Top Technology Industry Officials Visit Calit2 at UC San Diego During 'Future in Review' Conference

By Tiffany Fox,

San Diego, CA, June 1, 2008-- Top officers from technology companies around the world converged on the UC San Diego division of Calit2 last week for a series of innovative demonstrations and a tour of the institute's high-tech facilities. The visit was part of this year's Future in Review (FiRe) workshop, dubbed "the best technology conference in the world" by The Economist magazine. [For a companion article about the FiRe CTO Challenge, click here .]

Larry Smarr (left) and Mark Anderson
Calit2 director Larry Smarr and Strategic News Services CEO Mark Anderson (with microphone) interact with University of Melbourne researchers in Australia.
[Photo courtesy Sandy Huffaker for SNS]
Designed to expose technology experts to new ideas about the future of the industry, FiRe was created by Strategic News Services’ Mark Anderson, a widely-followed technology guru who has been accurately predicting the industry’s future since 1995. The 5th annual conference was held May 20-23 at San Diego ’s Hotel del Coronado, and featured more than 175 representatives from a wide array of technology-related companies, including Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intuit, Microsoft and Qualcomm.

For the third year in a row, participants were invited to take a “field trip” to Atkinson Hall, the location of Calit2’s cutting-edge laboratories on the UCSD campus. This year’s collaboration with the FiRe conference is Calit2’s largest yet, said Calit2 Director Larry Smarr.

“The fact that the conference has adopted Calit2 as their ‘FiRe living laboratory of the future’ is a great honor. We were excited to share our vision of the future with so many leaders of industry and public policy,” explained Smarr.

Maurizio Seracini presents to FiRe attendees
Calit2's Maurizio Seracini explains how he uses multi-spectral imaging to look beneath the surface of a painting by Leonardo da Vinci.
[Photos by Pinar Istek except where noted]
“Calit2, the FiRe Lab (as we are now fond of calling it), consistently scores highest of special events among our participants,” said FiRe founder Anderson.

The Calit2 event, which took place during the second evening of the conference, included a presentation by Italian art diagnostician and Calit2 researcher Maurizio Seracini; a visit to the gallery@calit2 to see an art exhibit about surveillance technology pre-9/11, titled “Exposure”; 3-D scientific visualizations in the StarCAVE 360-degree, virtual-reality system; a demonstration of several versions of Gizmo – a toy-sized remote-controlled truck that serve as a “research platform on wheels” to deploy different CalMesh technologies for disaster response and other emergencies; and a chance to see the world’s largest tiled wall display exhibiting images with resolutions of hundreds of millions of pixels. The HIPerSpace wall has a screen resolution up to 220 million pixels, and networked to a 200 million pixel system in the Calit2 Building at UC Irvine, the combined system can deliver real-time rendered graphics simultaneously across 420 million pixels to audiences in Irvine and San Diego .

Larry Smarr and University of Melbourne in 4K
Calit2 director Larry Smarr introduces University of Melbourne colleagues via super-high-definition teleconferencing to FiRe visitors in San Diego.
A highlight of the evening was the sampling of ultra-high-definition videos and an international teleconference showcased in Calit2’s 200-seat auditorium. One of the projects was the Palomar Digital Night Sky Survey, presented for the first-time on the auditorium’s big screen at high-definition resolution.

With his data streaming remotely from Seattle, Curtis Wong, Principal Researcher and Group Manager for Next Media Research at Microsoft, led a rapt audience through a multi-spectral, virtual tour of the stunning images from earth and space telescopes, part of Microsoft's new WorldWide Telescope just one week after it was unveiled. Wong zoomed in on the Milky Way, proto-stellar systems and the crab nebula, a supernova event so bright that it was recorded by Chinese and Arab astronomers in the 11th century.

