TCHPC Visualization Facility
Jose Refojo, Visualization Specialist, TCHPC, Trinity College Dublin
TCHPC's visualization facility was built in 2006 as part of IITAC to deliver one of the key themes of the programme – the development of interdisciplinary research between the disparate groups within the project, throughout the university and indeed, throughout Ireland. The facility was designed and built in conjunction with the leading supplier of visualization systems in the world, Fakespace, to provide visualization support to as many different research groups as possible. A key feature of the installation at TCHPC is the mirror system developed specifically by Fakespace for this site that minimizes the amount of space required for projecting the images. This leaves more space in the facility for the users – groups of up to 20 people can all share in collaborative, 3D-immersive sessions. Since the system was opened by the Minister for Education in late 2006, there have been ongoing refinements of the facility to improve the users' visualization experience.
In addition to maintaining the hardware in the visualization facility and managing third party visualization software such as Amira and Pymol, the staff in TCHPC have been developing their own software packages to take full advantage of the features of the facility. For many research groups, no commercial package can adequately visualize their specific data set. This problem is quite common given the degree of specialisation that occurs nowadays in any scientific discipline. The in-house software has been written in a generic fashion so as to be able to adapt it quickly to the requirements of a new data set or researcher group. Key features of the software include model loading (both artistic and engineering models), tracking system operability and head tracking capability, sparse 3D dataset loading and processing, new implementations of 6D data display and efficient volume rendering algorithms.