News

The National University of Mexico Enhances Learning with Sophisticated Visualization Technology

The National University of Mexico (UNAM) has established the Observatory of Visualization, referred to as IXTLI, an Aztec word that means face and eye. The innovative IXTLI facility allows professors and researchers to study real or abstract objects, scientific phenomena, theoretical concepts, and complex models in a three dimensional immersive virtual reality environment. IXTLI is used to conduct scientific research and instruction in multiple disciplines, including archeology, medicine, molecular chemistry, geography, biochemistry, architecture, topology, psychology, and microbiology.

According to Dr, Genevieve Lucet, Director of Computing Facilities for Research at UNAM, "The goal is to maximize the educational experience for students and provide a powerful investigative tool to researchers. The IXTLI's use of state-of-the-art immersive visualization technology is unique in Latin America. This room's advanced display technology allows participants to visualize and simulate complex objects and images in 3D with real time image control and manipulation."

UNAM contracted Fakespace Systems, a pioneer in the development of immersive visualization and virtual reality, to design and install this novel display system. Malcolm Green, Senior Account Executive for Fakespace Systems, commented, "The centerpiece is a massive 30-foot long by 8.3-foot high 140-degree curved, contiguous screen designed to provide a stimulating, engaging educational experience. The large screen is an incredible "canvas" on which multiple monoscopic image windows can be presented simultaneously.

RGB Spectrum's SuperView multi-image display processors were selected to provide high performance image integration to display multiple visuals as they are being generated from different sources. The SuperView allows manipulation of all on-screen windows, creating dynamic user interaction. The display is also designed for immersive virtual reality. The system's projectors are also capable of presenting stereoscopic, computer generated images with three dimensional depth perception."

Dr. Lucet explained, " The visuals are dynamic, allowing instructors and researchers to naturally interact with and manipulate images in real time. The individual is outfitted with a movement tracking system composed of a wireless glove with finger sensors, head sensors, and a sensor that analyzes motion of a wand or three-dimensional mouse device. As the individual moves their body and head, the image generation system regenerates the visuals to match their position and viewing perspective as if they were moving in the real world. Stereoscopic, three-dimensional depth sensation is generated by projecting distinct images for each eye and alternating these at high speed. The audience views the imagery through electronic glasses that shutter open and closed to match the alternating presented by the projector. The shuttering is imperceptible to the user and creates the two-perspective view that is necessary to create the three dimensional experience. The center's sophisticated multi-channel audio system complements the visuals and stimulates 3-D auditory sensations in the audience."

The system required intensive, real-time image processing to deal with the extremely complex computer-generated imagery. Three SuperView® processors receive both computer and video inputs. Computer sources include imagery generated from an SGI Onyx 350 supercomputer and PC and Macintosh computers. The content is mainly comprised of three-dimensional models, and has the possibility to include animation, graphs, internet pages, PowerPoint presentations, and spreadsheets. Video sources include five robotic cameras, VCR and DVD players, and videoconferencing.

The SuperView processors integrate these computer and video signals and output the consolidated multi-window images to three ceiling- mounted 3-chip DLP™ projectors at their native 1280 x 1024 SXGA pixel resolution. Each projector produces one-third of the overall screen and an electronic blending technology overlaps and balances the three sections into one contiguous image. The combined screen image has a viewable resolution of 3840 x 1024 pixels.

Instructors and researchers use an AMX touch screen control panel to operate the SuperView processors and select the visual sources to be displayed. Display windows can be resized and positioned anywhere on screen to allow viewers to compare and correlate visuals. Pre-set display configurations can be selected at the push of a button.

Dr. Lucet remarked, "the vanguard facility is a showcase for exciting, dynamic use of visual technology. The SuperView processors deliver outstanding image quality and performance. The response from instructors, researches, colleagues, and students has been excellent." The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), located in Mexico City, is a public corporation providing higher education and conducting research in a number of disciplines. Ranked 76 amongst the top 100 universities in the world, UNAM is the oldest University in the Americas and the largest university in Latin America with. Since its opening in March 2004, IXTLI received over 24,000 people who attempted 673 work sessions, 548 presentations, 391 classes, and 80 projects for the realization of 3D models. For more information, call (55) 56-22-85-20, or visit: www.ixtli.unam.mx

Fakespace Systems, the display division of Mechdyne Corporation, headquartered in Marshalltown, Iowa, is a pioneer in the development of immersive visualization and virtual reality technologies for research and commercial market applications. Fakespace created many industry firsts, including the first PC driven immersive CAVE environment, the first reconfigurable displays, and innovative interaction enabling hardware and software technologies. For more information, call 641-754-4649 or visitwww.fakespace.com.

RGB Spectrum® is a leading designer and manufacturer of videographic and multimedia hardware subsystems. Products include the View™ family of video windowing systems, the RGB/Videolink® line of scan converters, the DGy™ digital recording system, Quadra® universal scaler and synchronizer, SynchroMaster® keyers and overlayers and SuperWall™, ComputerWall® and MediaWall® multi-screen display controllers. RGB Spectrum is based in Alameda, California, and can be reached at 510-814-7000 and on the internet at http://www.rgb.com.