Point of Beginning

Sight Lines: Wallpaper Mapping

January 15, 2009
A wall-sized display of flat-screen LCD monitors that generate real-time ultra-high-resolution images backed by supercomputer power will provide expansive, razor-sharp, eagle’s eye aerial pictures during Tuesday's presidential inauguration of Barack Obama. Is this technology the future of aerial surveying?

The GeoWall2 TileDisplay. Image provided by L. Renambot, EVL


A new tool is being used to boost security efforts at Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration on Tuesday. In addition to traditional security measures, an OptIPortal-a wall-sized display of flat-screen LCD monitors that generate real-time ultra-high-resolution images backed by supercomputer power-will provide expansive, razor-sharp, eagle’s eye aerial pictures of the inauguration site. The technology was developed by University of Illinois at Chicago's Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) and has been used in a portable version by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for geological projects.

According to Jason Leigh, associate professor of computer science and EVL's co-director, “This is like a digital version of the high resolution printed maps that [planners are] used to working with but now constantly fed with the latest information.” The software that powers the technology, called Magic Carpet, allows users to quickly pan and zoom through high-resolution imagery. Leigh referred to it as “Google Maps on steroids” and noted that digital wallpaper for offices, laboratories and homes is on the horizon based on the advances being made in this technology.

Wallpaper mapping? It sounds cool from a technology standpoint, but would it have any practical applications? EVL notes that a similar technology, GeoWall2 (which consists of 15 LCD panels tiled in a 5x3 array to provide a total resolution of 8000x3600 pixels) has applications in the visualization of large remote sensing, volume rendering imagery, mapping, seismic interpretation and other projects that require a large collaborative screen area. Perhaps the aerial surveyors of the future will collaborate on wallpaper instead of computer monitors. It’s an interesting concept.

What do you think? Please post your comments below or e-mail me at pobeditor@bnpmedia.com.