In the image above, Calit2 director Dr. Larry Smarr shows UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox a zoomable 100-megapixel display that shows live image data (1 foot = 1 pixel maps of post-Katrina NOLA, shot by the USGS) streamed over an encrypted fiber-optic network link. Nortel provided the encryption, and the University of Illinois' Electronic Visualization Laboratory made the display grid happen. There's a 30-machine Linux cluster behind the screen, and you could feel the heat coming off of them!
At one point, a woman who'd evacuated New Orleans walked up to the display and said to UIC's Jason Leigh, "Can we go to my house please?" We did, and we "went" to the Superdome and to burning buildings... in incredible detail. The interlinked displays made this information so much more lifelike than it is on a small laptop screen.
What do high-definition video of seafloor volcanoes and avant-garde Japanese digital cinema have in common? They're both examples of the kinds of bandwidth-intensive information that can be streamed live from remote locations, over ultra-fast optical networks.Link to Wired News story.
And both were demonstrated this week at iGrid 2005. The week-long computing conference, which showcases research in high-performance, multi-gigabit networks, was held at UC San Diego's new Calit2 (California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology) facility.
"When you can stream content this high-resolution, you can start thinking about movie theaters as a place where live events can be displayed -- sports, fashion, politics, anything," said Laurin Herr of Pacific Interface, an Oakland-based tech consulting firm that produced the demonstration. "What color film did to audiences used to viewing black and white, what stereo sound did to audiences used to hearing mono, high-definition digital cinema will do to us."
Jaw-dropping demos abounded, promising just as much for scientists as for Hollywood. One experiment on Tuesday featured the first-ever live, IP-based transmission of high-definition video from the bottom of the sea.
They'd dazzled everyone with a live video feed from the ocean floor the day before -- translucent seafloor critters, "black smoker" volcanic vents, with everything so clear, the water disappeared. Magical undersea life, transmitted live in super-high-def, over IP. The thousands of miles separating us from this remote underwater world just vanished.
But powerful storms made that too dangerous to repeat on Wednesday, so the cameras stayed on the ship instead, beaming realtime interviews of the increasingly woozy crew while the storm pitched and rocked their ship violently.
As we watched that footage, transmitted over IP to optical networks on shore by way of a 15mbps Ku-band satellite, John Orcutt of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography turned to Dr. Smarr in the theater and said "It's still amazing."
Dr. Smarr gazed at the screen and was silent for a moment. Then he replied, "That's because it's the real world."
Oh, and here are details and some little screengrabs from the avant-garde Noh movie: Link. It was pretty amazing, too!