Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Intel & OpenSim

Immersive Science

posted by Justin Rattner on November 20, 2008 to:


One year ago, at the Intel Developer Forum, I spoke about how as computing technology advances and broadband connectivity becomes ubiquitous, today’s nascent virtual worlds and online games will evolve into a “3-D Internet.” I believe that eventually these immersive connected experiences (as we call them) will become a primary mode for human interaction, ranging from simulated worlds used for collaboration, socialization, and entertainment to augmented realities like Google Earth that combine real-world imagery with the user-generated information. I’d like to share some recent progress we’ve made in this area.

Today, during a forward looking overview of next year’s Supercomputing conference, an ACM and IEEE Computer society sponsored event, Wilfred Pinfold (an Intel colleague and general chair of Supercomputing 2009) announced to the Supercomputing 2008 conference attendees plans to create a new virtual world called “ScienceSim.” Supported by Intel and the conference committee, this collaboration aims to use these immersive, connected environments to further cutting edge scientific research.

Primarily, we want to create a new tool that uses the unique features of virtual environments to facilitate education, collaboration, and understanding. The output of many supercomputing applications — from astronomical simulations to medical models — is complex and often highly visual. Creating a persistent, standardized environment where these models can reside will make it easier to share and explore these data sets with other researchers. Also, for educators, ScienceSim will provide an interactive 3-D environment that can be used to explain complex concepts such as gravity [see video below] in a highly intuitive manner.

In addition, this world will provide an opportunity to innovate in these connected visual computing environments. Today’s virtual worlds are hindered by application scalability, computing, storage, and networking performance. The high performance computing systems that Intel and others deploy to host ScienceSim will become test beds themselves for system-level innovation. Also, because the world is based on the OpenSim open source world simulation platform, participants will be able to experiment with enhancements to the engine behind the world.

This work complements other efforts underway at Intel. In August we disclosed more details on how we intend to reinvent visual computing through our Larrabee microarchitecture and announced a research agenda to bring the richness of visual computing to connected usage models and improve the underlying technology for these immersive connected experiences. In October, we began mapping out a more specific Virtual Worlds Roadmap with partners including Samsung, The Electric Sheep Company, Digital Space and ngi group. Internally, we are exploring ways to enhance our future platforms in ways that remove technical barriers to the adoption of these applications.

Bringing immersive experiences to the Internet and other connected usage models is extremely compelling. This becomes even more interesting when you add small mobile devices and augmented reality into the mix - perhaps a good subject for a future blog. For today, I congratulate the ACM SIGARCH and IEEE Computer Society community for launching this effort. I look forward to attending virtually at SC’09.

Justin Rattner is an Intel Senior Fellow and director of Intel’s Corporate Technology Group. He also serves as the corporation’s chief technology officer (CTO). He is responsible for leading Intel’s microprocessor, communications and systems technology labs and Intel Research.

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