Collaborative Visualization using High-Resolution Tiled Displays 1 Luc Renambot , Byungil Jeong, Ratko Jagodic, Andrew Johnson, Jason Leigh Electronic Visualization Laboratory University of Illinois at Chicago Chicago, IL 60607 1 INTRODUCTION We envision situation-rooms and research laboratories in which all the walls are made from seamless ultra-highresolution displays fed by data streamed over ultra-highspeed networks from distantly located visualization, storage servers, and high definition video cameras [1,6]. It will allow local and distributed groups of researchers to work together on large amounts of distributed heterogeneous datasets. From working with our collaborators at the US Geological Survey and the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research, we have seen how high resolution displays can be used to show detail and context simultaneously. Homeland security applications and emergency response management in particular, and the whole domain of visual analytics in general would largely benefit from the same features. We are taking the next steps toward this vision by building and using LambdaVision - an 11x5 tiled display with a total resolution of 100 megapixels and developing SAGE, the Scalable Adaptive Graphics Environment. The goal is to enable scientists to explore datasets and share applications at the highest resolution available. SAGE allows the seamless display of various networked applications over the high-resolution displays. Each visualization application (such as 3D rendering, remote desktop, video streams, very large 2D maps, see Figure 1) streams its rendered pixels (or graphics primitives) to SAGE, allowing for any given layout onto the displays (e.g. the output of arbitrary M by N pixel rendering cluster nodes can be streamed to X by Y pixel display screens). Figure 1 – Example of Collaborative Visualization on Tiled Display The graphics streaming architecture of SAGE addresses two non-trivial problems in scientific visualization. One is heterogeneity: since most visualization applications are closely tied to their graphics environment, it is difficult to integrate various visualization applications into a unified graphics environment. The other is scalability: the ability of 1 Contact author at email@example.com visualization software and systems to scale in terms of the amount of data they can visualize and the resolution of the desired visualization . SAGE addresses the heterogeneity problem by decoupling graphics rendering from graphics display so that visualization applications developed on various environments can easily migrate into SAGE by streaming their pixels into the virtual frame buffer. Also, SAGE provides scalability by supporting any number of rendering and displaying nodes, number of tiles, and screen resolution, and the SAGE visualization applications have extremely fast access to huge databases at remote or local sites taking advantage of affordable ultra-high-bandwidth networks. There are several other existing systems with parallel or remote rendering schemes related to SAGE. WireGL  for example uses sort-first parallel rendering scheme from a single source or parallel scene-graph rendering. This approach allows a single serial application to drive a tiled display by streaming graphics primitives that will be rendered in parallel on display nodes. However, it has poor data scalability due to its single source limitation. Flexible scalable graphics systems such as Chromium  and Aura  are designed for distributing visualizations to and from cluster driven tiled-displays. They have a similar parallel rendering scheme with SAGE on local area network; however, Chromium is not designed to execute multiple applications on a tiled display, and its applications have a static layout on the tiled display – it can divide the tiled display into several parts and execute multiple applications, but each tile can support only one application. Chromium’s DMX extension allows execution of multiple applications and window moving and resizing but does not support parallel applications – it has a single source (serial application) and its design is not suitable for graphics streaming over wide-area networks. IBM’s Scalable Graphics Engine  is a hardware-based approach that allows for the reception of pixels streamed over networks and can drive an array of displays synchronously. Currently, it is limited to 16 1GigE network inputs, 4 DVI outputs, and SGE specific network protocol which prevents users from exploiting advanced network protocols. Also as 10GigE (10 gigabit Ethernet) network becomes prevalent, 1GigE network interface becomes a drawback of SGE. Our previous work, TeraVision , is