The Tools We Use

Walie

WALIE
IDIA Wide Area Large Interactive Explorer

A multi-screen high-resolution video wall display. WALIE consists of a 2x2 configuration of 4K 55" screens, controlled by a rendering NVIDIA GPU that can blend and match the monitors to create one seamless 8K monitor (see graphic above). This can be used, for example, to display large datasets and images in high resolution or for precise visual analytics with data analysis tools. Users can display their data for small groups on up to 4 screens using a dedicated high-end machine or bring their own device to plug in to WALIE. Researchers have used WALIE to visualize high resolution images from the MeerLICHT and MeerKAT telescopes.

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VR Headset

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) is a fully-immersive technology where an individual is placed in an alternative space (or reality) using a headset, trackers and software, that can be used to interrogate 3-D data in quite unique and (potentially) powerful ways. In the VisLab, we make use of various brands of VR technology (such as the HTC VIVE and Oculus Rift) to develop novel ways of exploring and interacting with various datasets. This include 3D catalogues (e.g. galaxy redshifts) and volumetric data, including spectral (velocity) cubes. The most important aspect to VR is data interaction (and not just data viewing). To this end, we have developed an interaction 'box', a 3D block (or elongated cube) in VR space which allows the user to extract vital feedback information about the enclosed data (including cumulative statistics and historical data). See the gallery for examples of our VR work.  

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Cobra Panorama

Cobra Panorama

For a more immersive individual experience, the Cobra is a 4K curved panorama visual display system. The 180cm by 135cm display can be used to investigate and explore spectro-imaging datasets and catalogue data, using existing or custom-developed software tools that will be used across IDIA platforms. For example, the VR system has been integrated to the Cobra so that both systems are able to use the same software (e.g. user interaction) and Cobra can display the output from the VR system in real-time.

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Digital Dome

Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome

Central to the Visualisation Lab is the Iziko Planetarium & Digital Dome, located in the heart of Cape Town. This immersive and multi-sensory fulldome facility is optimal for the investigation of the largest-area datasets, including 3-D catalogues of the Cosmic Web and volumetric data rendering. This facility is also ideal for the education of large groups, and, as such, is an active member of Data2Dome: an initiative which aims to present up-to-date science research to the public within the planetarium space. The primary software used to ingest data and drive the projectors is SkySKAN's Digital Sky: Dark Matter (DS-DM), which is capable of traditional planetarium functionality as well as modern data exploration.  Researchers use their own cluster, allowing them to optimize setups and save work areas without disrupting the production/show computers. See the gallery for examples of the research currently being conducted with the Digital Dome.

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