Visualization: Back to the Future
By 1991, the field of computer visualization was exploding. "The field had gotten so big, with so many specialties, that no one could know it all. No single research lab could do it all. Graphics hadn't just become broadit was increasingly interdisciplinary," explains Andries van Dam of Brown University. Van Dam is the current director of NSF's Science and Technology Center for Computer Graphics and Scientific Visualization, which was established both to help deal with the interdisciplinary needs of the scientists and to expand the basics of computer graphics.
The center is a consortium of research groups from five institutionsBrown University, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Cornell University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Utahall of which have a history of cutting-edge research in computer graphics and visualization.
In addition to collaborating, each university focuses on a different part of graphics and visualization research, studying such fields as novel user interfaces, hardware design for visualization and graphics, the physics of the interaction of light with its environment, and geometric modeling for mechanical design.
Another of the Center's focuses, explains van Dam, is tele-collaboration. "We are building tools that will make it seem like you're looking through a glass window and seeing your colleagues in the next room working on objects you're designing. We want to create an immersive environment. In my lifetime it won't be quite real, but it will be close enough."