a scalable platformindependent solution that is capable of transmitting multiple synchronized high-resolution video streams between single workstations and/or clusters. TeraVision was also designed for high-speed graphics streaming over wide-area networks and SAGE directly exploits its network transport libraries. However, TeraVision has a static application layout on a tiled display it is not suitable for supporting parallel applications and multiple instances of applications since each TeraVision box can stream the pixels of only one application. From our prior work on the Continuum , we have learned that it is crucial for collaborators to have both local control (e.g. on a tablet or laptop) and the casual ability to share their work and see what others are working on (e.g. on a large tile display). For that purpose SAGE’s Free Space Manager (i.e. window manager) provides an intuitive interface for moving and resizing visualizations on the tiled display. The interface is also completely transparent giving the user the illusion that they are working on one continuous computer screen, even though the systems performing the visualizations may be several thousand miles apart. The Free Space Manager is akin to a traditional desktop manager in a windowing system, except that it can scale from a single tablet PC screen to a desktop spanning over 100 million pixel displays. Since SAGE was designed with collaboration in mind, it makes sense to give control to multiple users that are not necessarily collocated. To facilitate that requirement, Free Space Manager can accept multiple user interface client connections and receive commands from any of them and broadcast the changes to all the other clients. Since commands are issued via simple message passing, various user interfaces can be used for control at the same time. For the basic user interaction a SAGE Graphical User Interface was developed which resembles contemporary desktop environments (see Figure 3). SAGE GUI allows multiple users to connect to multiple SAGE displays and run and shutdown applications and control their windows. As an alternative user interface, a system is currently being developed for controlling applications with a camera-tracked device on the horizontal 5x3 tiled display, the Lambda Table . Figure 2. SAGE running LambdaVision Display 2 on EVL's 55-tile 2.1 Motivation Due to the enhancement of scientific data acquisition techniques, the resolution of scientific image datasets easily exceeds the resolution of single desktop displays. For example, geoscientists working with aerial and satellite imagery deal with 365Kx365K pixels maps and neurobiologists create images of the brain with montages consisting of thousands of pictures from a high-resolution microscope (4Kx4K pixels sensor). SAGE can support hundreds of megapixels of display resolution which is necessary for this type of datasets. SAGE allows scientists to visualize multiple relevant datasets on a big tiled display by executing multiple instances of an application and comparing the datasets to get some meaningful information by freely moving, resizing, and overlapping the visualization windows of the datasets. This feature is very useful for biologists analyzing highresolution microscope images or geoscientists analyzing multiple core images. Using wide area network streaming capability of SAGE, scientists can visualize remotely stored datasets on several different distributed clusters and display them on the local tiled display. Large clusters with connectivity to high-speed networks can be used to share data and visualizations using SAGE. As the size of scientific datasets increases rapidly, sharing data or visualizations becomes increasingly important. At the iGrid2005 workshop, we succeeded in streaming the output of visualization applications from three distinct remote clusters in KISTI (South Korea), EVL (Chicago), and SARA (Amsterdam) to a large tiled display (11x5 tiles, total 100Mpixel display resolution) at UCSD (San Diego) over 10 Gigabit networks. Total bandwidth used for this experiment reached 9 Gigabits/sec. 100-Megapixel SAGE The current implementation of SAGE can execute multiple instances of various visualization applications on local or remote rendering clusters and dynamically stream the pixels of the applications to tiled displays so that multiple application windows can be freely moved or resized on the tiled displays. Each application exploits SAGE Application Interface Library (SAIL) to stream the output of application. Most visualization applications can be easily integrated into SAGE framework by adding a few lines of API code for SAIL. Figure 2 shows the current implementation