OzIPortal videoconference at FiRe
FiRe visitors in the Calit2 Auditorium in San Diego converse with counterparts at the University of Melbourne -- streamed at 1 gigabit per second.
Next up was a presentation of two pre-recorded, ultra-high-resolution digital cinema performances streamed to the Calit2 Auditorium from disk drives at the Keio University in Tokyo and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. From Tokyo, the 4K video featured a Japanese chorale performance titled “Blue Earth” (first seen during the Kyoto Prize Symposium). Subsequently, participants were able to watch the operatic “Era La Notte”, first streamed live from Amsterdam to San Diego as part of Calit2’s participation in CineGrid @ Holland Festival 2007. Both videos were shown in 4K digital cinema, which is four times the resolution of HDTV (8 megapixels per frame at 24 frames per second). Smarr pointed out that the resolution of the “Era La Notte” film was so crystal-clear, it was possible to see individual sequins glittering on soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci’s dress.

Mark Anderson in StarCAVE
FiRe participants observe molecular structures in Calit2's 360-degree StarCAVE virtual reality system.
For the evening’s coup de maître, Smarr led a real-time, HD teleconference with officials at the University of Melbourne , who collaborated with Calit2 to construct a 96-million-pixel OptIPortal tiled wall display (known informally as the “OzIPortal”). The integration of high-definition video streaming with the data-visualization capabilities of the OzIPortal enables researchers in Melbourne to communicate remotely with colleagues at Calit2 via virtually seamless face-to-face communication over a super-broadband network that streams at 1,000 megabits per second – a technology that has implications for virtually every form of academic or industry research requiring collaboration at a distance, especially when very large data sets are involved.

With Australian colleagues displayed across the Calit2 Auditorium’s large cinema screen, Smarr conversed with University of Melbourne Vice Chancellor Glyn Davis and Australian American Leadership Dialogue (AALD) founder Phil Scanlan about the ongoing efforts between Calit2 and AALD to bring the OptIPuter to many Australian universities and research instruments in the coming year.  The University of Melbourne was the first, going live in January of this year.

FiRe HIPerSpace demo
FiRe visitors get a taste of the world's highest-resolution tiled display. The HIPerSpace wall offers 220 million pixels of screen resolution.
Mark Anderson, who has predicted that Australia will become the U.S. ’s “greatest ally” in coming years, praised the OzIPortal project and called the Land Down Under “the country of the future.” 

“When people use these tools, they have unintended consequences, and I’m looking forward to those consequences,” Anderson told the Australian group, adding, “I want this at home!”

Smarr told the audience that using OptIPuter technologies to connect the world with telepresence “has been one of the most exciting things that I’ve ever done.”

“It’s a new paradigm in a carbon-constrained world,” he said. “This project was accomplished without sending anyone on an airplane to Australia from San Diego in the last nine months. We built the whole system by using the system itself. You’re going to see international conversations increasingly enabled by these ultra-high-resolution bandwidths.”

One company that might begin using this technology in the near future is Shell Oil. Ian Sandy, Principal Advisor for Technology Investigation for Shell and a participant at the FiRe conference, said the firm has already installed 256 conference rooms in 128 countries, including high-definition, point-to-point studios, but the advanced video teleconferencing capabilities demonstrated at Calit2 are of particular interest for seismic interpreters.

FiRe visitors at Calit2
More than 120 FiRe attendees made the trip to Calit2.
“We’re always looking for new ways of doing things,” said Sandy . “Telepresence in video conferencing is something we’re quite interested in.”

It used to be that academia, government and industry would work separately to try to solve the world’s problems, Smarr said.  “We just don’t have the luxury of that kind of time anymore,” he continued. “Technologists need applications people to tell them what needs to be done, and applications people need technologists to tell them what’s possible. In both cases, we’re talking about integration.”

In the end, many FiRe participants walked away from the demonstrations at Calit2 impressed with what the institute has achieved – and with a certain amount of envy.  “My expectation and definition of broadband has completely changed as a result of the experience,” wrote consultant and mobile-industry strategist Chetan Sharma in a blog post titled ‘Sensory Overload’. “Everyone left just dazed and amazed by what’s possible and [with] a lust to own the technology and a 10Gbps pipe to their homes.”

The Strategic News Service Newsletter is the most accurate publicly-ranked predictive letter in computing and communications; information about it and the Future in Review Conference can be found at and, respectively.

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Top Technology Industry Officials Visit Calit2 at UC San Diego During 'Future in Review' Conference