EdgeMark opens 3-D lab near D.C.
- By Dan Verton
- Aug 16, 1998
EdgeMark Systems Inc. last month pioneered the creation of a collaborative 3-D visualization lab in McLean, Va., aimed at fostering greater awareness of visual simulation technologies throughout the federal government.
The RealityZone 3D is a joint effort between EdgeMark's Government Technology Group, Silicon Graphics Inc., Pyramid Systems Inc., MultiGen Inc. and WareOnEarth Inc. The purpose of the new laboratory is to provide government customers with a single point of contact and a location for demonstrating cutting-edge simulation technologies. It also will serve as a research and development forum where government agencies can provide developers with feedback and ideas on future requirements.
"In conjunction with our partners, we wanted to create a collaborative environment to help us understand the changing needs of our customers, and from there develop or seek out technology to meet those needs," said Robin Manchester, a spokes-person for EdgeMark.
The RealityZone 3D "is winning through cooperation," said Bill Flynn, president and chief executive officer of WareOnEarth. "There really isn't anybody else bringing this type of combination to the government market in the Washington, D.C., area."
WareOnEarth specializes in large-scale geospatial visualization development, network-based data streaming and real-time constructive simulation analysis. WareOnEarth also brings significant integration expertise to the table that will allow government customers to find the right mix of workstation and PC visualization solutions, including ways to publish and deploy simulation applications across the Internet, the company said.
According to Manchester, EdgeMark sales representatives work very closely with the sales representatives from the other companies to help coordinate customer demonstrations and development requirements. "It's much easier for the government customer since they're dealing with one person, and it requires only one purchase order," Manchester said.
Flynn also said government customers are encouraged to bring in their own legacy systems and proprietary solutions to take part in further development work or analysis.
The centerpiece of the new lab is Pyramid Systems' ImmersaDesk advanced visualization system, which features a large-screen display that allows the user to interact in a virtual environment in real time while standing in front of the screen. The design of the ImmersaDesk provides a room-size, fully immersive environment constructed with side and floor panels. The system also comes in a portable configuration.
Workstations from SGI power the advanced visualization hardware. The minimum configuration required to run the system is an SGI Octane MXE, however Pyramid officials recommend an Onyx2 or higher. MultiGen's MultiGen II Pro and SmartScene software drive the user's virtual experience by providing a real-time electronic glove interface that allows users to move objects and scenes with their hands.
All the configurations are available through EdgeMark's GSA schedule. A typical solution costs $150,000 to $200,000, according to Manchester. Although this is quite an investment, the solution allows customers to develop state-of-the-art simulations on the high-end system from SGI and deploy those virtual environments anywhere across the enterprise, said Edward Lee, federal sales leader for Pyramid Technologies.
"The big push in the virtual reality community now is toward collaboration," Lee said. "The technology exists today to deploy these tools down to the low-end machines while maintaining a high level of fidelity."
To date, various government agencies either have purchased or expressed interest in the solutions available from the RealityZone 3D, including the Army's Tank and Automotive Command, NASA, the Transportation Department, the Navy, the National Institutes of Health and the National Research Laboratory at Stennis Space Center, Miss.
Rich Rinehart, an analyst at the NASA-Lewis Space Center, said NASA-Lewis purchased the portable version of the ImmersaDesk three months ago, and it has been a fantastic addition to the agency's computational fluid studies of jet engines. NASA-Lewis is using the system to study advanced part designs before they are actually manufactured, according to Rinehart. In addition, the system's location in the center's central computer facility allows other programs to use it for their own studies, Rinehart said.
With the ImmersaDesk, "we offer what the average person does not have on their desktop at NASA," Rinehart said. "My suspicion is that within a year all of the NASA centers will have one of these systems."