By Tiffany Fox
San Diego, CA, April 25, 2008 -- The "oohs" and "aahs" were in abundance Thursday as more than 50 friends and family of Calit2 employees at UC San Diego took advantage of "Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day," an event designed to show members of the larger community what it's like to work at one of the university's most cutting-edge institutes.
Attendees were invited to take 45-minute tours of Calit2's Atkinson Hall facilities, which included stops at the HIPerSpace Lab, the StarCAVE virtual-reality system and Calit2's first-floor auditorium, as well as the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts' Audio Spatialization Lab and Experimental Game Lab.
Ranging in age from newborns to retirees, visitors watched demonstrations, asked questions and even enjoyed some interactive participation at the popular StarCAVE, where a guide wearing a specially designed location sensor led them through the showroom of a Mercedes dealership in a virtual environment.
Leah Kent, executive assistant for Dean Frieder Seible of the Jacobs School of Engineering, brought her husband, Stuart, and four children to check out Calit2's collaborative research environment. Her sons Dylan, 3, and Seth, 2, seemed entranced by the video game that Computer Science and Engineering graduate student Tom Wypych was demonstrating on the giant HIPerSpace OptIPortal, a tiled display system that covers the length of a wall in the second-floor laboratory. The Highly Interactive Parallelized Display Space, or HIPerSpace, is the highest-resolution computer display in the world, rendering images at up to 220 million pixels.
Kent's older children, Tristan, 16, and Audrey, 11, were off on their own, exploring other exhibits. "My 16-year-old wants to apply to the engineering school here," Kent said. "That's the main reason we're here today."
Kent said she appreciated that Calit2 had sponsored the event, and she said she was especially happy that with two preschoolers in tow "nothing broke and we didn't destroy anything."
Bao Nguyen, a network engineer for UCSD's Biomedical Informatics Research Network (BIRN), uses resources from Calit2 in his work developing a grid infrastructure, and often spends time on the third floor of Atkinson Hall, where he says half of his coworkers are based. At this event, Bao found himself in the role of tour guide as he showed his friend Helen, a UCSD economics student, around the building.
Nguyen said he's impressed by the 4K projector "because it's pretty rare, and they only have two in the world. Plus, it's just cool."
That same projector was what brought Chris Riggs-Saberton to Calit2 for his first visit back in February, when he saw a film depicting Pulitzer-Prize winning author Roger Reynolds' performance of "Sanctuary" in Calit2's auditorium. This time around, Chris Riggs-Saberton was visiting Calit2 at the invitation of his wife, Karen Riggs, an administrative assistant for Calit2's UCSD director, Ramesh Rao.
Although Karen Riggs had worked for Calit2 for more than six months, the "Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work" event marked the first time she had the opportunity to see the institute's laboratories for herself. Her favorite part of the tour was watching researchers in the HIPerSpace OptIPortal manipulate a giant satellite image of the earth, zooming out to show the breadth of all seven continents, and then zooming in to show specific geographical features such as mountain ranges and rivers.
"I liked to be able to see all those pixels on that satellite image," Riggs said. "Image resolution has gotten so much better than screen resolution, and you don't often get that kind of perspective."
Riggs' husband said his favorite part of the Calit2 tour was the StarCAVE, a projection-based virtual reality system that projects graphic images in stereo onto five walls, allowing up to 12 people to experience a fully immersive experience in real-time (eventually to include a sixth projection wall -- on the floor).
"It's impressive to be surrounded by so many screens," said Riggs-Saberton.
"He's a gamer," Riggs added about her husband. "He was impressed by all the processing power behind that."