of SAGE running a high-resolution aerial photography application (left), a high-resolution animation (bottom right) and a live HDTV camera feed (top right). Figure 3. SAGE session from San Diego to Korea, Amsterdam and Chicago (iGrid 2005) To support collaboration, several tools have been incorporated into SAGE GUI to facilitate joint work: Users can have discussions and meetings in front of a tiled display where each of them is running an instance of the SAGE GUI. No strict policy is enforced for control and ownership of each application. Each user can move and resize any window on the display When a user wants to bring some content on the display, he/she just invokes the application from the UI that supports that type of data, choose a dataset and position it on the display. For basic communication, a chat capability and a list of users currently connected to the display are available. It allows for casual discussion without resorting to an external instant messaging application A basic multimedia viewer is built into the user interface, letting the user to drag and drop local content onto the interface for display. Supported types include common image formats (jpeg, png, tiff, etc), PDF documents, and common movie format (mpeg, quicktime, avi, etc). Once the user drops a recognized data type file on the UI, the file is transferred to the cluster supporting the tiled display and the appropriate viewing application is launched. Every user can also be connected to multiple displays at the same time and control application windows on any of them. This proves to be especially useful when multiple sites are working together. Moreover, a single application can be connected to multiple displays by broadcasting the pixel content to each site. This crude implementation of multicasting allows sharing the same content between users. Each user independently controls the layout of the application window on each site. At the end of a meeting, users can save the session and the state of the tiled display so that they can quickly resume their work at a later time. 2.2 Future Work We are working on extending SAGE to scalably support distance collaboration with multiple endpoints by streaming pixels to all the participating endpoints using either traditional router-based multicasting or photonic multicasting. When multicasting capability is added to SAGE, different endpoints in the collaboration may be seeing the same visualization on different devices with different display characteristics and effectively share the visualization without wasting network bandwidth. Also, we are developing new streaming protocols and real-time compression to improve the pixel streaming capabilities of SAGE that in turn will make it more reliable and faster over wide area networks. Eventually, we will extend SAGE to stream other graphics data types such as polygons, voxels or progressive meshes so that it can support wider range of applications and utilize networks, rendering and display resources more effectively. As for user interaction, our goal is to make collaboration natural and intuitive for any user and not just the experienced ones. SAGE allows just that by decoupling the control from the main control module of SAGE, the Free Space Manager. With that decoupling, the user interface can easily be extended to support more specific features, possibly in form of modules or plug-ins. As of now, each application’s user interface has to be started separately but by packaging them with the SAGE UI as modules, the process of running applications in the SAGE environment will be even more transparent to the users. To ease the process of making user interfaces for different applications, a template UI that already handles frequently used commands will be provided. That will be possible since Free Space Manager accepts application UI commands and forwards them to the applications themselves. This in turn will allow multiple distributed application UIs to control the same application. Another planned tool useful in group work is the ability to annotate on the display with the possibility of saving the screenshots for later review. 3 SAGE APPLICATIONS We briefly describe several applications, which have been integrated into the SAGE environment. These applications address the need of the geoscience and bioscience communities to explore large 2D and 3D datasets. 