The medical, scientific, and energy visualization markets soon are to benefit from the tremendous potential, that OpenGL Volumizer, the new Silicon Graphics application programming interface (API), is offering. The revolutionary graphics API will open commercial doors to unsuspected volume rendering capabilities in real time. For the first time, standard graphics applications will be activated to mix volume with geometric objects in the very same scene. A variety of sophisticated methods will be generated to provide scientists with immediate mode visualization and exploration tools to support their research.
The innovative toolkit has been designed to run on various platforms, such as the Silicon Graphics O2, OCTANE, and Onyx2, as well as the Microsoft Windows NT graphics workstations, to offer the industry an integrated visualization solution. Interactive roaming through enormous data sets of more than 100 gigabytes is no longer a dream for geophysicists and geologists, who are trying to locate precious petroleum reservoirs, which often are difficult to discover. The OpenGL Volumizer allows them to save a lot of time, since the available texture-mapping hardware is turning the application performance upwards to a velocity of 10 to 100 times faster than the more conventional central processing units (CPUs) are used to.
The ability of the new API to introduce volumetric primitives is of particular high interest for the medical industry. Since volumetric data for the first time is able to coexist in the same scene as surface geometry, shading and picking functions can be executed on volumes. This feature, for instance, allows a surgeon, performing a hip replacement procedure, to display a computed tomography (CT) scan of the patient's pelvis in the same scene with a computer generated polygonal model of a hip prosthesis. It is also possible to introduce a geometric model of a scalpel in the same scene as a volumetric scan of a tumour in surgery planning or training circumstances. Thus, the physician can observe not only the operative target but also the planned instrument to use.
Dr. Ramin Shahidi, who is Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery and Director of Image Guidance Laboratories at Stanford University School of Medicine, has been involved in the development of a 3D image navigation system since the beginning of this year. This scientist states that the OpenGL Volumizer constitutes the foundation for the volume rendering capabilities of the new Stanford Laboratory system, since the API has no difficulty treating the huge medical data sets in real time on the Onyx2 InfiniteReality supercomputer. Applications can directly access the API through their own internal scene graph or scene graph APIs, such as Silicon Graphics OpenInventor, OpenGL Optimizer, IRIS Performer, and the upcoming "Fahrenheit" project scene graph.
In addition, only fairly small amounts of code are required to write volume rendering applications, allowing engineers to largely reduce costs and solve problems much quicker. Promising alternative volume rendering markets for the OpenGL Volumizer constitute the fields of CAD/CAM, digital content creation and visual simulation, like flight simulators, for instance, allowing pilots to experience more realistic, volumetric patchy clouds and fog, instead of the usual two-dimensional representations. OpenGL Volumizer already is available as a free development tool on the IRIX operating system from August 24th, 1998. In late November of this year, the API will support Sun Solaris and Windows NT.