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10. Computer Visualization Techniques - Nifty 50


Computer visualization techniques, such as computer graphics, animation and virtual reality, have been pioneered with NSF support.

Scientists in many disciplines use sophisticated computer techniques to model complex events and visualize phenomena that cannot be observed directly. Weather patterns, medical conditions and mathematical relationships are only some of the uses to which virtual reality can be put to see many current problems in three-dimensional simulations.

NSF support has largely changed the field of computer visualization over the past 25 years. NSF support has developed the supercomputing centers, wide-range applications now explored at science and technology centers and far-reaching programs such as the Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure.

CVT in medicine

For surgeons, X-rays, probes and scans show only a partial picture -- a snapshot -- of what really is needed, which is how all the body's parts actually interact. In 1993, scientists at New York University came up with a solution while working with the NSF-funded Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center. They created the first three-dimensional, animated model of a beating heart.

Researchers at the NSF-supported National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois created a model that provides a closer look at updrafts, downdrafts and strong horizontal changes in wind speed -- all of great use to air traffic controllers, airline pilots, flight trainers and meteorologists.

Current uses today

Computer visualization techniques are now used in the following disciplines:

  • Architecture and engineering. Building design, space planning, interior architecture;
  • Biomedical applications. Surgical and radiation therapy planning, diagnostic aids;
  • Business and management graphics. Decision-making systems, graphic data displays;
  • Education and learning. Techniques for developing visual thinking skills and creative abilities in both children and adults;
  • Electric CAD/CAM. Printed wiring board and integrated circuit design symbol and schematic generation;
  • Human factors and user interfaces. Visible language programming, improvements in screen layout, windows, icons, typography and animation;
  • Mapping and cartography. Geographic information systems, graphical databases, computer-assisted cartography, three-dimensional mapping, transportation analysis;
  • Printing and publishing. Text and graphic integration in printed documents, page-layout software, scanning systems, direct-to-plate printing capabilities;
  • Statistical graphics. Graphical techniques for rendering large masses of data to increase understanding of data analysis;
  • Video and multimedia technology. High-definition TV, computer-generated video for entertainment and educational applications, TV applications for news and weather;
  • Visual arts and design. Computer graphics for graphic design, industrial design, advertising and interior design; standards based on design principles relating to color, proportion, placement and orientation of visual elements.

Original publication date: April 2000

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