Advanced Visualization Computational Lab (AVCL)
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Display walls that show large quantities of information at a single glance have traditionally been the domain of air-traffic control centers, NASA command centers, TV/News stations, and big budget corporations. In recent years, very few such display walls have been installed in research labs and universities.

At Bellarmine University, we have set up a state-of-the-art Advanced Visualization and Computational Lab using the next generation video-wall technology, called Hiperwall (Highly Interactive Parallelized Display Wall), to enable visualization of very large datasets from the ATLAS experiment. The novel Hiperwall technology was developed by University of California at Irvine (UCI) at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). It was designed to be a collaborative visualization platform capable of displaying information in real time. Hiperwall is a high performance and a high resolution visualization system and was originally developed for large scale visualization needs. Hiperwall’s middleware allows researchers in geographically diverse locations to collaborate on Big Science experiments that generate Big Data. This is the first display wall that has been set up in the US in high energy physics with the Hiperwall technology for large scale visualization of data events. So, we broke new grounds by being the first undergraduate institution in the US (and the only institution in Kentucky) to implement the Hiperwall technology in the field of high energy physics for data analysis and visualization of the large-scale data events. We also developed a local automated web-based Hiperwall visualization web interface within the Hiperwall environment for our data-event visualization display needs.

The 16 Mega-pixel Hiperwall visualization system consists of a 16 feet wide by 4.6 feet high tiled display wall connected to nine high-end Tier4 Data Analysis workstations connected to triple monitors, each equipped with dual-NVIDIA multi-core graphics cards that provide parallel processing capabilities needed to visualize very large datasets efficiently.Each of the nine Tier4 workstations has a dual-boot Operating System (Windows 7 and Scientific Linux 6.4) mechanism.The Hiperwall software runs as an application operating on a standard PCs connected via a 1 Gbps network switch. Hiperwall’s tiled grid-based display system software architecture applies parallel processing techniques to overcome the performance limitations typically associated with the display of large multiple images on multiple display devices (flat-panel tiles) simultaneously, at once. Users can display a single image across the entire display area, but can also display many different images simultaneously on the display area.

The key feature of the display wall is the bezel size of the display-tiles. Arranged in a 4x2 array, each tile is a high-end commercial-brand 55” Samsung backlit-LED HDTV that has a very narrow bezel size of about 0.1 inches (one-tenth of an inch). Each of the Hiperwall display node PCs is responsible for displaying and rendering a portion of the overall image that is being displayed on the display wall. Thus, all the Hiperwall PCs work in parallel to render the full image.One of the nice features about this display wall is that students also have the ability to control the Hiperwall visualization system remotely from distant locations via a tablet.The display-node computers that drive the Hiperwall system work in parallel, giving flexibility and scalability, while allowing users to place contents on one or multiple display tiles all at once with a very high resolution.Users have the ability to display a single image (up to 1 GB in size) across the entire display or they can display many different images simultaneously.Each image can be independently sized (zoomed), positioned, and rotated. For video, animations and for streaming movies across the network,the Hiperwall visualization system has powerfulstreamer software that can provide up to 60 frames per second (FPS) feeds to the display wall.

The Hiperwall system allows the user to display a wide variety of high-resolution 2D and 3D images, event animations, and time-varying data in real time all at once on multiple display tiles, according to the needs of the users.  Hiperwall technology allows a collaborative visualization platform that can visualize enormous data sets and allows researchers/users to see the details, while retaining the context of the surrounding data. This allows us to collaborate and share detailed information and the data events. For our data analysis and visualization tasks we are currently using the CERN’s Atlantis, Hypatia and the Minerva 2D-visualization packages and the Camelia 3D-visualization package.  For the 3D visualization tasks we are using CERN’s new windows-based Camelia 3D-visualization software package that includes event animation features.Hiperwall visualization system is also connected to our OSG (Open Science Grid) Tier3 Cluster via the 9 high-end Tier4 Data Analysis workstations so that we can look at the data events in real-time as they are being processed.We are also using the Hiperwall visualization display system as a Tier3 Grid Command Center for Bellarmine University’s Tier3 OSG Supercomputer.  

The Hiperwall system has created a state-of-the-art and a dynamic/interactive visualization environment by engaging our students in inquiry-based visual learning, and for conducting interactive and exploratory data analyses activities.

Supported
by NSF

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