IEEE Visualization '97


Global Tele-Immersion
Speaker: Thomas A. DeFanti, Electronic Visualization Laboratory, University of Illinois at Chicago

Advances in computer visualization, virtual reality, high-performance computing and networking technology have opened up the possibility for entirely new modes of interaction and collaboration. The basic hardware technology exists for constructing shared interactive virtual reality simulations in which physical entities such as people,scientific instruments and machines can interact with synthetic entities, such as scientific simulations and agents acting as virtual people or teachers. Tele-Immersive applications are those virtual reality simulations that couple many sites and users located at geographically distributed locations.

Our prototypical tele-immersive environment consists of a collection of CAVE-like virtual reality displays in which user position in a shared virtual space is determined via one or more trackers attached to the user. Multichannel audio or haptic devices provide additional sensory feedback. Although the required computing and visualization technology are available on a stand-alone basis, fundamentally interactive modes of collaboration call for the interconnection of appropriate computers, visualization devices, information sources and people by high-speed networks. The current national and international networks are not sophisticated enough to allow teleimmersion as a vehicle for collaboration, science or education.

This talk will discuss many of the considerations for networking and virtual reality, particularly over national and international distances.


Tom DeFanti is an internationally recognized expert in computer graphics. In the 24 years he has been at University of Illinois at Chicago - Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL), Dr. DeFanti has amassed a number of credits, including: use of EVL hardware and software for the computer animation produced for the first "Star Wars" movie; early involvement in video game technology long before video games became popular; contributor and co-editor of the 1987 National Science Foundation-sponsored report "Visualization in Scientific Computing"; recipient of the 1988 ACM Outstanding Contribution Award; an appointment in 1989 to the Illinois Governor's Science Advisory Board; University Scholar for 1989-1992; appointed an ACM Fellow in 1994; appointed one of several USA technical advisors to the G7 GIBN activity in 1995; appointed to the Internet 2 Advisory Committee in 1997; and, recognition along with EVL co-director Daniel J. Sandin for conceiving the CAVE virtual reality theater in 1991.

He has also been active in the ACM SIGGRAPH organization and in the ACM/IEEE Supercomputing (SC) conference. Current and past activities include: secretary of SIGGRAPH (1977-1981); co-chair of the SIGGRAPH 79 conference; chair of SIGGRAPH (1981-1985); past chair of SIGGRAPH(1985-1989); editor of the "SIGGRAPH Video Review" video publication, which he founded in 1979; and, member of the SIGGRAPH 92 and SIGGRAPH94 conference committees. He was information architect on the SC'95 conference committee, responsible for the I-WAY and GII Testbed activities and is a member of the SC'97 Program Committee. He is one of the Co-PI's of the National Computational Science Alliance (NCSA).