Tech Briefs

Multiple-Flat-Panel System Displays Multidimensional Data

Related images are displayed simultaneously to facilitate perception of trends in data.

The NASA Ames hyperwall is a display system designed to facilitate the visualization of sets of multivariate and multidimensional data like those generated in complex engineering and scientific computations. The hyperwall includes a 77 matrix of computer-driven flat-panel video display units, each presenting an image of 1,280×1,024 pixels. The term “hyperwall” reflects the fact that this system is a more capable successor to prior computer-driven multiple-flat-panel display systems known by names that include the generic term “powerwall” and the trade names PowerWall” and “Powerwall.”

ImageEach of the 49 flat-panel displays is driven by a rack-mounted, dual-central processing-unit, workstation-class personal computer equipped with a high-performance graphical-display circuit card and with a hard-disk drive having a storage capacity of 100 GB. Each such computer is a slave node in a master/ slave computing/ data-communication system (see Figure 1). The computer that acts as the master node is similar to the slave node computers, except that it runs the master portion of the system software and is equipped with a keyboard and mouse for control by a human operator. The system utilizes commercially available master/ slave software along with custom software that enables the human controller to interact simultaneously with any number of selected slave nodes.

In a powerwall, a single rendering task is spread across multiple processors and then the multiple outputs are tiled into one seamless superdisplay. It must be noted that the hyperwall concept subsumes the powerwall concept in that a single scene could be rendered as a mosaic image on the hyperwall. However, the hyperwall offers a wider set of capabilities to serve a different purpose: The hyperwall concept is one of (1) simultaneously displaying multiple different but related images, and (2) providing means for composing and controlling such sets of images. In place of elaborate software or hardware crossbar switches, the hyperwall concept substitutes reliance on the human visual system for integration, synthesis, and discrimination of patterns in complex and high-dimensional data spaces represented by the multiple displayed images.

ImageThe variety of multidimensional data sets that can be displayed on the hyperwall is practically unlimited. For example, Figure 2 shows a hyperwall display of surface pressures and streamlines from a computational simulation of airflow about an aerospacecraft at various Mach numbers and angles of attack. In this display, Mach numbers increase from left to right and angles of attack increase from bottom to top. That is, all images in the same column represent simulations at the same Mach number, while all images in the same row represent simulations at the same angle of attack. The same viewing transformations and the same mapping from surface pressure to colors were used in generating all the images.

This work was done by Daniel Gundo and Creon Levit of Ames Research Center; Christopher Henze, Timothy Sandstrom, David Ellsworth, and Bryan Green of Advanced Management Technology, Inc.; and Arthur Joly of Computer Science Corporation. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free online at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Electronics/Computers category.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to the Ames Technology Partnerships Division at (650) 604-2954. Refer to ARC-15037-1.

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Multiple-Flat-Panel System Displays Multidimensional Data (reference ARC-15037-1) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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