Human Computer Interaction: Visualization and Animation Groups
PIS: John Carroll, Ron Kriz, Ken Reifsnider, Virginia
Long Term Objective: By the year 2002, as a result of this work element, we will have created applications and information technology that will broaden access to the $30M Advanced Communication and Information Technology Center (ACITC) (under construction by the Tech) and especially the associated CAVE technology, as a regional mechanism for enabling research (initially in materials science), guided by the work of the Center for Human Computer Interaction (CHCI) at Virginia Tech. With an emphasis on advanced communication networks, ACITC resources are also targeted for access and distribution to off campus programs which will facilitate the creation of a distributed visual computing environment. With a successful regional model in place our long term goal is to then explore how ACITC resources could be Included in a shared PACI resource. With such a network our objective is to share alliance resources transparently.
Alliance hardware / software: Virginia Tech has been an NCSA Academic Affiliate since 1991 and most recently a member of the NCSA-SGI Power Grid Alliance. Starting in late 1996 Virginia Tech was awarded NSP CISE Institutional Infrastructure funds (CDA-9601874) to build a CAVE(tm) in collaboration with NCSA, Specifically Virginia Tech is pursuing research to provide access to and training In the use of advanced virtual environments that will break barriers in Virginia Tech research and education programs. As an example of PACI collaboration, NCSA has partnered with Virginia Tech's Center for Human Computer Interaction which will provide a critical evaluation of usability of CAVE(tm) software tools that will be developed by PACI partners over the next five years. Virginia Tech will use this affiliation with NCSA and-other PACI partners, and the software and hardware associated with that affiliation, to support the proposed regional activity, and the regional activity to enhance and broaden the affiliation with NCSA. Also associated with Virginia Tech's ACRM is the creation of the proposed Office of NavaI Research Training Center in Virtual Environments and Advanced Communications in 1998 (proposed funding at $IOM) which Includes a $1.2M University Visualization and Animation Laboratory and a $1.5M-six walled CAVE run by a 3 rack 6-IR pipe Onyx2 Infinite Reality SGI computing system. With this proposal NCSA submitted a letter of support to include Virginia Tech in the recent DoD Modernization Program.
Mechanisms for transfer to the National community: The regional effort will be used as a seed program. From the experience gained in the first three years with the regional program, an embryonic national program will be initiated.. This will be done along the guidelines established by two recent studies of NRC panels, organized by the National Materials Advisory Board, in which one of our Pls participated The regional efforts will also be transferred to the national community by working with third party visualization software vendors to create a distributed visual computing environment using alliance hardware. A recent example is a proposal accepted by Sun Microsystems and Visual Numerics to create a visual distributed computing environment on the Virginia Tech campus using Java. These companies will than distribute the results of this collaboration nationally.
Annual evaluation: Three elements of evaluation will be used for this program. The first is integration, specific evidence that the ACITC, CHCI, and materials software at Virginia Tech have been integrated with each other and with the software and hardware at NCSA The second is involvement to the extent to which the user community becomes involved in the program. And the third criterion will be the affect, the evidence to support the fact that the program advances the science and engineering community In research and education. Evaluation of these three elements Will become an integral pan of the proposed ACITC annual evaluation, To facilitate implementation of this evaluation plan the CHCI, Parallel Computing, Visualization, Multimedia Research, and Learning Research laboratories have been designed so that the CHCI can observe and evaluate the full spectrum of activities and make recommendations based on the previously stated criteria. "Authors" from each of these groups have been working with the building architects to create an environment that will enhance this collaboration and evaluation.
Contributions to the computational infrastructure: A focus of the CAVE research will be human-computer interface development and evaluation. with specific applications in simulation visualization of complex multidimensional biochemical structures, dislocations in ceramics, and complex 3D damage patterns in fiber-reinforced composite materials. Virginia Tech also proposes to work closely with NCSA staff on future projects related to the NSF-Science and Technology Center materials research projects involved in polymer synthesis by simulation modeling and visualization. This will enable new science and engineering. For example, professor A. C. Loos (Virginia Tech) studies "Resin Transfer Molding" (R7M) processing of composites which requires extensive computing resources for both the simulation and visualization. The current program will make it possible to actually "see" the complex 3-D flow of resin as a function of the processing variables. Other materials research projects on campus also require extensive computer resources for both modeling and visualization: 1. Professor D. Parkas studies "Extended Defects in Intemetallics", 2. Professor F.C. Batra and R. D. Kriz study "High Velocity Impacts", 3. Professor W. A. Curtin studies "Macromechanics of Composite Fracture", and 4. Professor X. L. Reffsnider has developed MRLife simulation code that is widely used by industry to predict strength life of composite systems. The question of how to develop new methods of inquiry that use supercomputing to break the computational barriers In these fields will be addressed by the HCI group, with the testing of various applications methodologies and the design of appropriate human-computer interfaces as a function of the nature of the science and engineering involved and the data sets to be handled. The regional contacts will be used to extend the computational infrastructure constructed beyond the focus area of materials science, in the out years, and to create new collaborative research teams and efforts. At the technical level, this effort will direct special attention to the development of computational (supercomputing) engines that are truly transparent to the user, with Internet dissemination methods. A pilot program of this sort has been completed at Virginia Tech that demonstrates atomic bonding to student users, with considerable success.
Computational barriers: Two primary issues associated with the removal of barriers will be addressed. First, we will move much further along the path to the elimination of the requirement of user specialization in our efforts to bring visualization and supercomputing to the community. This program is constructed specifically for this task. Many previous initiatives have been hampered by under-subscription upon completion; this barrier will be specifically removed by our HCI group. The second barrier to be addressed is the problem of understanding and representing the dynamic relationships between parameters in complex physical problems and associated data fields. We will use visualization (and especially CAVE technology) to enable users to comprehend, understand, and creatively manipulate the controlling factors in such problems.
Contribute to the success of the Alliance: We propose that Virginia Tech and NCSA jointly sponsor an annual symposium and workshop on supercomputers in materials research, to include all aspects of research, utilization, methodology, and shared capability. The proposed symposium will be hosted at Virginia Tech, and the workshops will be hosted by NCSA. This will bring the results of this effort to the rest of the NCSA community.
Opportunities to exploit to enable computational infrastructure and scientific inquiry: Virginia Tech recommends that emphasis be placed on software interface development and evaluation by all members of the alliance together with a gigabit network to distribute and explore how high speed networks can enhance scientific inquiry using these software tools. ACITC activities proposed above will provide an excellent regional model where ultimately the ACITC will then be in a position to extend what we learn across a national gigabit alliance network.
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Revised April 22, 1998