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System allows long-distance image file manipulation

Posted: 08 Jan 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:remote viewing system? sandia national laboratories? computer? video? internet?

A remote viewing system being developed at Sandia National Laboratories allows an image of any size to be interactively visualized and manipulated over the Internet without transferring the file from its secured server.

The system - "Be There Now" - is said to save download time on large files and keep sensitive files secure.

"We think this technology will permit collaboration among engineers, oil exploration teams, and doctors who need to interact with huge computer-generated images from remote locations, but who do not want to move them," said Sandia team leader Lyndon Pierson.

File sizes in many application areas, such as collaborative engineering, have grown to the point that hours of download time are sometimes needed even though the interactive manipulation of the file by the collaborator might only take a few minutes. Also, some files are considered too important to transfer over long lines, or require "instant" viewing to avert potential problems - as when a doctor is operating on a patient.

Videogame technology

To meet these needs, "Be There Now" digitizes a video stream between the remote server holding a huge file and a collaborator, permitting the latter to view and manipulate the data even though the file remains hosted remotely.

Sandia describes its technology as "stretching" the video cable between the computer monitor and a user to any desired length.

"The interactivity we make available was inspired by advances in 3D videogames - our hardware looks electronically just like a monitor to the graphics card. We do have a slight time lag between user actions and visible results, but it is usually less than one-tenth of a second no matter how far away the file server is located," said Pierson.

Sandia's methodology squeezes a 2.5Gbps stream of video data into a network connection running at less than 0.5Gbps. A patented compression method minimizes loss of fidelity in image data, while maintaining an image's interactivity. "We wanted users to visualize data sets as if they were sitting right in front of a supercomputer, but from thousands of miles away," said Pierson.

A user needs to add two computer boards - a streaming video compressor and a streaming video decompressor with large on-board static RAM buffers - to support "Be There Now."

Four reprogrammable custom chips perform the real-time data management on the board with a program running under the Linux OS. The two boards cost about $25,000.

- R. Colin Johnson

EE Times

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