UCLA Spotlight


Visualization Portal

  • By Cynthia Lee, Reed Hutchinson
  • Published Sep 11, 2000 8:00 AM

Imagine being inside the human heart, watching it go into fibrillation. Or being transported in time to ancient Rome to see the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore or to ancient Jerusalem to see the Herodian Temple Mount.

These are a few of the projects that researchers are showing in UCLA's new Visualization Portal, which creates an IMAX-type experience for audiences.

The Portal, developed by UCLA's Academic Technology Services, allows audiences to listen, view and experience a wide spectrum of research through the Portalâs visualization theater. Up to 40 guests, wearing 3-D glasses for certain presentations, can be seated in the Portal at one time.

"The Portal provides an integrated suite of tools to support faculty and students in their research and instructional activities," says Marsha Smith, director of Academic Technology Services.

The virtual-reality display is made possible by three 3-gun projectors that display images on a 160-by-40-degree spherical screen. Presenters can show up to three images simultaneously, or a single image can be displayed across all three screens by blending the edges of the overlapping projectors.

So far, more than a dozen researchers and faculty have used the Portal's tools to enhance understanding of their research, including Alan Garfinkel, a cardiac researcher of the departments of medicine and physiological science. His simulation of a heart in fibrillation provides a three-dimensional view of a section of heart tissue during a heart attack. Using the Portal as a tool, Garfinkel is working on creating less invasive drug therapies to stabilize the heart.

Another demonstration in the scientific arena is a moving model of the human brain. Researchers, led by Dr. Arthur W. Toga in the Department of Neurology, are studying how the brain changes over time and how it varies between healthy and ill people.

For Classics Professor Bernard Frischer, the Portal works like a time machine to re-create the ancient Roman Curia for his research.

From the School of the Arts and Architecture, the Urban Simulation Team has created a system to show buildings in the Portal in 3-D using large computer databases. Viewers can fly through the UCLA campus or the city of Los Angeles. The team, led by Bill Jepson, also has applied the technology to historic reconstruction, beginning with a model of Trajan's Forum in Rome for the J. Paul Getty Trust. Most recently, the team has developed a reconstruction of the Herodian Temple Mount for the Israel Antiquities Authority that will be installed at the Jerusalem Archaeological Park.