3.1 Ultra-high-resolution Image Viewer JuxtaView  is a cluster-based application for viewing ultra-high-resolution images on scalable tiled displays. We ported JuxtaView to the SAGE environment, where each node of the cluster generates a portion of the total image. The pixels are then streamed using SAGE to a highresolution tiled display. JuxtaView enables a user to interactively roam through potentially terabytes of distributed, spatially referenced image data sets such as those generated from electron microscopes, satellites and aerial photography. Through the use of a large amount of bandwidth, SAGE enables the domain scientist to bridge distributed resources including storage, rendering, and display clusters. For instance, JuxtaView was used recently to show aerial photography of Hurricane Katrina a few days after the disaster. Datasets were retrieved from USGS servers. 3.2 Volume Visualization Application Vol-a-Tile  is an interactive tool for exploring large volumetric data on scalable tiled displays. Hardware texture mapping and level-of-detail techniques improve interactivity. Being an OpenGL-based application, we added a pixel ‘readback’ step at the end of the rendering phase. These pixels are streamed for display using SAGE. This is an easy way to port various open-source applications to SAGE. Applications of Vol-a-Tile include confoncal microscopy volume and seismic simulation results. 3.3 High-resolution Animation and Video Streaming The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) developed an high-resolution animation player which reads raw HD images from the disk and display them using OpenGL. We ported this software to the SAGE environment and used it for iGrid demonstration of HD animation streaming (1920x1080) from Amsterdam or Chicago to a large tiled display in San Diego. HD stereo animations were also streamed from NCSA to a stereo projection system. Scalable Visualization Consumer (SVC) receives MPEG2 data through a Firewire (IEEE1394) interface, files on disk or network interface and decompresses it for streaming to a tiled display. To be shown on a tiled display, MPEG2 data has to be decompressed, split as sub-images and streamed to the appropriate display nodes. We used this software for videoconference using JVC or Sony HDV cameras. It performs at an optimal 30fps frame rate and uses 650Mbps of network bandwidth. 3.4 OpenGL Wrapper Numerous scientific applications and visualization packages are using the OpenGL API (OpenDX, VTK, or Paraview for instance). The success of Chromium and WireGL shows a need to support native OpenGL applications in binary mode (without source code modification). We developed an OpenGL wrapper library along the scheme used by WireGL: using a shared library mechanism, we only capture the calls to the ‘glSwapBuffer’ function and add a pixel readback step. The captured pixels are then streamed to SAGE. This is an efficient and extremely easy mode to port native OpenGL applications to SAGE. The performance is sufficient to run a 1280x1024 resolution application at an interactive frame rate, and let users share the content of any OpenGL-based application without any modifications. Institutes of Health, the State of Illinois, the Office of Naval Research on behalf of the Technology Research, Education, and Commercialization Center (TRECC), and Pacific Interface on behalf of NTT Optical Network Systems Laboratory in Japan. 3.5 VNC Viewer Finally, we developed a Virtual Network Computer (VNC) protocol client that enables users to bring desktop content to the SAGE environment. Our VNC application is a standard VNC viewer program modified to serve as a proxy between a VNC server (of any size and pixel depth) and SAGE. Once the pixels are retrieved from the VNC server, the same pixels are given to the SAGE API for immediate display. The functionality is critical in a collaborative environment where each scientist with his/her laptop needs to share information (web browser, presentations…). SAGE supports any number of simultaneous VNC applications, making use of the large real estate offered by highresolution tiled displays. REFERENCES 4     CONCLUSION SAGE can support collaborative scientific visualizations at extremely high display resolution. Decoupling of rendering and display addresses heterogeneity and scalability concerns. We have successfully demonstrated the functionality of SAGE at iGrid2005 workshop where multiple international sites were simultaneously streaming pixels of various applications to a single 55-tile display. The data streamed was heterogeneous and included very high resolution 2D satellite images, rendered 3D volume data, live HD camera feeds, HD movie frames and live scientific instrument feeds (electronic microscope). By further extending the SAGE environment, we are hoping to bridge the physical barriers between teams of collaborators and allow them to work together as if they were collocated. The challenges lie in the availability of reliable high-speed networks, further