In November 2012, the Fort Collins Science Center (FORT) officially implemented a powerful new capability within its Resource for Advanced Modeling: a bank of 24 wall-mounted, 27-inch monitors, arrayed 6 across and 4 high, that can be used for displaying large or numerous GIS datasets, photos, or other data products. This visualization wall, or “VisWall” for short, was built to support interactive exploration of model input and model output. The 6x4 VisWall monitor array can be configured to show a single map spread across all 24 monitors, 24 individual monitor outputs (Fig. 1), or a combination of intermediate-sized outputs, such as six 2x2- or three 4x2- monitor maps (Fig. 2).
|Figure 1. VisWall display using a 4x2 array to compare 3 related maps.||
Figure 2. VisWall display using 24 individual monitor outputs.
|Figure 3. For a region encompassing the western half of the United States, an LCD projection of 3 maps side-by-side would provide 2.4-km resolution at best (left), while the VisWall, in a 4x2 array, can display this at approximately 600-m resolution (right).|
The software used to run the displays—a combination of VisTrails1 and a VisWall package developed here at FORT—is relatively user friendly and easy to get started with. The 6x4 array of monitors can be used to explore and visualize differences across two variables—for example, showing habitat maps for 4 different species as they might change across 6 different time steps. Alternatively, using all 24 monitors to show one image enhances the display resolution well beyond that of the standard LCD projector, from the approximately 2 million pixels of a standard LCD projector to 50 million pixels for VisWall. The number of pixels directly relates to the resolution at which map output can be displayed. For example, the VisWall can display every pixel in a map of the 48 contiguous states of the U.S. with 1-km pixels. A region encompassing the western half of the United States, presented in a 4x2 array, can display at approximately 600-m resolution (Fig. 3). For a state-level map, the VisWall can show the area at roughly a 90-m resolution.
VisWall is an outgrowth of a FORT-hosted, joint project with the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and NASA to use FORT’s Resource for Advanced Modeling (RAM) to connect climate drivers to biological responses. To that end, a primary objective of the project is to support and enhance computational and visualization capabilities at the RAM. The project’s primary client is the DOI North Central Climate Science Center, located at Colorado State University; however, VisWall is available to working groups with the USGS John Wesley Powell Center for Science and Analysis, for which FORT is the host facility, as well as FORT scientists and RAM clientele, any of whom can take advantage of VisWall for data exploration.