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Virtalis refresh VR suite for Zuse Institute, Berlin

09 March 2018

When the Zuse Institute’s decade old Virtual Reality (VR) suite, the Studio da Vinci, was ready for an upgrade, it was to Virtalis that the academics turned.

Zuse Institute’s 10 metre, curved screen with conical geometry presented a challenge, as it is effectively divided into three separate sections, each requiring two new Canon Xeed WUX4000 projectors and a significant VR compute to warp and blend the stereoscopic images in real time.

Hans-Christian Hege, Head of Department ‘Visual Data Analysis’ at Zuse Institute, explained: “3D visualisation with a stereoscopic display helps researchers to better understand complex data. When large portions of the field of view are covered by the display, the viewer feels immersed in the 3D scene. This requires several projectors which, of course, should always be perfectly aligned and adjusted.” In order to make the complex simple, Virtalis chose to integrate projector auto-alignment technology from the Fraunhofer Institute, FOKUS, to cope with the complicated blending and warping.

There is a strong belief at Zuse Institute that it makes sense to visualise data, because this supports understanding. A typical example is the development of visualisation procedures for medicine, with surgeons experiencing a 3D overview of the operation site in the human body, enabling them to plan the surgery. In this example, data from numerous sources, such as ultrasound, CT, and MRI images, are brought together and combined into a spatial whole, which then flows into a visual simulation.

Researcher, Olaf Paetsch, commented, “With the upgrade we have achieved markedly increased brightness, higher resolution and improved colours when compared with the old system. FOKUS works well, creating the parameters for the projectors to send the images to the right parts of our screen. Our data and analysis tasks can be anything – from the analysis of train connections to the inspection of corrosion and from galactic phenomena on many length scales, down to atomic processes. Our data sets share complexity and often are also “multi-scale”. Numbers alone are hard to comprehend, but when represented visually in 3D, with disparity exaggeration applied, the value of VR is easy to appreciate.”

The Zuse Institute is a unique interdisciplinary research institute for applied mathematics and data-intensive high-performance computing. Its research focuses on modelling, simulation and optimisation and is performed together with scientific partners from academia and industry.

The FOKUS system features an auto-calibration camera, so that the projectors can be calibrated in a process that takes about twenty minutes. During this process, the projectors display a series of stripe patterns, akin to a barcode and the camera records them. The Fraunhofer auto-alignment system then analyses the stripes and corrects any distortions and misalignments in the projection. At the same time, it corrects the brightness so there are no gaps or areas where it is too bright, owing to projector overlap or the screen shape. The result is one seamless high-quality image on the curved screen.

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