simplifying ease of use and efficient data and visualization sharing. The sheer size of such new displays, the remote location of each participant, and the distributed nature of scientific applications (supercomputer, data storage, visualization facilities) opens numerous questions on user interface design and usability of these new distributed high-resolution collaborative environments. With a display such as LambdaVision and a mature software environment such as SAGE, we believe we are in best position to explore the design space of the scientific collaborative environments of the future. Acknowledgements The Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the University of Illinois at Chicago specializes in the design and development of high-resolution visualization and virtualreality display systems, collaboration software for use on multi-gigabit networks, and advanced networking infrastructure. These projects are made possible by major funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), awards CNS-0224306, CNS-0420477, OCI-0229642 and OCI-0441094, as well as the NSF Information Technology Research (ITR) cooperative agreement (OCI-0225642) to the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) for "The OptIPuter." EVL also receives funding from the National          Larry L. Smarr, Andrew A. Chien, Tom DeFanti, Jason Leigh, Philip M. Papadopoulos "The OptIPuter" Communications of the ACM, Volume 46, Issue 11, November 2003, pp. 58-67. Park, K., Renambot, L., Leigh, J. and Johnson, A., "The Impact of Display-rich Environments for Enhancing Task Parallelism and Group Awareness in Advanced Collaborative Environments", In Workshop on Advanced Collaboration Environments, June 2003, Seattle, WA. Rajvikram Singh, Byungil Jeong, Luc Renambot, Andrew Johnson and Jason Leigh “TeraVision: a Distributed, Scalable, High Resolution Graphics Streaming System” , in the proceedings of IEEE Cluster 2004, San Diego, Sept 2004. Naveen K. Krishnaprasad, Venkatram Vishwanath, Shalini Venkataraman, Arun G. Rao, Luc Renambot, Jason Leigh, Andrew E. Johnson, and Brian Davis “JuxtaView – a Tool for Interactive Visualization of Large Imagery on Scalable Tiled Displays” , in the proceedings of IEEE Cluster 2004, San Diego, Sept. 2004. W. Blanke, C. Bajaj, D. Fussell, and X. Zhang, “The Metabuffer: a Scalable Multiresolution Multidisplay 3-D Graphics System using Commodity Rendering Engines.” Tr2000-16, University of Texas at Austin, February 2000. J. Leigh, L. Renambot, T.A. DeFanti, M.D. Brown, E. He, N.K. Krishnaprasad, J. Meerasa, A. Nayak, K. Park, R. Singh, S. Venkataraman, C. Zhang, D. Livingston, M. McLaughlin, “An Experimental OptIPuter Architecture for Data-Intensive Collaborative Visualization”, 3rd Workshop on Advanced Collaborative Environments, Seattle, WA, June 2003 G. Humphreys, I. Buck, M. Eldridge, and P. Hanrahan, “Distributed rendering for scalable displays.”, IEEE Supercomputing 2000. G. Humphreys, M. Houston, Y. Ng, R. Frank, S. Ahern, P. Kirchner, and J. T. Klosowski, “Chromium: A StreamProcessing Framework for Interactive Rendering on Clusters”, Proceedings of SIGGRAPH 2002. Kenneth A. Perrine, Donald R. Jones, William R. Wiley “Parallel Graphics and Interactivity with the Scaleable Graphics Engine” Proceedings of the 2001 ACM/IEEE conference on Supercomputing. D. Germans, H.J.W. Spoelder, L. Renambot, H. E. Bal, "VIRPI: A High-Level Toolkit for Interactive Scientific Visualization in Virtual Reality", Proc. IPT/Eurographics VE Workshop, Stuttgart, May 2001. Nicholas Schwarz, Shalini Venkataraman, Luc Renambot, Naveen Krishnaprasad, Venkatram Vishwanath, Jason Leigh, Andrew Johnson, Graham Kent, Atul Nayak, “Vol-a-Tile - a Tool for Interactive Exploration of Large Volumetric Data on Scalable Tiled Displays”, IEEE Visualization 2004, Poster session, Austin, TX, October 2004. Krumbholz, C., Leigh, J., Johnson, A., Renambot, L. and Kooima, R., Lambda Table: High Resolution Tiled Display Table for Interacting with Large Visualizations. in Proceedings of 5th Workshop on Advanced Collaborative Environments, Redmond, Washington, 2005. Byungil Jeong, Luc Renambot, Rajvikram Singh, Andrew Johnson, Jason Leigh, “High-Performance Scalable Graphics Architecture for High-Resolution Display”, Electronic Visualization Laboratory Technical publication. http://www.evl.uic.edu/cavern/rg/20050824_jeong/  Renambot, L., Rao, A., Singh, R., Jeong, B., Krishnaprasad, Naveen, Vishwanath, V., Chandrasekhar, V., Schwarz, N., Spale, A., Zhang, C., Goldman, G., Leigh, J., Johnson, A., “SAGE: the Scalable Adaptive Graphics Environment”, Proceedings of WACE 2004, Nice, France, Sept. 2004.
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