One of the U of M’s best system-wide resources is hiding in plain sight at the Walter Library. The Visualization Laboratory, a component of the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute, is helping researchers analyze information in a new way: by climbing inside it.
The lab features a screen that’s taller than the average human and wider than two car lengths. Each viewer wears RealD active stereo glasses. An InterSense tracking system identifies the viewer’s location and sends the information to the computer system. Then, the computer redraws the image so users can experience the data from multiple perspectives.
More and more, U of M faculty and researchers are ditching the spreadsheet in favor of the laboratory’s big screen. A few cases in point:
- Mechanical engineer Art Erdman, director of the Medical Devices Center, and computer scientist Daniel Keefe, are visualizing simulations of medical devices to see how modifications affect their function; for example, the virtual beating heart and mechanical heart valve model developed by Fotis Sotiropoulos, director of St. Anthony Falls Laboratory.
- Astrophysicist Paul Woodward teaches an astronomy course in the lab and uses the equipment for stellar convection and fluid dynamics calculations.
- Astrophysicist Tom Jones runs 3-D fluid dynamics simulations of astronomical objects such as supernova remnants, active galaxies and clusters of galaxies.
- Geophysicist David Yuen has studied mantel convection and tsunami early warning systems in the lab.
- Rhetorician Richard Graff and collaborators at Penn State are studying ancient Greek sites of oration in an effort to learn more about the acoustics, the architecture and the behavior of the crowds.
The MSI Visualization Lab is located in Room 125 of Walter Library and is available by appointment to all U of M faculty members for their projects — as well as the work of their research groups and students. Contact Nancy Rowe to arrange an appointment.
Photos by Andria Peters