to develop new ways to visualize data from as many as 22,000 genes. She's also developing a virtual cell project that shows cells in 3-D action to help students learn about photosynthesis and other aspects of cell biology.

Wurtele said the higher speeds and better pictures will be a boost for her research and teaching.

"This upgrade is fantastic for us," she said. "It's essential for our research."

Mark Bryden, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, has used virtual reality to develop engineering tools that help engineers make better decisions. He said the C6 upgrade will mean more realistic images capable of transmitting more information. And seeing more information will allow engineers to be better informed when they make decisions.

Bryden also said the upgrade will put the C6 back on the leading edge of technology. He said that will help researchers attract projects and funding.

Oliver is leading a research team that's developing a virtual reality control room for the military's unmanned aerial vehicles. The researchers are building a virtual environment that allows operators to see the vehicles, the surrounding airspace, the terrain they're flying over as well as information from instruments, cameras, radar and weapons systems. The system would allow a single operator to control many vehicles.

The C6 upgrade will move that project forward, Oliver said.

"The idea is to get the right information to the right person at the right time," he said. "There's a tsunami of information coming toward you and you have to convey it effectively. We think this kind of large-scale, immersive interface is the only way to develop sophisticated controls."

So those 100 million pixels are going to make a difference, Oliver said.

"Seeing is going to be believing," he said. "This upgrade will enhance our ability to amplify the creativity and productivity of people. It will help us build on the center's record as a world leader in virtual reality. And it's one more way Iowa State can be the best at putting science and technology to work."

-30-

nevermind VR pr0n (1)

blew_fantom (809889) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304409)

vr pr0n would probably be the first to capitalize and commercialize this technology. but i think it's the virtual sex industry that will totally redefine how this technology is used. we see it in cheezy 80's sci-fi movies (ok, cheezy sci-fi movies in general) all the time; virtual sex in a virtual world, with a virtual woman of your dreams. yikes...

Based on open source VR (2, Informative)

patrickh2 (468784) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304418)

The ISU press release does not mention it, but the new C6 will be driven by open source technologies such as VR Juggler [vrjuggler.org] , OpenSG [opensg.org] , and of course, Linux.

Coral Cache Here (1, Informative)

Niet3sche (534663) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304434)

Cache [nyud.net]

Holodeck? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304483)

does the term Holodeck ring a bell to anybody?

I just dont get it (4, Insightful)

Tester (591) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304486)

I just dont get why multi-million dollar visualisation equipement create better research. And I've work in a HPC research center where we have a very nice 3D screen powered by a massive SGI.. And never saw it used to any significant research, sure its a nice toy and its a nice way to blow research dollars. But what a waste. And anyways, most of the time, most researchers where doing their visuation in their offices with their PCs and nvidia/ati cards and their consumer grade crts.. And I'm sure they could see plenty.

Re:I just dont get it (1)

Stalus (646102) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304606)

Men buy sport's cars, women inflate their boobs, and graphics researchers get bigger screens. Sure, there's been research that says tiny ass screens make people less productive, but I haven't seen anything that says that a huge ass VR wall will advance research in any way shape or form. It's one of the major short comings of graphics research.. sometimes we get so wrapped up in the wow-factor, that the user studies are never done to figure out if the images that are displayed are actually useful. Too many times, the user studies are whether or not X person preferred it, as opposed to X person was able to be more productive, discover more, etc. One of the first things you learn when working with scientists is that the visualizations that they prefer sometimes lead them to false conclusions.

Side note though.. considering that your effective high resolution field of view is maybe three degrees, they'd be better off spending that money to do research to build an eye tracker connected to a very high resolution single projector, and just project a large, low resolution image for the rest of the wall.. two projectors, and the user wouldn't be the wiser.

Ames Sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304489)

Ames, Iowa is the most boring, backward place in Iowa, which puts it pretty high in the running for worst place ever in the universe.

That being said, I'm glad they have something to do besides light each other on fire during VEISHA.

This VR room really is pointless, though, and should go somewhere much cooler, like up a bum's asshole.

A six sided room! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304495)

What will they think of next?!

next best thing (2, Insightful)

Device666 (901563) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304586)

Of course such a room is very interesting for information visualisation. I think the next best thing is to hardwire a computer to our brain so we don't need a room for so much resolution. And this also would benefit better use of augmented reality [wikipedia.org]

I went to ISAR in 2000 [augmented-reality.org] , in those days even SGI's weren't getting close to get all the computing force AR typically needs. I wonder how AR is now developing. AR is maybe more interesting for interaction designers to make virtual interfaces for objects from the real world. I have experience many AR applications on ISAR and it gave me a deep impression which VR never has given me. People who find AR interesting (the next really big thing) should follow this link [augmented-reality.org]

PS: if someone wants to prove me the VR experience of this thing I might say "hmm.. maybe that's an interesting offer"

Re:next best thing (1)

TJWitz (719055) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304921)

If you can make it to Ames, IA once it's completed...

A 10 by 10 room?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304614)

I search it for traps!

I made my Search Roll. What do I find?!?

Poor SGI (4, Insightful)

couch_warrior (718752) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304660)

I used to teach system admin and hardware repair courses for the Origin2000 and Onyx2 at SGI, and when the class was in Mountain View one module was to visit the "Reality Wall". That screen had only 24 Megapixels projected onto a 120 degree wrap around screen, but even at that the flight simulator was so realistic that students would fall out of their chairs when the plane took a curve.
Poor old SGI. They built amazingly excellent hardware, bleeding edge software, paid their workers well, treated employees like kings and customers like emporers, and donated heavily to the open source movement.
So, of course they went bankrupt.
Done in by the Microslop-ization of technology.
We who were once the high preists of the cult of technology, wizards of electronic wonder, have become the janitors of the Microsoft plumbing, fit only to plunge out the cr@p that clogs the email pipes.
By allowing slackers in our ranks to use shrink-wrap scumware to badly execute business functions cheaply, we have fallen from grace.

Slashdot makes ISU (StrangeTalk) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304769)

ISU made slashdot [strangetalk.net]

Deep Inside Jenna Jameson... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15304776)

That would be a whole new perspective...

I prefer 200 Megapixels (1)

azav (469988) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304837)

I'll take that bet and raise you 104,800,000 pixels.

http://www.apple.com/science/profiles/hiperwall/ [apple.com]

204,800,000 pixels - sans any dead ones.

Cheers,

Re:I prefer 200 Megapixels (1)

TJWitz (719055) | more than 8 years ago | (#15304960)

I'd be much more of a fan of the hiperwall if they could get rid of the seams, though the increase in resolution is nice. What are the dimensions on the wall?
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