1998 - 1999 CS Annual Report  Interdisciplinary

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The Program of Computer Graphics

The Program of Computer Graphics is best known for pioneering work on realistic image synthesis, including the radiosity method for calculating direct and indirect illumination in synthetic scenes. Our long-term goal is to develop physically-based lighting models and perceptually based rendering procedures to produce images that are visually and measurably indistinguishable from real-world images, and to generate these images in real time.

Over the past two decades, we have articulated and refined a framework for global illumination research incorporating light reflection models, energy transport simulation, and visual display algorithms. Our current goal is to solve these computationally demanding simulations as fast as possible using an experimental cluster of tightly coupled processors and specialized display hardware. We are achieving this goal by taking advantage of increased on-chip processing power, distributed processing using shared memory resources, and instructional-level parallelism of algorithms.

Our graphics research also involves three dimensional modeling of very complex environments and new approaches for modeling architectural designs. We have developed a new paradigm for architectural sketch modeling on new design workstations, which allow sketching with a pen directly on a large display surface. Traditional sketching skills are augmented through 3D interfaces which merge conceptual design with rendered 3D models and allow collaborative sketching across networks, whether in the same room or across the country. These new tools are being tested each semester in a unique undergraduate architectural design studio in our lab.

New developments in image capture are also rapidly changing the way we model and render 3D environments. By extracting depth and orientation from a series of images, we can not only reconstruct seamless panoramas for passive viewing but can merge image data into 3D models for active design manipulation. Both these research projects take full advantage of a calibrated, wide-field display system driven by three high-resolution, high-dynamic range digital light valve projectors that provide a life-size, 20' wide image that delivers more than four megapixels of resolution at interactive frame rates.

Our lab has been a pioneer in distance learning through the NSF Graphics and Visualization Center, a distributed center for fundamental research in computer graphics. We have six years of working together remotely, including teaching a collaborative advanced seminar in computer graphics across our five sites (Brown, Caltech, Cornell, UNC-Chapel Hill, and the University of Utah). The value of dedicated, high-bandwidth connections has been proven, but we are pushing forward to enhance the sense of direct person-to-person contact for distance learning through improved telepresence and innovative educational approaches