The Virtual Campus: One of the Nation’s Largest Passive Stereoscopic Tiled Wall Displays

Customer: Purdue University

Located in West Lafayette, Indiana, and founded in 1869, Purdue University is part of an academic system that enrolls the largest student body of any university in Indiana. Its academic system includes eight colleges and fourteen schools offering both undergraduate and graduate programs in more than 200 areas of study. In recent years, Purdue has devoted a significant portion of its endowment to research activities, particularly in the areas of emerging high technology fields related to bioscience and bioengineering.

The Objective:

With plans to create a virtual campus, a team from the Purdue Envision Center For Data Perceptualization wanted to create a 3D replica of their West Lafayette campus. This general use virtual tool would demonstrate the capabilities of various display systems within the Purdue Envision Center. This project called for a powerful, space efficient graphics cluster that could serve as a dual-boot machine.

The Solution:

Initially, it seemed that their quest to find a system to meet their graphics, power, and spacing needs was nearly impossible to achieve. After contacting Advanced Clustering Technologies regarding their needs, the Purdue team found the solution they had hoped for. Our sales and engineering teams ultimately designed a graphics cluster utilizing Nvidia Quadro graphics cards in 3U chassis.

Advanced Clustering Technologies developed a cluster that fit a very specific bill for Purdue’s research. The result — a highly specialized graphics Apex Cluster used to drive one of the largest known passive stereoscopic tiled wall displays in the United States. The 13-node dual Xeon cluster would be used for Purdue University’s Envision Center For Data Perceptualization. Utilizing Mellanox’s Infiniband fabric and PNY’s Nvidia QuadroFX 3000G video cards to drive a 12′ x 7′ rear projected tile wall, this cluster has a 6 degree-of-freedom interaction capability.

The Results:

Purdue’s Apex cluster is now used as part of a high performance computing visualization showcase to aid in research and teaching at Purdue University. The cluster is used for several research areas including:

  • Architectural walk through
  • Medical visualization
  • Geographical information system
  • Homeland security simulations
  • Large particle simulation

The scope of uses for the Virtual Campus has grown since its inception. The campus is being used as a communications tool in a study of how location awareness affects the learning process. Additionally, the Virtual Campus is being used to visualize future campus plans such as new buildings and street layouts before any physical construction has taken place.

Purdue has more than 350 buildings total, and the makeup of the campus is ever-changing. Introducing a temporal component to the Virtual Campus not only provides them a display of their present and future architecture, but also allows them the ability to see how the campus has evolved through the years. Additional information can be combined with the Virtual Campus project to better perceive data such as wireless Internet coverage across campus, or visualizing traffic flow across campus during high-population events, such as football games or move-in days before the start of a semester.

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