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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

May 16, 2006 at 5:53 AM

How do you make a geek drool?

SAN DIEGO — Show him or her the stuff being developed at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, a collaborative research venture of the state’s universities at San Diego and Irvine.

A tour given as part of the FiRe conference Monday evening began in what center director and supercomputing luminary Larry Smarr described as the world’s most advanced digital theater. Each seat has a gigabit ethernet connection and power jacks, and the big screen displays images from the first “super high definition” projector installed in the U.S. Sony provided the projector, which it’s trying to sell to the movie industry.

Super high-def video is four times the resolution of standard high-def. Its cameras put out 6 gigabitss of content per second, compared with 1.5 gigabits per second with regular high-def. A demonstration video, scanned from a 65 millimeter Imax film on India, was so crisp, vibrant and deep it seemed like 3-D.

When combined with superfast Internet connections like the ones at the theater (the building has 100 gigbits of bandwidth, and can be configured to have as much as every cable-modem equipped home in the U.S.), it enables applications such as superrealistic videoconferencing that Smarr calls “telepresence.”

Other gee-whiz demonstrations included a 24-channel digital surround sound system and a prototype of a circa 2015 PC with a 100 million pixel display. The PC was actually a stack of 55 flat panel displays powered by a cluster of 28 Linux PCs, plus a 29th PC that served as a sort of controller.

On the big screen, Smarr showed off the system’s power by casually generating a tornadic substructure. In other words, he produced a visual model of the forces and weather that create a tornado.

He also showed plain old high-definition video of hydrothermal vents filmed 2.5 miles below the ocean’s surface. “With this any school child can see in live time this kind of thing,” he said.

Afterward I suggested that the 4x high-def system would be perfect for Seattle’s Cinerama, but the theater’s owner noted that Smarr didn’t provide the system’s price.

Comments | More in | Topics: Education, Gadgets & products, Web

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