UCI Researchers Complete World's Highest-Resolution Display Wall

By Anna Lynn Spitzer

Student researchers view geological data

Irvine,  Calif., August 8, 2005 – Scientists at UC Irvine have completed the world’s highest-resolution grid-based display for visualizing and manipulating massive data sets. The Highly Interactive Parallelized Display Wall (HIPerWall) is a room-sized display that measures nearly 23 x 9 feet.

The HIPerWall system, consisting of 50 flat-panel tiles, resides in the Calit2 Center of GRAVITY (Graphics, Visualization and Imaging Technology) at UCI, and provides a total resolution of 200 million pixels, bringing to life terabyte-sized data sets. HIPerWall’s resolution is nearly twice that of the world’s next-highest resolution display wall.

“The resolution of state-of-the-art high-definition television is equal to one-half of one HIPerWall tile,” said Falko Kuester, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and one of the system’s designers.

“National labs are performing fluid and thermodynamics calculations for meshes containing 27 billion cells, airborne imaging systems are delivering GIS data at centimeter resolution, and biomedical scanning devices are at the verge of generating multi-dimensional, time-varying high resolution images. HIPerWall’s resolution enables scientists to see complete data sets that previously could only be viewed one slice at a time.”

Project PI Falko Kuester demonstrates HIPerWall's different capabilities.

HIPerWall will be used to bring alive a variety of research data – from biomedical to climate datasets, and from numerical data to medical imaging to satellite photography. It will be utilized by a wide range of multi-disciplinary researchers at UCI, including those in physics, structural engineering, and theoretical and experimental biomedical engineering.

In addition, the system, which utilizes unique middleware to transport the data, will allow researchers in geographically diverse locations to collaborate on complex experiments.

Primary among HIPerWall’s initial users will be scientists from UC Irvine’s Earth system science department, who will compare dozens of future climate simulations developed for the upcoming United Nations climate assessment. “Progress on fundamental Earth System Science questions of weather, climate and the planet's future depends on distilling meaningful insights from the largest structured datasets ever created,” said Charlie Zender, associate professor of Earth system science.

“Simultaneously exploring all the future climate scenarios gives climate researchers working with HIPerWall a superior vantage point to assess and plan for Earth's future climate."

Joerg Meyer and Kuester explain the
visualization of a cancer cell to visitors.

HIPerWall allows researchers two ways to view their data: as a single full-screen visual at a resolution of 200 megapixels; or in tiled mode, as a series of smaller pictures from data streams or 3D models that are displayed simultaneously for comparison purposes.

 “HIPerWall provides a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary research teams to jointly visualize and analyze complex scientific data and to correlate information while drawing from a broad range of domain expertise,” said Kuester.

The system’s visualization cluster is an essential component, providing unmatched data handling and distributed visualization capabilities. Controlled by a cluster of 25 networked visualization servers with interconnected high-end graphics cards, HIPerWall will allow researchers to see concurrently both the broad view and the fine details of the data.

“HIPerWall’s immense size and capability present significant challenges in moving data to and from the visualization cluster and between the individual machines that comprise it. We will be working with multi-gigabyte datasets, some of which we plan to stream from UCI’s Earth System Modeling Facility supercomputer,” said Stephen Jenks, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and another of the system’s designers.

 The project was funded with a $393,533 National Science Foundation grant. Development of HIPerWall data distribution and visualization middleware began in the summer of 2004 and was followed by progressive development of the display system from a single tile prototype to 2x1, 2x2, 3x3, 4x4 and finally, to today’s 10x5 configuration of LCD panels. Each panel, with a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels (4 megapixels), is powered by a dual-processor 2.7GHz G5 node, with nVIDIA 6800 Ultra DDL graphics, that has access to an initial storage capacity of 10 terabytes.

 “Each development step opened new research challenges that guided the development of the current system,” said Kuester. “This system will now serve as the foundation for fundamental computer engineering and computer science research in synergy with domain-specific research in areas such as earth system sciences, biomedical engineering and astrophysics.”

About Calit2: The California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (www.calit2.net) integrates multidisciplinary intellectual capital and industry expertise to conduct cutting-edge research. More than 130 leading California computer, telecommunications, software and applications companies partner with Calit2 faculty participants to investigate areas as diverse as transportation, emergency response, public safety, the environment, security, health care, business, education, the arts and entertainment.

About the University of California, Irvine: Celebrating 40 years of innovation, the University of California, Irvine is a top-ranked public university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service.

Founded in 1965, UCI is among the fastest-growing University of California campuses, with more than 24,000 undergraduate and graduate students and about 1,400 faculty members. The second-largest employer in dynamic Orange County , UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $3 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.

Media Contacts
Anna Lynn Spitzer, (949) 824-3317, aspitzer@uci.edu