WebViz: A Collaborative Visualization System

WebViz displays

Thanks to the advancement of computing hardware, researchers in all fields are able to generate huge datasets. Data processing, including analysis and visualization, has to tackle the problem of large-data throughput. Both the software and hardware architectures of current computational science have to evolve quickly to meet the volumes of data generated by current petascale computing. Additionally, recent years have seen an upsurge in the number of collaborative computing tools that are empowered and facilitated by the internet. Applications in the so-called “cloud” allow collaborators in distant locations to efficiently share information and work together to solve problems. While researchers routinely use visualization techniques on massive datasets and have begun web-based collaboration using software in the cloud, a need still exists for combining these two applications into a collaborative visualization system that can handle terabytes, or more, of data.


The research group of Professor David Yuen (Earth Sciences; MSI Fellow) is working on a client-server based approach to visualization. Group members who have worked on this project, known as WebViz, include Yichen Zhou, Cory Ruegg, Robin M. Weiss, Erik O.D. Sevre, Wei Jin, and Michael R. Knox. WebViz is a collaborative visualization system that allows users in different locations with different hardware platforms to share and interact with the same real-time visualization session. The image above shows how WebViz can be used on a variety of hardware platforms, including a Powerwall (left panel, 15 megapixel resolution) connected to a Linux server and an iPad 2 (right panel) that uses iOS (formerly iPhone OS, an operating system developed by Apple for hand-held devices). The visualization shows the Tohoku-oki tsunami waves. The Yuen group has tested WebViz at several locations around the globe that are located far from the WebViz servers at the University of Minnesota. These locations include locations in China such as Harbin (9,300 km from Minnesota), Beijing (10,200 km), Shanghai (10,900 km), and Lanzhou (10,800 km), plus Kiev, Ukraine (8,100 km) and Perth, Australia (17,100 km). All rendering processes were done within a couple of minutes.


This research has been supported by the CMG and OCI programs of the National Science Foundation. A longer article about WebViz and its capabilities can be found in the Spring 2012 Research Bulletin.


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