JACOB VAN GEFFEN This past semester, I’ve gotten to enjoy the great food, wonderful professors, and amazing classmates here in Austin. But some of the best things about our school are right under our noses– hidden gems waiting to be found around campus. A few weeks ago, I got to tour TACC’s Visualization Lab (or VisLab), an amazing place that sits quietly inside the POB.
Stepping into VisLab for the first time was like stepping into a time machine; the sheer amount of technology surrounding me was astounding. Upon walking in, the first thing most notice is Stallion–VisLab’s “328 Megapixel Tiled-Display system”. In fact, Stallion is 40 feet wide, so if you don’t notice it, I’d recommend visiting an optician. And what would a giant, high-definition monitor hooked up to a ton of computers be if it wasn’t controlled by an X-Box controller? Unfortunately, while you won’t get to play the most awesome game of Halo imaginable, Stallion is an amazing tool for visualizing data in a jaw-dropping ways.
After I was done being awestruck by the scale of Stallion, I decided to check out one of the smaller gadgets in the VisLab: z-space. When I first sat down in front of it, z-space just looked like a normal 3D display. But when I picked up the electronic pen and start clicking around, I discovered how amazingly immersive this little gadget is. With z-space, you can grab items on the screen and pull them towards you. The experience felt so real that I actually tried to grab the objects in front of me. In the test program, I got to play with a group of organs, and I could feel the heart beat as I “held” it with my pen. Certain parts of the organs can be made transparent, so I was able to bring the heart close to my face and peer down the arteries. The experience was truly mesmerizing, and this description does not do it justice.
Amazingly, these are only two of the many awe-inspiring gadgets that VisLab has to offer. Students are also free to use Lasso (a gigantic multi-touch display), Oculus Rift, and other experimental technologies like Leap Motion and Google Glass. Each one has a unique feel you’ll have to experience for yourself. VisLab is open to students every weekday from 9 am to 5 pm, so if you want to try out this amazing technology, be sure to stop by!