Computer Science Colloquium

Immersive Virtual Reality in Scientific Visualization

Andries van Dam
Brown University

Friday, February 4, 2005 11:30 A.M.
Room 1302 Warren Weaver Hall
251 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10012-1185

Colloquium Information:


Demetri Terzopoulos, (212) 998-3477


Visualization leverages the massively parallel computer that is the human visual system, enabling users to see and understand features, patterns, trends, and anomalies in data. It is an important, but often underappreciated (and underutilized) aspect of computational simulation. This talk focuses on the applications of visualization in immersive virtual reality (IVR), particularly our four-walled 8x8 foot Cave.

The Cave provides the user with wide field of view, head-tracked stereo, to create the illusion of being immersed in a data set or model, whose size can range from nanoscale to cosmic. Body-centric interaction using a variety of input devices is used to provide a far more compelling experience of navigating and interacting with the scene than is possible on a conventional desktop display with a standard WIMP GUI. Our scientists tell us that they see phenomena more rapidly and more clearly than had been possible before; some assert that they were able to gain new insights that they couldn't have obtained with conventional displays. We are butressing such anecdotal evidence with controlled user studies.

I will show examples (via monoscopic video) from Brown research in several different scientific areas, including modeling of blood flow through arterial bypass graphs, the exploration of the Martian polar ice cap, and biological volume rendering. Finally, I will list some of the research problem in interactive scientific visualization that are common to many of the application domains.


Andries van Dam is Brown University's Vice President for Research and the Thomas J. Watson Jr. Professor of Technology and Education and Professor of Computer Science. He has been a member Brown's faculty since 1965. van Dam is a founder of Brown's Computer Science Department and was its first Chairman, from 1979 to 1985. His research includes work on computer graphics, text processing, hypermedia, and systems for creating and reading electronic books with interactive illustrations.

van Dam is the co-author of nearly a dozen books, including the standard reference text in the field of computer graphics, Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice, with J.D. Foley, S.K. Feiner, and J.F. Hughes (Addison-Wesley 1990). He has authored or coauthored over 100 papers. Professor van Dam is currently working on a ground-breaking new textbook with co-author K. Sanders on object-oriented programming for beginners, using graphics.

van Dam has received numerous awards, including the ACM SIGGRAPH Steven A. Coons Award (1991), the IEEE James H. Mulligan, Jr. Education Medal (1999), and the CRA Distinguished Service Award (2002). In 1996 he was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering and in 2000 he became a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has an honorary Ph.D. from Darmstadt Technical University in Germany (1995), and from Swarthmore College (1996). In the spring of 2004, van Dam was honored by his friends and former students with the creation of the Andries van Dam Professorship for Teaching and Research in Computer Science chair.

Professor van Dam received a B.S. degree, with honors, in Engineering Sciences from Swarthmore College in 1960 and an M.S. (1963) and Ph.D. (1966) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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